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Volume 69, Issue 135, Friday, April 23, 2004


Staff Editorial


                            Matt Dulin    Barrett Goldsmith    Zach Lee 
                Jim Parsons            Christian Schmidt           Blake Whitaker


It may make no sense to complain about good grades, but it's happening.

So-called grade inflation is apparently a problem for the nation's Ivy League schools, but we very much doubt anyone at UH will complain about having a grade-point average that's too high.

Discussion of the problem surfaced recently after officials at Princeton University announced it was considering a measure to drastically limit the number of A's awarded to students. Any move by the trend-setting Ivy League could be emulated by the broader higher education community.

The central debate here is not whether grades are going up -- which they have been since the 1970s -- but whether the meaning of a GPA is changing. 

The nature of grades is increasingly rank-based; that is, grades are used to classify superior performance over average or below-average performance. The problem Ivy League sees is that it's hard to fairly rank its students when so many seem to be doing so well.

The truth is, schools are more competitive now than they were in 1970. Students know more, do more and are better equipped to study and complete assignments.

Perhaps the Ivy League schools should raise the bar and challenge students in new ways rather than set a dangerous precedent by dictating how many A's a professor can award his or her students.

No doubt those kinds of classes are already challenging, but they are also attracting the nation's best students -- people who would shed blood if it meant a higher GPA.

If grades are meant to be a fair measure of a student's performance, it's entirely possible for an entire classroom full of savants to earn A's. But if grades are meant to rank students, there isn't a good way to evaluate a classroom of savants -- or mediocre students.

This kind of discussion needs to take place, because new guidelines on how grades are distributed will change the nature of our ABCs.
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