Puncturing Inflated Grades

I just read a great essay: How to End Grade Inflation by Michael Berube (prof at Penn State).

He humorously identifies the problem: English departments have basically worked on the A/B binary system for some time: A’s and A‐minuses for the best students, B’s for everyone else and C’s, D’s and F’s for students who miss half the classes or threaten their teachers with bodily harm.

And then proposes a clever solution: What to do? If we so desired, we could recalibrate grades at Penn State, at Princeton or at any college in the country. The principle is simple enough, and it’s crucial to every diving competition: we would merely need to account for each course’s degree of difficulty.

Every professor, and every department, produces an average grade — an average for the professor over her career and an average for the discipline over the decades. And if colleges really wanted to clamp down on grade inflation, they could whisk it away statistically, simply by factoring those averages into each student’s G.P.A. Imagine that G.P.A.‘s were calculated on a scale of 10 with the average grade, be it a B‐minus or an A‐minus, counted as a 5. The B‐plus in chemical engineering, where the average grade is, say, C‐plus, would be rewarded accordingly and assigned a value of 8; the B‐plus in psychology, where the average grade might be just over B‐plus, would be graded like an easy dive, adequately executed, and given a 4.7.

I have to say, I like it. I don’t think any universities are going to go for it, but I wish they would…