A good NYT article about efforts at the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill) and a few other institutions to bring more transparency to the grading process as a means of at least curbing the nationwide tend toward grade inflation. For example, at UNC:
A sociologist Mr. Perrin now leads a committee that is working with the registrar on plans to add extra information — probably median grades, and perhaps more — to transcripts. In addition, they expect to post further statistics providing context online and give instructors data on how their grading compares with their colleagues.
Dartmouth, Columbia and Reed College have taken similar measures:
Dartmouth transcripts include median grades, along with the number of courses in which the student exceeded, equaled or came in lower than those medians. Columbia transcripts show the percentage of students in the course who earned an A.
At Reed College, transcripts are accompanied by an explanatory card. Last year’s graduating class had an average G.P.A. of 3.20, it says, and only 10 percent of the class graduated with a G.P.A. of 3.67 or higher.
Is there push-back? You betcha:
In 1996, Cornell’s faculty adopted a “truth in grading” policy, and median grades were posted online starting in 1998. The policy called for median grades to be shown on transcripts as soon as student-records technology made that possible, but that did not happen until a full decade later.
And while the median grades were available only online, a study by three Cornell economists found a large increase in enrollment in courses with a median grade of A — further driving grade inflation.
Students can easily go to sites like RateMyProfessors.com and avoid tougher graders. They have an incentive to do so, since their GPA matters and some profs give higher grades than others.
So how’s UNC doing? “The average G.P.A was 3.21 in the fall of 2008, up from 2.99 in 1995. A’s have become the most frequent grade, and together, A’s and B’s accounted for 82 percent of the 2008 grades.”
Read the whole thing.