People are confused about the meaning of "grade inflation"

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iamgeorgebush
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People are confused about the meaning of "grade inflation"

Postby iamgeorgebush » Thu Jan 30, 2014 10:12 am

Seems like many people around here and elsewhere use the term "grade inflation" to refer to the phenomenon in which there are disparities between the difficulty of obtaining good grades at different schools. It's easier to obtain a 3.5 at Brown than it is to obtain a 3.5 at Princeton, and these confused people call this phenomenon "grade inflation."

I would just like to point you to the greatest authority on everything,
the one and only
Wikipedia.

"Grade inflation is the tendency of receiving higher academic grades for performing a work that would have received lower grades in the past."

So you see:
Grade inflation is a trend over time.
It measures the degree to which an A is worth less now than it was worth 20 years ago.
Just like a dollar is worth less now than it was worth 20 years ago.
It's like inflation of a currency.
It does not mean that some schools artificially "inflate" their students' grades.
Although that might also happen.

Grade inflation is real.
Grade inflation is a problem.
But it's not what you think it is.

Also, as regards it being more difficult to obtain good grades at some schools than at others:
Yes, that's true, it is.
BUT:
The difference between the average GPAs of students from two different schools is not necessarily evidence of which school is harder.
If School P has a higher average GPA than School Q, School P might just have smarter students.
Duh.

BigZuck
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Re: People are confused about the meaning of "grade inflation"

Postby BigZuck » Thu Jan 30, 2014 10:18 am

coolstorypoe.jpeg

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Ramius
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Re: People are confused about the meaning of "grade inflation"

Postby Ramius » Thu Jan 30, 2014 10:20 am

Also, as regards it being more difficult to obtain good grades at some schools than at others:
Yes, that's true, it is.
BUT:
The difference between the average GPAs of students from two different schools is not necessarily evidence of which school is harder.
If School P has a higher average GPA than School Q, School P might just have smarter students.
Duh.


While this definitely can be true, people tend to assume too often that this is the case. It all depends on what schools we're talking about. Does Princeton have smarter students than Western Arkansas? More than likely. But does Brown have smarter students than students at Michigan? Harder to say.

I get your point that grade inflation is widely misunderstood, just wanted to point that out.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: People are confused about the meaning of "grade inflation"

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Thu Jan 30, 2014 10:32 am

But part of the issue is whether all schools have suffered equally from grade inflation. If school A's grades have been severely inflated over time, while school B's grades have not been as severely inflated over time, then arguably it's easier to get a higher GPA from school A than school B. Which is what I think people are shorthanding when they talk about grade inflation.

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iamgeorgebush
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Re: People are confused about the meaning of "grade inflation"

Postby iamgeorgebush » Thu Jan 30, 2014 10:52 am

A. Nony Mouse wrote:But part of the issue is whether all schools have suffered equally from grade inflation. If school A's grades have been severely inflated over time, while school B's grades have not been as severely inflated over time, then arguably it's easier to get a higher GPA from school A than school B. Which is what I think people are shorthanding when they talk about grade inflation.

But changes in selectivity can also account for this. It might just be harder to gain admission to School A than it was 20 years ago, resulting in a higher caliber of students now than there was before, whereas School B might not have become more selective over time.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: People are confused about the meaning of "grade inflation"

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Thu Jan 30, 2014 12:08 pm

You're sort of moving the goalposts. I wasn't trying to explain the difference between A and B's GPAs in a vacuum, just pointing out that not all schools have the same rate of inflation over time. I wasn't making any claim about other factors. However, i'm not convinced school selectivity varies drastically over time or that there's any evidence that it correlates significantly with grade distributions. But if you have some examples I'm all ears.

Big Dog
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Re: People are confused about the meaning of "grade inflation"

Postby Big Dog » Thu Jan 30, 2014 12:17 pm

Also, as regards it being more difficult to obtain good grades at some schools than at others:
Yes, that's true, it is.
BUT:
The difference between the average GPAs of students from two different schools is not necessarily evidence of which school is harder.
If School P has a higher average GPA than School Q, School P might just have smarter students.


And therein lies your (expert) fallacy. Brown and Dartmouth matriculate students with identical grades and tests scores (for all practical statistical purposes). Yet the mean graduating GPA at Brown is a 3.6 and at D it is around a 3.3-3.4. Those tenths easily make the difference between admissions and rejection with the same LSAT.

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iamgeorgebush
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Re: People are confused about the meaning of "grade inflation"

Postby iamgeorgebush » Thu Jan 30, 2014 12:38 pm

Big Dog wrote:
Also, as regards it being more difficult to obtain good grades at some schools than at others:
Yes, that's true, it is.
BUT:
The difference between the average GPAs of students from two different schools is not necessarily evidence of which school is harder.
If School P has a higher average GPA than School Q, School P might just have smarter students.


And therein lies your (expert) fallacy. Brown and Dartmouth matriculate students with identical grades and tests scores (for all practical statistical purposes). Yet the mean graduating GPA at Brown is a 3.6 and at D it is around a 3.3-3.4. Those tenths easily make the difference between admissions and rejection with the same LSAT.

You're absolutely right about those two schools. When two schools have equally selective admissions standards and there is a significant disparity between their average UG GPAs, it suggests that the school with the higher GPA is easier and has lower grading standards. I never said otherwise. My only point was that a difference between avg GPAs is not *necessarily* evidence. You have to also take things like selectivity into account, as you have.




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