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Grade Inflation in Higher Education

michael posted more than 11 years ago | from the closer-to-fine dept.

Education 1077

ProfBooty writes "A recent Op-Ed piece in the Washington Post on grade inflation by a Professor at Duke. Obviously this guy doesn't teach engineering courses. Quite honestly, I can't understand why science and engineering majors are held to one standard for grades and academics versus humanities majors even in the same school. Perhaps it is because people's lives hang in the balance when they interact with the products and structures designed by science/engineering students. Perhaps it is because they aren't worried about hurting students self esteem? It really is too bad the media doesn't report enough on education from the technical side."

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Shoes (-1)

Want Some Shoes (640625) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182560)

Shoes are important in all education.

3rd post (-1)

thr0d ps1t (641973) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182565)

This is the thr0d ps1t!

Share and enjoy!

I give this article an A PLUS! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5182569)

Excellent! Best article I've seen since...



this one [slashdot.org]

Who Fucking Cares? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5182571)

Blah blah blah. Life isn't fair blah blah. Everyone is against me blah blah blah. Mommy and Daddy will make it better blah blah blah blah.

Predators improve the breed. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5182575)

It's been a while since I posted a journal, and there's a few new happenings.

I got another story [slashdot.org] submitted. I'm really surprised I got this one, since I'm sure the stupid Lunix fanboys submitted this 500 times. Of course, the discussion that followed was purely anti-Microsoft, even though there are a billion LUnix systems out there that are vulnerable to other exploits, and can be just as big a pain to patch. Fucking hypocrites.

I'm improving in my ability to karma whore, as you can see. As I type this, I've got "Positive" karma, and I ping-pong pretty freely between Positive, Bad and Neutral. Not bad. Hell, I've even posted a blatant anti-michael post [slashdot.org] logged in and not been any worse for wear.

With positive karma, I'm metamodding several times a day now, pretty much marking everything as "unfair" (unless it's a troll, who's karma whoring and has been modded up. Then I either stay neutral or metamod "Fair" or "Funny"). $20 says I spend more time meta-moderating than most -- and I'm doing it for the sole purpose of getting the signal/noise ratio as low as possible. I wish my other accounts were able to metamod.

On to the subject of this little Journal: Predators improve the breed. It's occurred to me that my work, and the work of the many trolls (most of which are far more competent than I) might actually make Slashdot better if Taco were to begin listening to them. He's mentioned in his journal [slashdot.org] that he's heard all the grousing about moderation, which means grousing is not going unheard.

Don't get me wrong -- CmdrTaco is still an idiot, totally out of his league running a site like this. But the fact that he puts oil on the squeaky wheels means he has ears and can be annoyed. Unfortunatly the "oil" is an even more fucked-up moderation system [slashdot.org] , hamfistedly added to allow editors to put the "squeaky wheels" (trolls) into more-and-more-soundproof rooms instead of solving the problem. You know why divorces happen? Because the people in the relationship don't address their problems. Instead they push them aside and try their hardest to ignore them until they can't any longer, spending more energy ignoring them than they do dealing with them.

Why not just meet the issues head-on?

1) Ditch the irrational, unprofessional condescending LUnix fanboyism from the editors. As FortKnox [slashdot.org] says, "Lunix isn't always the answer. Microsoft isn't always the problem."

2) Before publishing articles, have the common sense to spellcheck and fact-check them. Is it a dupe? If you want to preserve the stupidity of the submitter, just put some "[sic]" marks in the article.

3) Don't pull a michael and add unnecessary snide remarks. It's unprofessional.

4) If you won't do #1, #2 and #3, please drop any pretense of being objective or even rational. It's insulting.

5) For fuck's sake, stop pretending you're not censoring. Stop insulting your readers' intelligence and just admit that the mod system is there so editors can ensure Slashdot reflects THEIR opinions, not those of the readers. Then you can do what you really want to do: delete comments and users that you don't like.

6) The only redeeming quality of michael is that he seems to post fewer (if any) duplicate articles. Fire him. If that's not enough, please fire him because he's the only editor with the sense to check for dupes, which probably makes the other editors jealous. Does he have rich parents or something? Is he paying Slashdot to keep him occupied so he can research his petty conspiracy lunacy?

7) I'm fully capable of reading Wired [wired.com] , The Register [theregister.co.uk] , CNN [cnn.com] and The New York Times [nytimes.com] all by myself, and I won't get Slashdot's editorial bias or mind-numbingly stupid interpretations by Slashdot editors and article submitters. Sooner or later, even the stupidest of your drooling LUnix fanboys will realize this and leave. How about stopping Slashdot from becoming the unofficial comment board for these sites?

See, Taco, that's what a lot of the grousing seems to be about. If you were to truly embrace your Liberal sensibilities, you'd see that your Predators -- your trolls -- are trying to improve their Prey -- Slashdot. It's Darwinian, you stupid twat, but you're too dense to see it.


Hahhahahaha. CmdrTaco is predictable as drool from a retard. I posted the text of this journal entry in a CmdrTaco story [slashdot.org] , and I've been bitchslapped AGAIN! Here's some cut&paste HTML from my messages:

Moderation of "Predators improve the breed." Wed Jan 29, '03 10:18 AM
Moderation of "Predators improve the breed." Wed Jan 29, '03 10:19 AM
Moderation of "Amen." Wed Jan 29, '03 10:21 AM
Moderation of "Predators improve the breed." Wed Jan 29, '03 10:21 AM
Moderation of "Predators improve the breed." Wed Jan 29, '03 10:21 AM
Moderation of "Arrogant dick. You're helping them win." Wed Jan 29, '03 10:21 AM

See how the first moderation of my thread post occurred less than a minute after I posted it? Then all those other mods occurred at the same time.

I've been bitchslapped again! Taco REALLY doesn't like it when you criticise. Such a fragile ego!

Liberal arts majors... (5, Funny)

aengblom (123492) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182578)

Liberal arts majors have the social skills to negotiate higher grades.

Engineers don't. ;-)

Re:Liberal arts majors... (-1, Troll)

Amsterdam Vallon (639622) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182601)

I guess you're right, if you assume that giving a good blowjob is a social skill.

Re:Liberal arts majors... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5182646)

Perhaps its because Liberal Arts majors are not nearly as smart as science/engineering majors. Many Liberal Arts majors can't even figure out how to use a friggen computer.

Re:Liberal arts majors... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5182662)

If you are judging people's intelligence solely on how comfortable they are with technology, it is pretty clear to me that it is not the Liberal Arts majors who aren't "smart".

Re:Liberal arts majors... (-1, Troll)

the_2nd_coming (444906) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182702)

perhaps the it is becasue a lib arts major can not get a real job and make a real impact on EVERONEs life as an engeneer can.

Is techno-smart the only kind of smart there is? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5182738)

How many geeks are borderline illiterate? BSEE, BSCS, MSCS, MSEE, MCSE, H1B-just-off-the-boat, it seems to make little difference.

I'm sure the liberal arts majors have just as many derrogatory comments about the science/engineering majors.

Re:Liberal arts majors... (5, Funny)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182672)

Engineers have the M4d 5ki11z to hack higher grades though.

Re:Liberal arts majors... (5, Interesting)

SuperGrut (452229) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182673)

I used to teach Algebra and Statistics in College. Most of the students were nurses but there were a few lawyers. They would always try to argue their grades up. I would just have to tell them that you can't argue the number 25 into the number 10. The answer was wrong and they would just have to live with the grade.

But more importantly... (-1, Offtopic)

Amsterdam Vallon (639622) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182580)

We should talk about post score inflation here at Slashdot.

Christ, I still have a slew of Score: 6 comments!

great! (0, Redundant)

burninginside (631942) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182584)

So I don't give C's anymore, and neither do most of my colleagues. so now i can goto college screw off and sleep and still make an A and not have to worry about losing a grant woo!

Re:great! (0)

bsharitt (580506) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182688)

I wish it were that simple. I guess I have to work more for my grades since I'm an engineering major.

Die! you grade inflating assholes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5182763)

It is grade inflating shitheads that daily devalue my superior education in favor of Jocks and bleeding heart liberals who cannot even remember what a slide rule is and how it works.

Such people need to be shot in a public forum. It is they and their ilk that have dragged down what was once one of the better educational systems in the world.

The A (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5182585)

I've always thought through my years why a C, which is "average", and the B "above average" are viewed with such disdain that they become a complete mark of shame. You have to have an A, or get a B in an AP class to see a 4.0 for gpa for that class.

Its sad to see, really.

Re:The A (0, Flamebait)

the_2nd_coming (444906) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182718)

they are the grades or retards and liberal arts majors...that is why.

Maybe at Duke. Not at Virginia Tech (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5182587)

I think this is a problem with Duke. Just ask Virginia Tech how many Engineers it fails out every year....

Re:Maybe at Duke. Not at Virginia Tech (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5182733)

All the people I have ever met that graduated from VPISU were below average anyway, so it stands to reason that they would fail out more students than other places. Duke is full of momma's boys and sluts from NJ but at least they have all of their teeth.

They done learned them good! (5, Funny)

GenusP (645673) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182588)

Well, that explains how some of these morons I work with in the IT industry got their diplomas.

It's Because Technical Programs Have _Answers_ (4, Insightful)

syntap (242090) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182589)

Arts majors are more subjective, while engineering degrees are objective.

If an English major answers a test question on an interpretation of some poem, it's going to get a high grade because it's based on opinion and ther eis no "right" or "wrong" answer.

If an engineering major gets a formula wrong, it is wrong and that's that... no gray area.


Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5182617)

Re:It's Because Technical Programs Have _Answers_ (5, Interesting)

afidel (530433) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182666)

I don't think most engineering is as black and white as "is the formula correct?" I mean at least for CS just because your program meets the project requirements doesn't mean you get an A, in fact if you have crufty code that gets the job done but is not easily read and maintainable most profs I've had won't give you an A. Maybe CS is different because programming languages are just that languages and so many of the same issues are present as in the humanities, just with a technical bent but I doubt it.

Re:It's Because Technical Programs Have _Answers_ (5, Insightful)

Kwil (53679) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182669)

An aside to this is that it seems to be entirely possible to get 100% on an engineering exam.

Damned unlikely, I'll grant, but theoretically it is possible.

On the other hand, there are a lot of liberal arts exams where it is actually *impossible* to get a full 100%. Why? Because the graders "don't give grades that high." I've actually seen this happen where a student got their paper praised as the best the prof had ever seen. The student got an 85.. when she asked why she only received an 85 if this was the best ever seen, the response was, "Oh you don't understand. That's an excellent mark. I never give marks above 80."

That's an extreme example, but a lot of professors hold the attitude that a 100% mark will never be given out, because that would imply your paper is absolutely perfect -- and since there's always more to add, no paper is perfect.

Um, no. (4, Insightful)

Gareman (618650) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182681)

Although essays and criticism may be subjective in the liberal arts, the "correct" subjective interpretation is that of the professor, not the student. Most traditional liberal arts professors could care less what a student thinks, as long as they use the same methods of criticism taught by the professor. This tends to lead to lots of regurgitation in liberal arts courses, spewing back what the professor says is relevant about a subject.

Also, don't forget the social sciences, which are clearly more objective. I've had tough philosophy courses that I'm sure rival some higher engineering courses.

Re:It's Because Technical Programs Have _Answers_ (1)

TedTschopp (244839) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182698)

This is one of the major problems with the 'soft' majors.

Take English as an example. There are correct and incorrect ways to interpert a poem, book, or other piece. This idea of literary critism is so forign to our 'moderm' way of thinking that it boggles the mind.

I'm going to stop before this turns into a rant, but the basic problem is that we don't want to call someone else wrong.


Re:It's Because Technical Programs Have _Answers_ (1)

eunos94 (254614) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182756)

I need to have you talk to my old Philosophy professors then. They had NO problem at all telling me I was wrong...all the time...about just about everything.

Re:It's Because Technical Programs Have _Answers_ (4, Insightful)

stand (126023) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182714)

Ahh yes, but in engineering/science there is something called "partial credit" and that introduces gray areas. I may get the formula wrong, but if I apply the wrong formula in a consistent way, I can still receive credit...at least that's how it worked when I was an undergrad.

dum.. (0)

grub (11606) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182591)

ejookashun is ovrayted anyhoo, awl yu nede is slashdawt!

Journalism majors writing about Science? (-1, Troll)

g0hare (565322) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182595)

HaaaaHaaa haha ho ho hee hee. These guys can't even add or turn on their own computer. If they could, they wouldn't be journalists! How are they going to write about science and engineering?

Well... (0, Offtopic)

Kickstart70 (531316) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182598)

I sure know that I shouldn't have passed! I spent all my time drunk, stoned, and playing MUDs :)


Re:Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5182760)

You too? They didn't even have the sense to kick me out of the honors program. I was on "double super secret probation" for like two years, though.

Wait...was it two years? 18 levels...four characters...3 levels a month...shit, I wish I hadn't failed math.

In Soviet Russia... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5182603)

...the grades inflate you!

So what's new? (-1, Flamebait)

ptrangerv8 (644515) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182607)

Higher Education schools have fudged grades for years...
It'd not about what grade he bumped them up to, it's the PRINCIPLE of the thing...

It's the same problem that I had with Clinton - the biotch lied under oath, for chrissakes... And people wonder why I think he should've been thrown in jail.
look at it liek this - if someone important fudges something 'small' like this, what's to say they won't do the same thing ON SOMETHING IMPORTANT
that's my .02


Re:So what's new? Not politics (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5182658)

OK, Clinton lied. He stick his dick where it didn't belong, and then lied about it. No argument there.

At least he didn't trigger a major war halfway around the world with a certifiable nutjob for no proven reason. Kinda makes getting an illicit blowjob pale by comparison, doesn't it?

Re:So what's new? (-1, Troll)

ptrangerv8 (644515) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182700)

I guess I should've rtfa article first - I was thinking of other shit....
Seriously though - grades are so over-frikkien-rated - In my (one) year of college, I never studied, and still managed to pull a ~3.ish. And in my year of schooling (military learning) I NEVER studied, and consistently recieved above 90% in my class.
now, which one derseres an A? Neither. I didn't pu any effort into either year, so I don't think I deserve the greades I got. Am I gonna complain? Hell no!
I'm done ranting now

Grade Inflation in the UK (5, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182612)

In the UK, grade inflation is a serious problem, because of the Government's obsession with league tables for eveything. If more people don't get top grades each year, then they think they look like failures. As a result, they've completely redesigned the A level (16-18) system to the extent that universities now find it completely useless as a measure of candidate ability.

(Of course, in Soviet Russia, grades would have inflated YOU! - sorry, couldn't resist)

Depressing :( (5, Insightful)

Some Bitch (645438) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182613)

Parents and students want high grades. Given that students are consumers of an educational product for which they pay dearly, I am expected to cater to their desires not just to be educated well but to receive a positive reward for their enrollment. So I don't give C's anymore, and neither do most of my colleagues. And I can easily imagine a time when I'll say the same thing about B's.

That's the single most depressing thing I've read for years. If a student deserves a C or (God forbid even a D!) then they should get them. So what if they don't like it? Not everyone is cut out to be a nuclear physicist or a genius reporter! Everyone is most definitely not created equal, at least in an academic sense. This is reducing higher education to the level of "Buy your degree online!" websites and devaluing the degrees of everyone who actually had to work for theirs.

Do grades really matter? (4, Insightful)

nucal (561664) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182682)

So in essence what we have is a defacto Pass/Fail system. What are college grades really used for? Admittance into graduate/professional school and not much else. If anything, by eliminating grades as a "easy" criterion to sort (or missort) people into categories forces them to be evaluated based on more substantial criteria (actual work performance, essays, interviews).

students are not consumers, they are products! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5182717)

That's what I say at least. That's what the Dean of our business school says. Is it dehumanizing? It can be, but at least treating them as products allows for the application of quality control measures, like Cs, Ds, and Fs!

The author of the article is weak, and blames his weakness on outside forces. Students rise to the standards of the professor, and fall to the standards as well. If you set the bar low, students will meet it every time.

make the standards for Humanities and libarts (1, Flamebait)

the_2nd_coming (444906) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182616)

higher...then we won't have a bunch of idiots running around thinking they know everyting becasue they got an A in english.

Gotta hate comments liek this, but... (5, Insightful)

aziraphale (96251) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182618)

Can we moderate the post as 'Flamebait'?

This kind of 'cos there's no right or wrong answers, humanities must be easy' crap is just illiterate carping.

Liberal arts degrees are rated for scholarship and insight. Yes, grade inflation's a problem, but don't blame the subject matter.

Engineering Gets Hit Too (5, Interesting)

atubbs (72643) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182620)

Grade inflation is rampant in engineering too; don't get ahead of yourself. Here at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the engineering courses are just as affected by grade inflation as any liberal arts class. The only difference is that people assume that since the classes are stereotypically harder that the grading is difficult as well. You have to genuinely try to get below a B in most computer science course here, for example. The number of people failing classes is obviously inadequate, when you see how completely unprepared several students are once they reach upper-level courses and obviously have no command of the prerequisite material.

Re:Engineering Gets Hit Too (1)

0x00000dcc (614432) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182710)

Not in my college! At the College of Charleston you'd have to work your anus off just to get a B.

Of course my school has a huge ego and wants to become Ivy League.

Re:Engineering Gets Hit Too (1)

kpansky (577361) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182761)

I sure do wish I went to your school. Most people I know cant get above a B in any CS class at my school.

Subjectivity vs. Objectivity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5182624)

With most math or science, you're either right or you're wrong. There isn't a lot of gray area. With something like writing there's a LOT of space in between. For example, my freshman year, my first semester college writing professor gave me a C+, and the next semester, a different college writing professor gave me an A. My writing didn't improve magically over Christmas break. The only difference was the person grading my work. (And, for the record, most of my previous teachers had been in line with the A.)

Notice to all Duke Students! (4, Funny)

gpinzone (531794) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182625)

Whatever you do, be sure to take ANY class taught by "Stuart Rojstaczer"! You'll get an "A"!

Engineering is real (0, Troll)

corebreech (469871) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182626)

There are real criteria that can be used to discover whether an engineering student knows his stuff, or doesn't.

Contrast that with almost everything else, where it's all basically bullshit. Almost any answer can be seen as being correct.

Ergo, grade inflation. We want our schools to do better, so the rabid idiots in charge dole out higher grades when they can, which is easy to do in the liberal arts, but next to impossible in engineering (at least without engaging in outright fraud.)

Ds and Fs are not that rare (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5182631)

Just look at my report cards for proof. Lots of D's
and Fs (and Cs too). Only got 2 As so far in all my classes.
Guess that's the life of a CS student who actually has a
life or something (or prefers to work on own projects instead
of the stupid class project ideas).

The poster must not be an engineer... (3, Funny)

dyj (590807) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182635)

because a real engineer like me gets A for engineering courses but B for humanities. ;)

Re:The poster must not be an engineer... (5, Interesting)

ProfBooty (172603) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182745)

I am actually an employed electrical engineer and the guy who posted it :P

I just thought it was odd when I was in school a couple years back that the liberal arts kids were heald to a lower standard than the science/engineering students in terms of work load and grading.

He doesn't teach humanities... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5182637)

Science actually...from the Duke site:

Name: Stuart Rojstaczer, Ph.D.
Affiliation: faculty
Title: Associate Professor
Department: NSOE & Earth Sci - Earth & Ocean Sciences
Department: Civil & Enviro Engineering

Just some food for thought...

F in Engineering curves to an A (5, Interesting)

mcgintech (583056) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182642)

I got a Bachelors in Mech. Engineering (1998) from the University of Toledo and when I was in school, my profs gave out PLENTY of C's. However if they hadn't curved the grades, everyone would have failed...their standards were so high no one could pass the test. I regularly got a 40% which turned out to be the highest grade in the class and received an A after the curve.

Grading schemes are crazy. Half the time the prof who didn't speak much English, would put things on the test which no one even heard of...I can't tell you how many times we all wanted to blow up the Engineering building after exams!

Humanities (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5182643)

Humanities Courses remind me a lot of William Shatner singing....AS SOMETHING THAT SHOULD NOT HAPPEN!

might reduce grade inflation at some places (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5182647)

at dartmouth, where i go, they put the median grade for every class you take on your transcript, in addition to your grade. it's pretty obvious when there's grade inflation (it's not too rampant here, actually).

At Lehigh... (1)

Lawrence_Bird (67278) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182648)

in the early 80s I got a 28 on a Quantum test. That ended up being a C+. Do you know anybody who has ever gotten below a C in any Arts and Crafts class?

Re:At Lehigh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5182739)

What was that then, Losers Everywhere High?

More Slackers (1, Flamebait)

ShelfWare (457545) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182650)

Today's classes, as a result, suffer from high absenteeism and a low level of student participation. In the absence of fair grading, our success in providing this country with a truly educated public is diminished. The implications of such failure for a free society are tremendous.

Schools are just increasing the amount of cry-babies that are out there in the world. It pisses me off about how many people don't want any responsibility for their actions and just want to be told what they want to hear.

I already work with enough slackers as is, this is just producing more.

Stuart Rojstaczer is a sellout (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5182660)

He recognizes the harm in what he does, but will not stand up and do what is right. He is part of the problem he is complaining about. Who does he expect will fix it?

The irony here (other than me being an "Anonymous Coward") is that he is standing up and telling it like he sees it. That takes some courage.

GPA inflation at Columbia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5182661)

I've noticed at my school that the average GPA for a student in the college (usually liberal arts majors) is a 3.3 or 3.5, while students in the engineering school have the average GPA of a 2.7. That is a big difference. No, the engineering students aren't just dumber or lazier.

Let's not forget about 4.0 vs. 4.0 (2, Interesting)

gpinzone (531794) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182671)

One sneaky trick some universities tried to do was grade on a 5.0 scale rather than 4.0. I've never gone to a school that had this kind of grading scale, but I remember reading about all the disclaimers when transfering your grades from one university to another. So, while colleges wouldn't count your B average as an A, I seriously doubt an employeer would know the difference.

4.3 on a 4.0 scale (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5182675)

The University of Texas School of Law gives a 4.3 on the 4.0 grade scale for course grades of 97% and up. Great way to save your 4.0 after ditching a class. You can make up for that "F".

Sad story... (5, Interesting)

FatRatBastard (7583) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182676)

This happens everywhere and I'm sure for different reasons. My dad told me of a frightning story he had last year:

My father teaches middle school and had one student who was good and got an honest to goodness B in her class (History I believe). Needless to say when the report card showed up the parents went nuts. Had a meeting with my father and demanded the child get an A (their excuse, top colleges were already looking at her and this would mess up her chances at going to them... RIIIIIGHT). My father politely declined, stating that the grading was fair, the girl deserved a B and that the B wasn't anything to be ashamed of.

Not good enough. Parents went to the vice principal with the same story. The vice principal had looked at my dad's books, found them fair, sided with my dad.

Not good enough. Parents went to the pricipal with the same story. Principal buckled (without even looking at any of the girls work) and told my dad to curve EVERYONE's grade in his class so that the girl got an A.

I'm sure there are pressures from parents, students and school boards to keep the aformentioned happy (and thus paying tuition), but there's a point where you ruin your reputation as a well respected learning institution.

grades (4, Funny)

bananaape (542919) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182677)

I want to go to one of those schools. I'm tired of working for my Bs.

Thanks for the rant (3, Insightful)

AlinuxNCSU (589202) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182680)

As a philosophy major and a computer engineering major (yes, I'm strange), I can assure you that your rant isn't quite justified. Just because humanities courses don't have discrete answers to many problems does not mean make them any easier.

It varies from teacher to teacher, in any course, whether engineering or otherwise. I've had professors in philosophy classes who had no qualms giving out C's and D's on papers. I've had EE profs that curved grades so that the majority of the class easily broke 85%.

Sure, there are weed-out courses. Sure some classes are tough. However, I would agree that, on a general level, grade inflation is a problem. Maybe it's to make up for the complete lack in teaching skill that we students (who are paying big bucks for our education), are finally starting to complain about.

Not enough techies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5182684)

The reason the media doesn't report on tech majors is because there aren't many of them. After all, that's why we have the H-1B and L-1 visa programs... there aren't enough tech majors.

(Pssst... ignore the 700,000 unemployed techies... they don't count. They're all too stupid to do the hard work of H-1Bs such as code ASP and run InstallShield.)

Obviously this is a liberal arts professor (1)

Xnone (561232) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182685)

At one of the best Technical / Engineering schools which I attend, C's are given out just as frequently as the A's and B's. It is not uncommon for a class average to be ~70 in courses such as University Physics, or higher math. Of course, with liberal arts courses, if you do the work, you get your A.

I can't understand how they can't hold students to the same level of success across the board though. I have friends who do nothing, get 4.0's and are in a major that is regarded as being simple (read: IT). Then again there are the engineers (read: me) who need to be perfect in everything they do, or get low grades. You say they need to be correct, but what about doctors? What about people who operate things the engineers create? Don't they need to be held accountable for their accuracy?

Maybe I'm biased, in fact I know I am, yet it seems as if something needs to change in this system.

Why grade inflation is worse in the humanities (0)

windowpain (211052) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182687)

"Perhaps it is because people's lives hang in the balance when they interact with the products and structures designed by science/engineering students."

Oh no, it's much simpler than that. In English, history and many other courses the standards are mostly subjective. If you write essays and do projects with a viewpoint that matches the professor's political bias you'll get a good grade no matter how bad your work really is.

In astronomy, math, physics and other hard sciences you either know the facts or you don't. There's much less wiggle room for a sympathetic professor to pad your grade.

Self Esteem? (5, Interesting)

Maeryk (87865) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182689)

I suspect it is (now anyway, as opposed to say, vietnam era) an outgrowth of the way middle and high-schools function.

My son is currently in fourth, going to fifth grade next year. (School change.. lower to middle) and he has "learned" that he doesnt really need to take in his homework, complete his assignments on time, etc, simply because the way this lower school runs, it is next to impossibe to fail. (well, except for the inanely subjective questions they keep asking in written assignments.. like "Why do you think the hippo in the picture is sad" and they answer they want is "because he is brown, not gray" and the answer you give is "because his land is being taken by slash and burn agriculture" and it gets marked wrong.. "). But his teachers let him finish (or totally re-do) his work in class. THey even go so far as to totally not-count homework in the total grade.

But next year, he will be in a school with no such qualms about failing people. They have pretty much taught him to slack because "someone else" will do it. (Either in his in-class study group, or his parents, after I or my ex-wife get the threatening letter sent home by the school, aimed at us, not him).

He's screwed next year, right? Wrong. In this school, kids cant be in "special" (remedial, rather than short-bus special) education for just not studying.. they have to be in the class with all the other kids. Now, my son is not stupid.. he just hates doing homework. But he is going to be stuck in a class with a bunch of kids equally intelligent, but who do their work and shouldnt be held back due to people like my kid.

This extrapolates itself to the real world.. the guy at work who doesnt do his work, because he knows someone will pick up the slack. The kid in college who is there on a grant or scholarship, but sleeps through classes and passes anyway.. etc.

Grade inflation exists because no-one is willing to tell Johnny to get off his ass and actually WORK because he is dragging everyone else down with him. And when you have parents shelling out 100 grand for an education, they certainly dont want to hear that Johnny doesnt want to do his work either.. its pervasive, and it sucks, but until schools get straightened out so that the kids actual education is the important part, rather than placement test scores, SAT percentages per school, or sports teams.. its going to continue.


Where was this guy when I was in school (1)

haplo21112 (184264) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182690)

...in the early 90's Umass Amherst's Eng program didn't have any problems with bad grades, I worked my ass off and still got screwed...all they cared about was exams and how well you did on them midterms and finals were so much a componet of grades that less than a B on either was certain disaster, as far as staying in your major or moving on in your major. I can aquire knowledge and respected as one of the most intelligent people where I work, I just don't test well on it.

I'm sure I'll get hate mail for this one... (3, Informative)

eunos94 (254614) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182692)

You know, after having been in college for WAY too long, I've had my share of both natural sci, social sci, liberal arts, performing arts and technical classes. I've seen grade inflation in *every* field and engineering is NOT exempt from this. This paper may not study that or come to that conclusion, but trust me, after explaining to third year engineering students how to use a Texas Instruments calculater, the grade inflation is apparent.

The thing that amazes me is that in almost every class I had that was a science field, at some point in time we had to explain the scientific method and how to write a research paper. How do you get into college and pass ANYTHING if you don't know those concepts?

WooHooo! (1)

superspoon (644792) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182694)

Wow, now I can have any grade I want! Now if only my english teacher could understand that...

Maybe.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5182697)

Maybe you're just a poor student?

here at the Uinivertisy of Saskatchwewan (canada). (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5182699)

we see this problem, but it's at the high school level. Our first year student consistantly cannot do simple math let alone the complex contructs that we are attempting to teach them. As an effect of this 25% of first years are required to discontinue (ie flunk out) in their first year (50% of those by christmass)
Grade inflataion only hurts the students in the long run when some one expects them to use those skills they were supposed to learn!

old news (2, Informative)

BigBir3d (454486) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182701)

Seen here [boston.com] amongst other places.

Sci/Tech vs. Liberal arts (0, Troll)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182703)

As a liberal arts major (anthropology and religious studies) I find that Liberal Arts majors generally get the grade they deserve. In upper level liberal arts class, you actually have to *read* and *understand* long, boring books (not articles). It is immediately apparent if you didn't read the assigment and you go to turn in your paper. By contrast, all the engineering and comp sci students I hafve talked with say that cheating on tests is rampant. You seemingly can get away with cramming the night before on a test. No such luck on your 15-page analysis of three works. It tends to be self-selecting. Those who 'get' mathematics fast take engineering, and do okay because of natural ability. Those who can read and write volumes study liberal arts. The most amazing classes to me are pure mathematics. Students will get all of the questions wrong, get a C on each quiz and midterm, and then get a B because of what they've learned and how they attempted to answer questions. Sheesh. Talk about warm and fuzzy.

40% of students too much in university (3, Interesting)

dlr03 (644019) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182704)

I remember reading once that (in (almost free) Canadian universities) there were 40% too many students. Some people just don't have the capacity of earning a university grade, but somehow the system adapted to them... lower expectations, lower work load, toughest chapters always left out... and now is even giving them higher and higher grades.

Yes the capacity to teach university skills is disappearing fast and it has indeed tremendous effects.

Higher Cost (2, Interesting)

Shadow Wrought (586631) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182707)

When I was in school this seemed to be most prevelant at the more expensive institutions. Daddy ain't paying $20k a year to have Buffy and Chadworth making F's.

I have to use other means to get them to learn: I have to cajole, to gently persuade.

How sad that professors have to con kids into doing work. If you don't want to do it, fine- just don't expect to get rewarded.

Grade inflation universal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5182708)

Quite honestly, I can't understand why science and engineering majors are held to one standard for grades and academics versus humanities majors even in the same school.

Are we talking about grade inflation (the liklihood of giving someone an 'A'), or the fact that two 'colleges' on the same University campus will be more stringent about GPAs and probation? I didn't really see the professor talking about a split between fields in grade inflation, though certainly many universities apply stricter academic standards to engineering than, say, humanities.

What isn't specified, though, is whether engineering courses suffer from the same sort of inflation. Since the article isn't specific, I might assume it's true for both fields.

Media doesn't grok engineering (1)

igaborf (69869) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182709)

It really is too bad the media doesn't report enough on education from the technical side.

Journalists generally have a liberal arts education, and liberal arts students (and faculty) basically think engineering colleges are trade schools, not real higher education.

My observations (4, Informative)

Mtn_Dewd (15169) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182712)

I currently am enrolled at the University of Washington. Having been here a few years, I've noticed a few things about college grading systems.

1) Hard science courses are definitely more strictly graded than more subjective courses, such as English, Psychology, Philosophy, Sociology (insert next humanity here). This is mostly due to the fact that if you take an objective test in Math, Physics, or Mechanical Engineering you have little room for subjective interpretation. If you got it right, it's right, if not, it's wrong. In English, though, teachers can be afraid of giving out a C, and can consequently say "While that paper is probably C work, I can justifiably give a B with no one noticing"

2) Schools that grade on the A,B,C,D,F scale seem more prone to grade inflation than the system that the University of Washington and a few other schools have. In our system, your grade is exactly mirrored based on a numerical system of distribution. For example, if I got a low A in my Chemisty course, I will get a 3.5 on my transcript, not an A. This prevents everything from being categorized to four or five letter grades. This reflects everything inbetween. There are many times that I wish I had the letter grading system, because my low A's or B's would not be a 2.6 and 3.5, but instead an B and a A, which would be equivalent to a 3.0 and a 4.0 respectively.

Anyhow, those are my two bits.

As a non-engineering student... (1)

pootypeople (212497) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182721)

I don't think it's fair to say that all science/engineering/math people are held to higher standard. Different standard, definetly. Subjectivity means we have to do things a little differently because there isn't necessarily a "right" answer. More often than not, it's how you express yourself and whether your opinion has any merit whatsoever. As a result, it may seem less rigorous than the "right or wrong" nature of the sciences, but at higher levels it all comes down to original, creative thought. If Science were really limited, as schools conventionally teach in lower-level courses, to "right and wrong" the earth would still be flat, the center of the universe and 6000 years old. These ideas fell by the wayside becuase scientist did the subjective thing of coming up with an opinion and subjecting it to empirical tests. When you're talking about English, History or other subjects, empirical testing is difficult. Instead, we hone our skills in making sure our opinions are separate from our biases, personal assumptions and problems. It is through that process that we come to appreciate academic rigor. While it may seem easier or less important, it is none of that. It's just different, and should be held as that before ridiculed.

my experience (2, Insightful)

s20451 (410424) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182722)

Perhaps it is because people's lives hang in the balance when they interact with the products and structures designed by science/engineering students.

Well, I don't know about that. It's always dangerous to make comparisons between graded work at university and actual work in the real world ... after all, when you design a bridge, they give you more than three hours to do it, and they let you talk to other engineers, unlike in an exam.

It's a lot easier to justify a D in engineering than it is to justify it in the humanities, because in engineering we can always fall back on the fact that the answer is wrong -- not much room for interpretation. The flip side of this is that it's a lot easier to get 100% on an engineering exam than on a history paper. I've found that the mark spread in my engineering courses is quite broad, with people scoring anywhere in the range from below 50% all the way up to the keeners at 100%. Humanities marks may be inflated, but they all seem to fall in a narrow range from C+ to A-.

Furthermore, since engineering is a professional degree program (meaning it's usually the student's final degree, and not a springboard to other programs, like law or medicine), there is less temptation for students to whine for marks, although it still happens to some extent.

As a teaching assistant I have had to mark my share of brutal engineering exams (which, incidentally, are no more fun to mark than they are to write). The philosophy seems to be that an easy exam results in a class where most people score very well, since the correct answers can be easily obtained, which doesn't give a good indication of knowledge. A hard exam will sort out the good students from the bad students, and if too many fail it can always be belled up later. Sort of a "kill-em-all" attitude.

My experience as an instructor (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5182723)

Posting anonymously, for obvious reasons.

Recent undergrad course I taught at Duke had this breakdown:
A: 11%
B: 57%
C: 20%
D: 11%
I do not think, but haven't checked, that my previous section of this course was much different. This is a normal course, about middle of a student's career at Duke.

The real stumbling block for most students is a so-called "C-wall" course. If you don't get a C or better, you can't move forward in your curriculum, so a C is effectively an F in that course. It seems to me that the basic tension is between a standard like that and a grading system that is consistent across all courses and curricula.

The really surprising thing to me was a grad course I recently taught. The undergrad students were amazing compared to some of the graduate students. The undergrads are clearly some of the best students I've ever seen while the grad students are potentially from other schools for which the environment wasn't nearly so exacting. If all I ever saw was those kids, the ones that had plowed through Duke's undergrad curriculum and were taking grad courses until they graduated, I'd probably be accused of grade inflation too. (Many of them did A-grade work.)

Grade inflation is a fact in technical areas (1)

Brad Lucier (547713) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182725)

I teach math and computer science at Purdue, and don't kid yourself, grade inflation is a fact in all areas. I was educated in Canada, which tends to have somewhat more rigorous requirements for a university education (and fewer students attending university), so perhaps I get less caught up in the grade inflation pressure.

But it is true that having nuclear or civil engineering students in your classes tends to remind you that you don't want to have standards slip too much ;-).

GPA ranges (3, Informative)

Drew4president (637991) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182726)

At the college I just graduate from, each class had a GPA range that the teacher was suppose to follow. The average grade for most classes was around a 3.2. But this didn't include anyone who dropped the class because they were failing.

Also, the school offered a database of each professor and course that listed corresponding grades. So a student could see which professors gave higher grades before they took a class. You could also see the average GPA of students who took the class in previous semesters.

I think the problem of grade inflation might be worse at ivy league/private schools not large state colleges.

ATTENTION!! ladies and gents......... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5182729)

Attention Ladies! Every 14th of February men get the chance to display their fondness for their wife's or girlfriends by showering them with gifts, flowers, dinner, shows and any other baubles that women find romantic. Secret... guys feel left out. That's right... left out. There's no special holiday for the ladies to show their appreciation for the men in their lives. Men as a whole are either too proud or just too embarrassed to admit it. Which is why a new holiday has been created. March 20th is now officially "Steak and a Blow Job Day " Simple, effective and self explanatory. This holiday has been created so you ladies can have a day to show your man just how much you love him. No cards, no flowers, no special nights on the town. The name of the holiday explains it all... just a steak and a BJ. That's it. This twin pairing of Valentine's Day and Steak and a Blow Job Day will usher in a new age of love as men everywhere will try THAT much harder in February to ensure a more memorable March! It's like a perpetual love machine.

It even happens in some IT Majors (3, Interesting)

ajhenley (150248) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182732)

I have heard that it is true that engineering is graded much harder than other disciplines even in the same school, but in MIS, that is not true.
I recently taught two semesters at my local college and you would have thought that I suggested bayonetting baby girls the way the students bitched when I promised I would fail anyone who did not submit a final project.
I was later taken aside by the departmental chair and told that my role was to help the students succeed, and his vision was of a department where every student got at least a B in every class, because recruiters don't want to come to a school with a 2.5 average GPA.

I tried to explain to him that programming is not basket weaving, that not everyone could get it, and that I didn't know if I could respect any IT/IS program that wasn't flunking at least a certain percentage of their students in some of the core classes. (I mean really, even if everyone there is really bright, then you should raise the bar so that you can GASP! _challenge_ the students.) Needless to say, although I received the highest teacher evaluation of any in the department that year, I no longer teach there.

Simple solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5182736)

Widen the range. Parkerize the scale. Nobody is going to give half the class 90/100 if they have the ability to seperate the 93s from the 85s.

Grade inflation in engineering classes is easy (1)

jspey (183976) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182737)

Despite what people seem to be saying here, it's pretty easy to inflate grade in an engineering class without appearing like the proffessor is just cheating. All you need to do is make sure all your tests and asignments are too hard to use a traditional scale of 100-90 = A, 90-80 = B, 80-70 = C, etc. This makes it reasonable to scale the grades in the class in some manner. You then set this scale such that the average student gets a B+ and the lowest will only get a C+ or B-.

Mr. Spey

Fire this guy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5182743)

Why isn't this a violation of his contract? He explicitly states he gave B's instead of C's to students. That's acidemic fraud.

Here is his home page [duke.edu] . Wait - he wrote a paper about it [hostcompany100.com] so he can mark it up to acidemic freedom in research.

What a crock.

It starts with the course offerings (1)

Q-Branch (554342) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182746)

Does your school or alma mater allow science majors to fulfill distribution requirements by taking a course designed for non-majors? Do they even offer "poetry for scientist?" But I bet they offer "Introduction to science for poets." Why the double-standard? If distribution requirements are usefull, shouldn't poets be made to take real science classes (and be graded on the curve against science majors in the class)? Otherwise there is no reason for distribution requirements. They're just a waste of everyone's time and effort.

interesting (1)

Boromir son of Faram (645464) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182748)

I've read about this before (perhaps even on Slashdot). Many college professors are indeed upset about grade inflation, but I think not completely correctly.

What professors don't realize, in their ivory towers, is that grades can have an incredible impact on liberal arts students. A few points can mean the difference between a top tier and a second tier graduate program, or between a bottom tier one and none at all. Students' futures are at stake.

Also, I can't help but notice that our technical and engineering industries, which do not have as much grade inflation, tend to lag behind those of countries such as Japan and the Netherlands (home of Philips). Meanwhile, our grade-inflated literary and historical output dominates those of other countries. Perhaps it is the very grade inflation that allows us to excel in the liberal arts, even as we struggle in technology.

If we can harness the power of grade inflation and put it to our own use, we might triumph in the end.

I took Art History... (1)

sfled (231432) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182749)

a required class...and got an awful grade. The Prof. said "Tough. I hated math, but I had to take it anyway."

End result? I now paint by numbers. (Oh, just shot my karma to hell. -3, bad pun)

Simple Reason for Grade Inflation (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5182751)

So long as administrators judge the quality of faculty teaching only on the basis of student surveys, faculty will have no choice to put inflate grades.

feeding the troll (1)

jd142 (129673) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182752)

Perhaps it is because they aren't worried about hurting students self esteem?

Gee, usually the trolls are in the comments, not the article squib.

And so you know, long, long, ago, in that kingdom by the sea where I taught Freshman English while going to grad school, we had an unofficial grade distribution that we were supposed to aim for that also happened to be a nice little bell curve.

Hopkins (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5182762)

I did Civ E and Comp Sci at Hopkins.

None of that grade inflation shit there, lemme tell ya.

there will be 2 types of replies (2, Funny)

geekoid (135745) | more than 11 years ago | (#5182764)

People who think this is wrong, we'll label those the "They didn't do that for me when I went to school" group

then there are people who think this is natural evolution that is needed for the students to be successful in the market place. We'll label those the "I just started college, and please God, let them inflate my grade" group.

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