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Grade Inflation Makes High Marks Mean A Lot Less

SATURDAY, JAN. 7, 1995

A “C” grade on a report card used to mean the student’s work was average, but a “B” has replaced that, say pupils and teachers in Boise and Meridian.

Students, parents, businesses and colleges add high grades do not necessarily mean high skills.

Typically, about six of 10 grades awarded are “A’s” and “B’s.” In most schools, fewer than six of 100 grades are “F’s.”

Megan Hill, a “B” average student at Centennial High last year, said she was surprised by how much more work she had to do for a “C+” average at the University of Alaska.

“I really didn’t have to work very hard for my grades in high school. I didn’t want to study very much,” she said. “One thing I totally regret is not working very hard for my grades - it would have prepared me better for college to have the study habits in place.”

A group of parents who evaluated Centennial last year asked the district to look at its grading scale.

“What we have experienced over time is that there has been a lot of pressure on teachers to do what makes the child feel good,” said Assistant Superintendent Christine Donnell. “Now, people are getting tougher and are saying, ‘Let’s prepare kids for the real world.”’

Principals are studying ways to raise expectations for grades. Meridian’s grade distribution is similar to Boise schools.

According to the districts’ grade descriptions, an “A” is supposed to mean superior work, a “B” is above average, a “C” is average, a “D” is below average and an “F” is below minimum requirements, or failing.

Capital High senior Jeff Gallegos said that even though a “C” may officially stand for average in Boise, students do not buy it.

“An ‘A’ means you are where you should be; it’s an acceptable level. A ‘B’ means you’re needing a little improvement,” Gallegos said. “A ‘C’ means bad. ‘C’s‘ are pretty much unacceptable.”

Some reasons may be because teachers often let students correct their mistakes and go over subjects they have trouble learning. A student can raise a “C” paper to a “B” by redoing it.

Such changes have taken place not just in Idaho but nationally.

Businesses complain applicants lack the skills they need for jobs. They spend millions of dollars training their workers in basic reading, writing and math skills.

Roger Higdem, dean of academic affairs for Albertson College, said high school grades sometimes give an overly optimistic indication of how well students will do in college.

He said students who make high grades in high school are better prepared academically for college than their counterparts in the past. But he adds “C”-average students seem to have more trouble keeping up with college-level work than those before.

Tags: education

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