Educational policy analysis archives

Educational policy analysis archives

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Educational policy analysis archives
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Educational policy analysis archives.
n Vol. 7, no. 30 (September 20, 1999).
Tempe, Ariz. :
b Arizona State University ;
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida.
c September 20, 1999
Grade inflation rates among different ability students, controlling for other factors / Stephanie McSpirit [and] Kirk E. Jones.
x Research
v Periodicals.
2 710
Arizona State University.
University of South Florida.
1 773
t Education Policy Analysis Archives (EPAA)
4 856

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1 of 16 Education Policy Analysis Archives Volume 7 Number 30September 20, 1999ISSN 1068-2341 A peer-reviewed scholarly electronic journal Editor: Gene V Glass, College of Education Arizona State University Copyright 1999, the EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES. Permission is hereby granted to copy any article if EPAA is credited and copies are not sold. Articles appearing in EPAA are abstracted in the Current Index to Journals in Education by the ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation and are permanently archived in Resources in Education Grade Inflation Rates among Different Ability Stude nts, Controlling for Other Factors Stephanie Mc Spirit Eastern Kentucky University Kirk E. Jones Eastern Kentucky UniversityAbstract This study compares grade inflation rat es among different ability students at a large, open admissions public University. Specifically, this study compares trends in graduat ing grade point average (GPA) from 1983 to 1996 across low, typical and higher ability students. This study also tests other expla nations for increases in graduating GPA. These other explanations are cha nges in 1) ACT score 2) gender 3) college major and 4) vocational programs. With these other explanations considered, regression res ults still report an inflationary trend in graduating GPA. Time, as meas ured by college entry year, is still a significant positive predict or of GPA. More directly, comparisons of regression coefficients re veal lower ability students as experiencing the highest rate of grade increase. Higher grade inflation rates among low aptitude students s uggest that faculty might be using grades to encourage learning among m arginal students.


2 of 16 This study compares grade inflation rat es among different ability students at a large, open admissions public University. Specifica lly, this study compares trends in graduating grade point average (GPA) from 1983 to 1 996 across low, typical and higher ability students. This study also tests other expla nations for increases in graduating GPA. These other explanations are changes in 1) ACT scor e 2) gender 3) college major and 4) vocational programs. With these other explanations considered, regression results still report an inflationary trend in graduating GPA. Tim e, as measured by college entry year, is still a significant positive predictor of GPA. M ore directly, comparisons of regression coefficients reveal lower ability students as exper iencing the highest rate of grade increase. Higher grade inflation rates among low ap titude students suggest that faculty might be using grades to encourage learning among m arginal students. In this study, we examine grade inflati on at a public open-enrollment university. There has been little attention on grade inflation within public institutions (Moore, 1996 p.2). Yet the media has provided ample coverage of grade inflation at selective colleges and elite universities (see Reibstein and King, 199 4; Strauss, 1997; Archibold, 1998; Sowell, 1994; Shea, 1994; Gose, 1997). In fact, a r ead of the newspaper would even suggest that the steady proliferation of A and B gr ades and steady climb in grade point average (GPA) is only at issue among top tier insti tutions. However, a review of a few other reports ( Beaver, 1997; Franklin, 1991; Moore 1996; Stone, 1995; Van Allen, 1990) shows that grade inflation is also a concern within less selective colleges and universities. This study focuses on an open admission public university that typically enrolls 13,000 undergraduates annually. The relatively larg e size of the university, combined with the fact that most other institutions are also relatively non selective in their admissions criteria (Beaver, 1997,p.5), make this s tudy's report on grade inflation more applicable to the vast majority of other colleges a nd universities than the media focus on grade inflation at top notch institutions. In exami ning grade inflation, this study examines trends in graduating GPA from 1983 to 1996 Our general findings suggest that students have been graduating with consistentl y higher grade point averages since 1983. We believe these findings show 'grade inflati on' since we statistically controlled for any number of other alternate explanations (jus tifications) for the rise in graduating GPA. We speak to these other influences in the foll owing section. However, these general findings are not our most important results. Our most important results are based on further analysis of graduating GPA with student aptitude. We wondered whether the faculty, over the years, ha d changed their grading behavior to accommodate one student group over another. Subsequ ently, we compared rates of grade increases between low, typical and higher ability s tudents over time. Few grade inflation studies have made similar comparisons, though sever al studies have hinted that grade inflation rates may differ across different student ability groups (Bearden, Wolf and Grosch, 1992 p.740; Kolevzon, 1981 p.200; Prather, Smith and Kodras, 1979 p.20; Sabot and Wakeman-Linn in Shea, 1994, p.A46). Some studies suggest that high ability students gravitate toward departments that hold mor e stringent grading standards and lower ability students gravitate toward departments that grade higher (Bearden, Wolf and Grosch, 1992 p. 740). On the other hand, Sabot and Wakeman-Linn suggest the reverse, in that traditionally low grading departme nts have experienced the highest rate of a grade increase (quoted in Shea, 1994, p.A46; a lso Kolevzon, 1981 p.200; Prather, Smith and Kodras, 1979 p.20). Subsequently, current grade inflation rates might be steepest among the high aptitude student groups. In short, there is some comment to suggest that rates of grade inflation might be rela ted to student ability. This paper examines more fully the extent to which faculty mig ht have altered their grading


3 of 16behavior toward one student group over another. In making our own distinctions between differences in student aptitude, we relied on student scores on the American College Test (ACT ). We acknowledge the potential class bias in using the ACT as an aptitude measure. We remind readers that ACT score, at best, measures college readiness and is not a me asure of cognitive ability. Few grade inflation studies have been troubled in using ACT s core as a measure of college aptitude. Most studies, for example, that control for an incr ease in student preparation as an explanation for an increase in grades have relied o n the ACT (Breland, 1976; Chesen-Jacobs, Johnson and Keene, 1978; Cluskey, Gr iffin and Ehlin, 1997; Kwon, Kendig and Bae, 1997 Mullen, 1995; Olsen, 1997; Tay lor, 1985; Remegius, 1979). Like other studies, we also use ACT as a statistical con trol on grade increase. Unlike other studies, we also rely on student ACT to categorize students into low, typical and higher academic ability groups. We then use these distinct ions to check for differences in rates of grade inflation between students of low, typical and higher college aptitude. Results show important and significant differences in grade inflation rates between student aptitude groups. These results remain significant u pon controlling for the influence of other factors.Literature Review Controlling for Other Explanations of Grade Increas e Aptitude A rise in college grades might be due t o other factors other than grade inflation. An increase in high grades, for example, might be d ue to an increased presence of more collegeprepared students. Early studies examined the influence of increased student preparation levels as an explanation for rising gra des. Each found little evidence to suggest that increases in grade point average were due to improvements in student preparation (Breland, 1976; Chesen-Jacobs, Johnson and Keene, 1978; Taylor, 1985; Remegius, 1979). A recent study reaches similar con clusions: Cluskey, Griffin and Ehlin, (1997) find little evidence that increases i n GPA are due to an influx of more college able students; in fact, a negative correlat ion between GPA and ACT is noted (p.274) with grades rising and average ACT declinin g over the years. Yet other recent studies reach different conclusions. Other studies document a significant rise in student aptitude and preparedness levels over the years at their prospective institutions (Olsen, 1997; Mullen, 1995; Kwon, Kendig and Bae, 1997 ). O lsen notes that the average incoming student scored in the 90th percentile on t he ACT in 1994, whereas in previous years, the typical student ranked in the 70th percentile (p.4). Considering the rising academic caliber of the student body, Olsen suggest s that the corresponding increase in student GPA is warranted and not due to an inflatio nary spiral in college grading (p.7). Mullen, likewise, finds a significant increase in A CT score over the years. He concludes also that the increase in GPA over the years is the result of more college-prepared students (1995, p.12). In short, in identifying gra de inflation at prospective institutions, researchers have examined the confounding effect th at increases in student aptitude and preparation levels have in explaining grade increas e. Researchers, at separate institutions, have reached separate conclusions on whether identified grade rise is the earned result of increases in student preparation l evels or the result of grade inflation. This leads to the standard empirical de finition of grade inflation: That is, if grades rise over a period, without a corresponding increase in student aptitude levels (as measured typically through ACT score), then researc hers have "probable cause" to


4 of 16assume that grade increase is due to an inflationar y trend in faculty grading (Cluskey et al., 1997 p.273; see also Carney, Isakson and Ellsw orth, 1978, p.219). This standard definition and how it has been applied in some stud ies has been improved upon in others: for example, a number of other studies cont rol for other student and institutional-related factors that might explain an increase in high grades besides a rise in ACT score. Age Several recent studies, for example, po int to the growing presence of older, more mature, serious minded college students as a possib le explanation for grade increase. Kwon, Kendig and Bae (1997) note a positive correla tion between age and grades: As GPA increased from 1983 to 1993, average student ag e also increased from 19 to 22 years (p.52); moreover, further tests show student age as a significant positive predictor of student GPA (p.53). Olsen (1997) corroborates th is, in that being a mature student, returning to school, served also as a positive pred ictor of college GPA (p.10). Thus, research suggests that an increase in the number of older, more-serious minded college students may serve to explain an increase in high g rades at some institutions. Gender Another demographic influence to contro l for is gender. Early studies noted that the influx of female students in the seventies migh t explain part of the increase in GPA (Birnbaum, 1977, p.527). A recent national study co nfirms that female students continue to earn, on average, significantly higher college m arks than their male counterparts (Adelman, 1995, p.267). Studies suggest that a nota ble increase in female students might explain some of the aggregate rise in grade point a verage. Thus, gender would be another demographic factor to control for before at tributing grade increase to grade inflation. Course Withdrawals Apart from demographic shifts, many stu dies note institutional changes that might explain a rise in high grades. Some studies, for example, cite university changes in withdrawal policies as a contributing explanation f or rising grade point average (Chesen-Jacobs, Johnson and Keene, 1978 p.14; Hoyt and Reed, 1976). Universities that implement more lenient withdrawal policies make it easier for students to withdrawal from courses that threaten their grade point averag e (Weller, 1986 p.125 ). While faculty might continue to grade the same, GPA might climb d ue to more liberal withdrawal policies. This would be another factor to consider before implicating faculty of grade inflation. College Major Other studies comment that the migratio n of student majors from low to high grading departments is a principal factor behind gr ade inflation ( Bearden, Wolf and Grosch, 1992; Prather, Smith and Kodras, 1979; Sabo t and Wakeman-Linn, 1991; Summerville, Ridley and Maris, 1990). According to this view, not all academic departments are equally responsible for grade infla tion as far as faculty in certain disciplines might inflate grades more so than other s. Lanning and Perkins (1995) note that faculty in the College of Education are often indicted as contributing more to grade inflation because of more emphasis on mastery learn ing approaches and more collaborative relations with students as future tea chers. Here, a movement of students into the education field might lead to an aggregate rise in GPA of which not all faculties


5 of 16in all departments are responsible. Other studies n ote that to counteract the flight of students to higher GPA departments, traditionally l ow grading departments might be inflating grades more in order recruit and retain m ajors (Sabot and Wakeman-Linn in Shea, 1994, p. A46). Vocational Programs Other studies have attributed aggregate grade increase to increases in vocational programs within the university (Sabot and Wakeman-L inn, 1991, p.159). Such programs, they have argued, grade more on mastery a nd learning competency models than other more academic departments (Goldman, 1985 p.103 ). If more A and B grades are awarded in job-oriented programs more than in o ther college departments than an increase of students into more vocational oriented curriculums might account for an aggregate rise in high grades. This would then be a nother factor to control for before charging faculty with grade inflation. In summary, prior research reports a ha lf dozen other plausible explanations for an aggregate increase in GPA other than faculty sim ply dispensing higher marks. These other possible explanations are 1) An increase in s tudent aptitude and preparedness levels, 2) an increase in older, more mature colleg e students, 3) an increase in the number of female students, 4) an increase in lenien cy in university withdrawal policy 5) an increase of students into higher grading departm ents and 6) an increase in students into more vocationally oriented college programs. E ach of these increases might explain or justify an aggregate increase in grade point ave rage over the years. In this study, we control for these other plausible influences prior to identifying grade trends as "grade inflation."Research DesignSample Controls Age The influence of age on grades is held constant i n our analyses through requesting a homogenous sample of traditional colle ge-age students. Our student sample consists of students that entered the university as full time freshmen, in which the average entering age of students in our sample is n ineteen years. (S.E.=.05). With age held constant across our sample, an increase in gra duating GPA within our sample is not to be attributed to changes in student age. For each year of our investigation, we randomly selected 500 records of entering full time freshmen, which resulted in a relative la rge panel of freshmen records. Yet like inflation, retention is also an issue in public, op en-enrollment universities and not all students in our initial panel went on to graduate. As a result, our analysis of trends in graduating GPA is based on 1,986 graduating seniors -that entered the university as full time freshmen, between 1983 and 1992. Our data is m ore up to date than what is implied: Students that entered in 1992, for example have had time to graduate. Subsequently, data on graduating GPA is recorded up through and including the 1996 graduating year. University Withdrawal Policy Liberal changes in university withdrawal policies might explain an increase in average GPA. Students might use liberal withdrawal options to withdraw from courses that they are fail ing or that threatens their GPA. This, however, is not a notable influence in our analysis since our University started a more liberal withdrawal policy approximately the same ti me that our analysis of grade trends begins. The second year of our 14-year investigatio n (1984/85) our university adopted a


6 of 16 more lenient withdrawal policy. Under the policy, s tudents have up to eight weeks of class to withdraw from a course and receive a gener ic"W". Before the change in policy, withdrawal while failing (w/F) or withdrawal while passing (w/P) was noted on the student transcript. Thus, from 1983/84 to 1984/85 t he number of students using their withdrawal options increased significantly and has remained steady over the remaining thirteen years of our analysis. (Note 1)Statistical Controls We statistically control influences of aptitude, gender, college major and vocational program on graduating GPA. To control in fluences of changes in student aptitude levels, data on ACT score are used. In usi ng ACT as a control on aptitude, we adjusted pre-1989 student scores to equate with pos t1989 enhanced version scores based on the standard ACT conversion chart. By adju sting pre-1989 scores, this allows for more accurate comparisons in ACT score across t ime. To control for the influence of an incr ease in female students, gender enters the analysis as a dummy variable (0=male, 1= female). T o account for shifts in student major composition as another explanation for grade increase, we based our control at the college level. Table 1 lists the nine colleges, alo ng with the corresponding average graduating GPA for our sample of full-time entering freshmen. A review of Table 1 indicates notable differences in average graduating grade point average across colleges. Students in the College of Natural and Mathematical Sciences (Mean GPA Grad = 3.16, S.E.=.042) and the College of Education (Mean GPA G rad = 3.04, S.E.=.025) receive, on average, higher grades over our 14-year period. Consequently, a migration of students into either one of these two departments over the y ears would lead to a natural bump in graduating GPA that wouldn't necessarily implicate individual faculty for grade inflation. To control for this influence, graduatin g averages (listed in Table 1) are included as a control variable in our analysis.Table 1 Average Graduating GPA by College, 1983-1996CollegeAverage Graduating GPA College of Allied Health and Nursing2.76 (.029) College of Arts and Technology3.05 (.026) College Arts and Humanities3.00 (.038) College of Business2.84 (.025) College of Education3.09 (.025) College of Health, P.E., and Recreation2.81 (.036)College of Law Enforcement2.82 (.029) College of Natural and Mathematical Sciences3.17 (. 042) College of Social and Behavioral Sciences2.94 (.030 ) Note: Numbers in parentheses are standard errors.


7 of 16 To determine the influence of vocationa l programs on grade inflation, we dummied college major into the following categories The College of Law Enforcement, which contains the programs of police studies, corr ectional services and fire safety and the College of Applied Arts and Technology, which c ontains the programs of agriculture, military science, human environmental science, alon g with several other programs, were both coded into one category (=1), while other Coll eges (listed in Table 1) were coded into the other (=0). This dummy variable therefore estimates the influence of vocational programs on graduating GPA. Measuring Rates of Grade Inflation We use ordinary least squares (OLS) regression to examine the extent of grade inflation on graduating GPA by student entry year. Under the null hypothesis of no inflation, st udent entry year should not be a significant predictor of graduating GPA. That is, t ime of entry into the University should not influence grade point average. Yet, under condi tions of grade inflation, time becomes an important influence on GPA, with recently enroll ed students earning significantly higher grade point averages upon graduation than st udents of ten years prior. Moreover, if student entry year is a significant predictor of gr aduating GPA, then we would expect it to remain significant when other possible explanations (controls) are added into the regression analysis. Measuring Student Ability Levels The principal purpose of this study is to compare grade trends between students of varying in coming ability. To make such comparisons, we base our distinctions on the ACT qu artile and inter quartile ranges of our sample. This results in the following subgroups : Students with composite ACT scores between 10 through 17, between 18 through 21, and g reater than or equal to 22 are respectively categorized as low, typical and higher ability students. Separate OLS regression analyses are then used to compare differ ences in grade inflation rates between these student aptitude groups. To determine whether observed differences in rates of a grade increase between student groups represent sig nificant differences (p<.05), we then examine the combined interaction affect of ACT subg roups with student entry year. We explain this procedure in more detail below.Regression Results Table 2 summarizes our regression resul ts. Model A reports the influence of student entry year, and other potential influences, on graduating GPA for our full sample (n=1,986) of graduating full time freshmen. Signifi cant slope coefficients on each of our control variables suggest that each is important to graduating GPA. For example, regression results report gender as a significant i nfluence on graduating GPA. Regression results report female students graduating, on avera ge, with significantly higher grade point averages than male students. Moreover, gender remains a significant predictor when college major and ACT score are controlled in the r egression. This suggests that the higher aggregate GPA among female students is not o nly due to females migrating to higher grading departments but indicates, irrespect ive of college major as well as ACT score, that female students tend to graduate with g rade point averages .123 points higher than their male counterparts. In short, regression results on gender show, following national trends, that female college students are m ore grade conscious than male college students.Table 2


8 of 16 Graduating GPA: Regression Estimates of Grade Infla tion, 1983-1996: Full-time Entering FreshmenModel A Full SampleModel B Low ACT Students (ACT 10 17)Model C Typical ACT Students (ACT 18 21)Model DUpper ACT Student (ACT > 21)n, sample size 1,968379896693 R2, squared mult. R .308.18.13.22 b0, intercept -.018 (.182) -.021 (.438) -.71 (.35) .60 (.330) Student Entry Year .021*** (.003) .031*** (.006) .018*** (.004) .019*** (.005) ACT score .053*** (.002) .035** (.013) .059*** (.011) .058*** (.006) Gender .136*** (.018) .122*** (.037) .065* (.026) .229*** (.031) Average College GPA .570*** (.065) .665*** (.145) .785*** (.095) .305** (.110) Interaction EffectsLow vs. typical ACT X Student Entry Year.014* (.006) Low vs. higher ACT X Student Entry Year.018 (.054) Typical vs higherACT X Student EntryYear-.008 (.032) Note: Numbers in parentheses are standard errors.* p < .05; * p < .01; * p <.001 But our emphasis in not on the influenc e of gender, nor ACT scores, nor college major in predicting GPA upon graduation. These are added as controls in our analysis to determine whether increases in graduating GPA are t he result of grade inflation or these factors. With these other influences controlled for Model A reports a significant slope coefficient for student entry year. This shows that the year of entry into the university is a significant predictor of graduating GPA despite cha nges in ACT score, gender and college major. The slope coefficient for student en try year (b1=.021) shows a steady increase in graduating GPA from 1983 to 1996. The c oefficient shows an approximate rise of .021 grade points annually since 1983. Look ed at over a five-year trajectory, regression results estimate that graduating GPA has risen, on average, more than one tenth (.1) of a grade point every five years since 1983. Models B, C and D compare grade inflati on rates between low, typical and higher ability students. Slope coefficients on student ent ry year for each model are revealing.


9 of 16 Comparisons of coefficients across models for stude nt entry year show the rate of inflation in graduating GPA to be higher for low ap titude students than for other student subgroups. Regression coefficients measure grade in flation rate for typical and upper ACT students at an annual rate of increase of .018 (Model C) and .019 (Model D) grade points respectively. By contrast, the rate of grade inflation for lower aptitude students (Model B) was estimated at increasing .031 grade po ints annually. This suggests that nearly every three years since 1983, lower aptitude students have experienced an average increase of one-tenth of a grade point (.1) rise in graduating GPA. To determine whether these differences in rates of a grade increase represent significant differences, we tested the dummy intera ction on ACT subgroups with student entry year. A significant coefficient on this varia ble would indicate that ACT subgroup and year of entry interact to predict graduating GP A. This would suggest important ACT subgroup differences in grade inflation rates acros s time. The first tested interaction of low (=1) versus typical (=0) ACT subgroups with stu dent entry year is significant. This suggests an important difference in rates of grade inflation between low versus typical ACT students, with low aptitude students experienci ng significantly higher rates of grade inflation. On the other hand, results report a non significant interaction between low (=0) and higher (=1) aptitude students and student entry year. Therefore, results show no important difference in grade inflation rates betwe en low versus higher aptitude students. Finally, results also report a non significant inte raction between typical (=0) and higher (=1) aptitude students and student entry year. This also shows no important difference in annual rates of grade increase between typical and higher ability students. In summary, interaction effects report higher grade inflation r ates for lower aptitude students in comparison to typical ability students. Table 3 reports our final control of vo cational programs on grade inflation. The influence of job-oriented programs on grade trends among lower ACT students might be most relevant, since less college prepared students may more likely enroll in college programs that provide more job-related training. Th is may be an important control variable in explaining increases in grade point ave rage among less college ready students especially.Table 3 Graduating GPA: Regression Estimates of Grade Inflation, 1983-1996 Controlling for the Influence of Vocational Program sModel A Full Sample Model B Low ACT Students (ACT 10 17) n, sample size 1708297 R2, squared mult. R.28.18 b0, intercept 1.58 (.055) 1.86 (.228)


10 of 16 Student Entry Year .023*** (.003) .034*** (.007) ACT Score .055*** (.003) .035* (.014) Gender .196*** (.019) .207*** (.041) Vocational .032 (.021) .018 (.048) Note: Numbers in parentheses are standard errors. p < .05; * p < .01; * p < .001 Model A in Table 3 reports the influenc e and control of vocational programs on graduating GPA for our full sample. With vocational curriculums included as a control variable, entry year remains a separate and signifi cant influence on GPA upon graduation. This suggests that our initial assumpti on that part of the rise in graduating GPA might be the result of a migration of students into more jobs-related curriculums is neither a strong nor partial explanation for the id entified grade rise in graduating GPA. The same findings apply to lower aptitude students (Model B). Vocational programs were not significant predictors of graduating GPA n or were they important controls in explaining grade inflation among lower aptitude stu dents.Conclusion With any number of aptitude, institutio nal and other demographic factors held constant in our analysis, our general regression mo del reports a consistent climb in graduating GPA from 1983 to 1996. Further, our subg roup models show an even higher rate of grade inflation among the lower aptitude st udent group over the years. Moreover, by controlling the influence of other institutional and demographic explanations on grade rise, we believe we have isolated the aspect of grade increase that might be due to individual faculty changes in grading behavior. Con sidering, for example, the substantial increase in grade point average among lower aptitud e students, our findings show that faculty seem to be more benevolent in assigning gra des to low ability students than perhaps fourteen years ago. This suggests a possibl e change in faculty grading behavior in that faculty might increasingly be relying on gr ades to encourage and stimulate learning among more marginal students. In short, it seems as if faculties at o pen-admissions universities may embrace the equalizing mission of higher education more so than faculties at selective colleges and elite universities. In the classroom, this might me an that faculty are dismantling the hierarchy of learning that is implied by a normal d istribution of grades. Outside the classroom, this might mean that faculty are grappli ng with broader issues of opportunity and social mobility (Birnbaum, 1977, pp. 523-524). During the Vietnam War, for example, grades took on deeper significance than a report on course performance. Likewise, college grades today may carry deeper sig nificance as far as a college degree becomes increasingly, a prerequisite for future eco nomic survival. Consequently, faculty today, as during the Vietnam War, might be giving m ore good grades because of their


11 of 16future concern for students generally, and for more marginal students especially. All told, grade inflation has been pros cribed as faculty failure to impart meaningful distinctions between students. Thus, it supposedly shows lack of faculty accountability to students, parents and to the larg er society. Yet grade inflation might go beyond finger pointing and front accusations, and m ight reflect a complex social mix where faculty -through grades-might be trying to fo ster positive feeling toward learning and where faculty, might be awarding higher marks t o confer the necessary credentials and future prospects of employment and job security on outgoing students. On its face, these may be both benign even benevolent approaches to the meaning and purpose grades. Yet we wonder ourselves whether grades are the appropriate mechanism from which to tackle burning issues of mobility, opportu nity and job security. On this latter dimension, we wonder whether such a program of grad e encouragement and credentialing, might not reinforce an ideology of e qual opportunity through education. Thus, rather than ameliorating the current system o f economic inequities and class hierarchy, current grading trends might be providin g the necessary justifying ideology for it.Note1. Data obtained from our Office of Institutional R esearch reports the percentage of course withdrawals for each of the years of our inv estigation as the following: 1983/84=4.76; 1984/85=7.04; 1985/86=6.93; 1986/87=7 .03; 1987/88=7.17 1988/89=7.37 1989/90=7.68 1990/91=8.25 1991/92=8.33 1992/93=9.09 1993/94=10.06 1994/95=9.64 1995/196=9.24.Acknowledgments This article was born out of the work o f an Ad Hoc Committee to study the problem of grade inflation at Eastern Kentucky Univ ersity. The authors would like formally to acknowledge the work of other Committee members in lobbying the Faculty Senate to pass any number recommendations to curb g rade inflation on campus. Other members of the Ad Hoc Committee on Grade Inflation were Ann Chapman, Paula Kopacz and Richard Chen. The authors would like als o to thank Aaron Thompson and Karen Carey of Eastern Kentucky University as well as Scott Hunt of the University of Kentucky for comments on earlier drafts.ReferencesAdelman, C. (1995). The New College Course Map and Transcript Files: Ch anges in Course-Taking and Achievement, 1973-1993. U.S. Department of Education: National Institute of Post Secondary Education.Archibold, R. (1998, February 18). Just because the grades are up, are Princeton students smarter? The New York Times p.A1. Bearden, J., Wolf, R., & Grosch, J. (1992). Correct ing for grade inflation in studies of academic performance. Perceptual and Motor Skills 74, 745-746. Beaver, W. (1997). Declining college standards: Its not the courses, it's the grades. The College Board Review 181, 2-7.


12 of 16Birnbaum, Robert (1977). Factors Related to Univers ity Grade Inflation. Journal of Higher Education 48 (5), 519-539. Breland, H. (1976). Grade inflation and declining S AT scores: A research view point. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Americ an Psychological Association .Washington, D.C., September 1976. (ERIC Document R eproduction Service No. ED134610).Carney, P., Isakson R.,& Ellsworth R. (1978). An ex ploration of grade inflation and some related factors in higher education. College and University, 53(2), 217230. Cluskey, G.R., Griffin N., & Ehlin C. (1997). Accou nting grade inflation. Journal of Education for Business, 73 (May / June), 273-277. Farley, B. (1995). 'A' is for average: The grading crisis in today's colleges. Issues of Education at Community Colleges: Essays by Fellows in the Mid-Career Fellowship Program at Princeton University. (ERIC Document Rep roduction Service No. ED384384).Goldman, L. (1985). The betrayal of the gatekeepers : Grade inflation Journal of General Education 37(2), 97-121 Gose, B. (1997). Duke rejects a controversial plan to revise the calculation of grade-point averages. Chronicle of Higher Education 43 (28), G53. Hoyt, D.& Reed J. (1976). Grade inflation at KSU: S tudent and faculty perspectives. Research Report No. 36. June 1976. (ERIC Document R eproduction Service No. ED160018).Jacobs-Chesen, L., Johnson, J. & Keene J. (1978). U niversity grade inflation after controlling for courses and academic ability. Burea u of Evaluative studies and Testing, Division of Research and Development, Indiana Unive rsity, Bloomington, Indiana 47401. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED15 6050). Kolevzon, M. (1981). Grade inflation in higher educ ation: A comprehensive survey. Research in Higher Education 15 (3), 195-212. Kwon, I., Kendig N.& Bae M. (1997). Grade inflation from a career counselor perspective. Journal of Employment Counseling, 34 (2), 50-54. Lanning W. & Perkins, P. (1995). Grade inflation: A consideration of additional causes. Journal of Instructional Psychology 22 (2), 163-168. Moore, P. (1996). Tenured weasels: Getting a degree -but not an education at public universities. (an electronic forum with Internet Ad dress: http:// / accounting / faculty / lcrumbley/, R. (1995). Indicators of grade inflation. P aper presented at the Annual Forum of the Association for Institutional Research (35th, B oston, MA, May 28-31, 1995). (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED386970).


13 of 16Olsen, D. (1997). Reality or myth? Student preparat ion level vs. grades at Brigham Young University, 1975-1994. Paper presented at the Annual Forum of the Association for Institutional Research (37th, Orlando, FL., May 18-21, 1997). (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED410880).Prather, J., Smith, G. & Kodras J.(1979). A longitu dinal study of grades in 144 undergraduate courses. Research in Higher Education, 10 (1), 11-24. Reibstein, L. & King, P. (1994, June 13). Give me a n A, or give me death. Newsweek, p.62.Remigius, D. (1979). Declining ACT scores and grade inflation at Southeastern Louisiana University.Research/ Technical Report.(ERIC Document Reproduct ion Service No.ED177992). Sabot, R. & Wakeman-Linn, J. (1991). Grade inflatio n and course choice. Journal of Economic Perspectives 5 (1), 159-170. Shea, C. (1994). Grade inflation's consequences: st udents are said to desert the sciences in favor of easy grades in humanities. Chronicle of Higher Education 40 (18), p. A45. Sowell, T. (1994, July 4). A gentleman's A. Forbes 154, p. 82 Stone, J.E (1995). Inflated grades, inflated enroll ment, and inflated budgets: An analysis and call for review at the state level. Education Policy Analysis Archives 3(11). (Entire issue.) (Available online at, V. (1997, June 12). Colleges seek to slow grade inflation rates. Washington Post p. A1. Summerville, R., Ridley, D., & Maris, T. (1990). Gr ade inflation: The case of urban colleges and universities. College Teaching 38 (1), 33-38. Taylor, H. (1975). Grade inflation. Paper presented at the Symposium on Grading. University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, October 10, 1975. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED150204).Van Allen, G. (1996). Educational morality: A task of risking the economic corruption of academic excellence. A position paper. (ERIC Doc ument Reproduction Service No. ED317232).Weller, D. (1986). Attitude toward grade inflation: A random survey of American Colleges of Arts and Sciences and Colleges of Educa tion. College and University 61(2),118-127.About the AuthorsStephanie J. Mc SpiritStephanie J. Mc Spirit received her Ph.D. from the University of Buffalo in 1994, after


14 of 16 which she accepted a position at Eastern Kentucky U niversity. She is an Assistant Professor of Sociology where she teaches courses in research methods and statistics. For the past three years she has examined trends in gra de point averages along with faculty views on grade inflation. This research has been an outgrowth of serving on the EKU Faculty Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Grade Inflation. Email: AntMcSPI@acs.eku.eduWeb page: Kirk E. JonesKirk E. Jones received his Ph.D. from Iowa State Un iversity in 1991. He has been a member of the faculty at Eastern Kentucky Universit y since 1990. He is an Assistant Professor of Mathematics where he teaches courses r anging from college algebra through real and complex analysis. For the past thr ee years he has served as Chair of the EKU Faculty Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Grade Inflat ion. Recent scholarly activity has been an outgrowth of serving on this University committee. Email: jones@eagle.eku.eduWeb page: Copyright 1999 by the Education Policy Analysis ArchivesThe World Wide Web address for the Education Policy Analysis Archives is General questions about appropriateness of topics o r particular articles may be addressed to the Editor, Gene V Glass, or reach him at College of Education, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-0211. (602-965-96 44). The Book Review Editor is Walter E. Shepherd: The Commentary Editor is Casey D. Cobb: .EPAA Editorial Board Michael W. Apple University of Wisconsin Greg Camilli Rutgers University John Covaleskie Northern Michigan University Andrew Coulson Alan Davis University of Colorado, Denver Sherman Dorn University of South Florida Mark E. Fetler California Commission on Teacher Credentialing Richard Garlikov Thomas F. Green Syracuse University Alison I. Griffith York University Arlen Gullickson Western Michigan University Ernest R. House University of Colorado Aimee Howley Ohio University Craig B. Howley Appalachia Educational Laboratory


15 of 16 William Hunter University of Calgary Richard M. Jaeger University of North Carolina—Greensboro Daniel Kalls Ume University Benjamin Levin University of Manitoba Thomas MauhsPugh Green Mountain College Dewayne Matthews Western Interstate Commission for HigherEducation William McInerney Purdue University Mary McKeown-Moak MGT of America (Austin, TX) Les McLean University of Toronto Susan Bobbitt Nolen University of Washington Anne L. Pemberton Hugh G. Petrie SUNY Buffalo Richard C. Richardson New York University Anthony G. Rud Jr. Purdue University Dennis Sayers Ann Leavenworth Centerfor Accelerated Learning Jay D. Scribner University of Texas at Austin Michael Scriven Robert E. Stake University of Illinois—UC Robert Stonehill U.S. Department of Education Robert T. Stout Arizona State University David D. Williams Brigham Young University EPAA Spanish Language Editorial BoardAssociate Editor for Spanish Language Roberto Rodrguez Gmez Universidad Nacional Autnoma de Mxico Adrin Acosta (Mxico) Universidad de J. Flix Angulo Rasco (Spain) Universidad de Teresa Bracho (Mxico) Centro de Investigacin y DocenciaEconmica-CIDEbracho Alejandro Canales (Mxico) Universidad Nacional Autnoma Ursula Casanova (U.S.A.) Arizona State Jos Contreras Domingo Universitat de Barcelona Erwin Epstein (U.S.A.) Loyola University of Josu Gonzlez (U.S.A.) Arizona State


16 of 16 Rollin Kent (Mxico)Departamento de InvestigacinEducativaDIE/ Mara Beatriz Luce (Brazil)Universidad Federal de Rio Grande do SulUFRGSlucemb@orion.ufrgs.brJavier Mendoza Rojas (Mxico)Universidad Nacional Autnoma deMxicojaviermr@servidor.unam.mxMarcela Mollis (Argentina)Universidad de Buenos Humberto Muoz Garca (Mxico) Universidad Nacional Autnoma deMxicohumberto@servidor.unam.mxAngel Ignacio Prez Gmez (Spain)Universidad de Daniel Schugurensky (Argentina-Canad)OISE/UT, Simon Schwartzman (Brazil)Fundao Instituto Brasileiro e Geografiae Estatstica Jurjo Torres Santom (Spain)Universidad de A Carlos Alberto Torres (U.S.A.)University of California, Los


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