A new report from the Fordham Institute about “Grade Inflation in High Schools (2005–2016)” relates to topics like “Hollow Diplomas” that we have been concerned about at the Bluegrass Institute for some time (see here and here for some examples).
The new study, which looks at results for North Carolina, contains some interesting findings, including:
Finding 1: While many students are awarded good grades, few earn top marks on the statewide end-of-course exams for those classes.
Finding 2: Algebra 1 end-of-course exam scores predict math ACT scores much better than do course grades.
Finding 3: From 2005 to 2016, more grade inflation occurred in schools attended by more affluent youngsters than in those attended by the less affluent.
One of the most interesting comments in the report involves how parents view grades versus test scores:
“When there’s a big difference between what the two measures communicate, parents are apt to take the test scores less seriously—especially if the scores are low. “My child doesn’t test well,” goes the refrain. In our view, this is a form of confirmation bias that’s leading to greater complacency not only on the part of students, but parents too.”
The report adds:
“Why should mothers work to help their children catch up if grades don’t signal that they’re behind?”
Unfortunately, Fordham’s report only examines data from North Carolina. Protectors of the education status quo in Kentucky will be quick to claim that the results don’t necessarily apply here.
But, the report got me wondering if any data on grade point averages (GPA) was available in Kentucky. I hit pay dirt with a new Excel file from the Kentucky Center for Statistics titled the “2018 High School Feedback Workbook.” What I found raises real concerns about the apparent absence of grading standardization in Kentucky.
By the way, inaccurate GPAs impose financial impacts on Kentucky’s KEES college scholarship awards. So, the material discussed below has implications for the fairness of those scholarship awards.
There are also implications for the state’s attempts to tighten up high school diploma quality.
Want to see which Kentucky districts probably grade too easy – or even too hard? Just click the “Read more” link.