LILLEY: As NJEA Enrollments Drops, Our Teachers Pay the Highest Dues in the NationSeptember 11, 2023
SCOOP: Sussex County GOP Launches Anti-Murphy ‘Sex Ed Mandates’ CampaignSeptember 12, 2023
When parents want to gauge their children’s learning, their first stop is often report cards. Yet a new study from the test company ACT shows that the trend of “grade inflation”—when the assignment of grades doesn’t align with content mastery— has risen sharply between 2010-2022, particularly in high schools. At the same time we’ve seen “alarming declines in mathematics scores and other readiness measures” that don’t track with rising GPA’s.
This might seem trivial but it’s not. The consequences for students and their parents is when they look at report cards, they’re seeing a misrepresentation of student preparation for college-level work or career success. That’s why Frederick Hess says grade inflation “is not a victimless crime” but one with “real, troubling consequences for students, parents, and educators.”
What accounts for the trend of grade inflation? Sometimes it is a result of teachers being badgered by parents and students: Hess cites a survey that says four out of five teachers give in to pleas and award higher grades.
No doubt New Jersey educators are subjected to the same pressures but in our case these distortions also comes from the top: Gov. Phil Murphy’s Department of Education, in its worship of a warped sense of “equity,” has degraded the measurements of student mastery in order to create the pretense that our education system is doing just fine. From Murphy’s first Education Commissioner’s defense of the 64 Floor, which bars teachers from giving students failing grades (he told a Senate committee that “equity” requires that students don’t fail courses) to current Acting Commissioner Angelica Allen McMillan’s redefinition of a high school diploma from “college and career-ready” to the tautological “high school graduation-ready,” we’ve created a culture that bars parents from a reality-based understanding of how their kids are doing in school.
Beyond fooling parents and students, what are other consequences of grade inflation?
- Nationally, according to a Hechinger report, “many jobs that do require a higher education now call for bachelor’s degrees where associate degrees or certificates were once sufficient.” Why? Because employers can’t take GPA’s at face-value; they know it’s a charade.
- In New Jersey, the community college completion rate for first-time full-time students—”completion rate” means getting a degree in six years— is an appallingly low 29%, compared to a national rate of 42%.
- For NJ’s four-year colleges, the completion rate (again, within six years) is 58.6%, better than community colleges but still lower than the national average of 63%.
How averse is the DOE to accurate data? So averse that last fall it delayed revealing student proficiency data—that it had in late spring—until December, rendering them useless to educators, parents, and students. Bellwether’s Andrew Rotherham described NJ DOE’s delay as “fecklessness, irresponsibility, and almost total attention to politics and public relations rather than kids.
(There’s no timeline for the DOE releasing 2023 results of state standardized tests even though other states—Virginia, for example— released theirs last week.)
Grade inflation hurts everyone—except for government agencies whose sole purpose seems to be PR, not New Jersey families.
Here are the key findings from the ACT study:
- Grade inflation was highest in math courses. During the 12-year timeframe for the study, for math, adjusted subject GPA increased from 3.02 to 3.32, a 0.30 grade point change (i.e., increased from a B letter grade, on average, to B+).
- The percentage of students in English, math, social studies, and science who reported receiving an A GPA increased by 9.6, 11.4, 10.7, and 12.2 percentage points, respectively, from 2010 to 2022.
- Grade inflation occurred for all students.
- The rate of grade inflation was similar for students from all family income groups.
- Female students experienced more grade inflation than male students in all four subject areas.
- In all subjects, Black students experienced the greatest grade inflation when compared to white, Hispanic, and students from other racial/ethnic groups. When comparing Black, Hispanic, and students from other racial/ethnic groups to white students, Black students tended to have greater grade inflation than white students, while Hispanic and students from other racial/ethnic groups tended to have lower grade inflation than white students.
- Schools with a higher proportion of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch experienced higher rates of grade inflation than schools with lower proportions of eligible students.
- Schools with fewer students of color had higher rates of grade inflation than schools with more students of color.