Changes in High School Grading Standards in Mathematics, 1982-1992

Changes in High School Grading Standards in Mathematics, 1982-1992

Changes in High School Grading Standards in Mathematics, 1982-1992

Changes in High School Grading Standards in Mathematics, 1982-1992

Synopsis

Observers have maintained that grades in secondary and postsecondary institutions have become inflated. This possibility is an especially serious concern to many colleges and universities because such inflation could make it increasingly difficult for them to distinguish among high-achieving students. This study examines this possibility by evaluating changes in high school grading standards across the nation as a whole from 1982 to 1992.

Excerpt

In recent years, many observers have expressed concern about“grade inflation” -that is, increases in the grades given to students at any given level of achievement. Anecdotal reports suggest substantial inflation both in many high schools and in postsecondary institutions. The possibility of inflation at the high school level is a serious concern to many selective postsecondary institutions, in that it may bias their admissions decisions and may make it increasingly difficult to distinguish among high-achieving students. Grade inflation would also be troubling to many K-12 educators and policymakers. Education reform currently focuses on establishing high standards for achievement, and grade inflation could threaten that intent.

Despite the importance of grade inflation and the widespread reports of it, there has been little systematic research exploring changes in grading standardswhich would include grade inflation-in U.S. high schools.

Accordingly, with support from the College Entrance Examination Board, RAND undertook an evaluation of changes in high school grading standards across the nation as a whole from 1982 to 1992. This study focused primarily on mathematics because it was possible only in mathematics to adjust grades to take into account tested achievement. This report presents the results of that evaluation.

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