Solving Grade Inflation

THE PROBLEM

Grade inflation is when a school gives out higher grades than can be validated by the student’s performance. In some instances, schools are issuing transcripts with all or mostly all A+ grades in most or all subjects. One school submitted transcripts that had an A+ grade for all students in all subjects. We find this not only highly unlikely, but at best reflects an absence of clear grading policies in the school, and at worst is a case of the fraudulent practice of buying grades.

From a school’s standpoint it might be tempting to rationalize that students and their families will feel very positive about the school when they receive a transcript with high grades—even though the student did not actually earn the higher grades. A school might assume that such a practice would make the family and student feel good about themselves – but when the student can’t perform at that level in college or future endeavors, it will result in the student feeling inadequate and in some cases like a failure. Grade inflation is counterproductive to the student and to the school as well. It will result in the reputation of International Schools being labeled as “easy.”

On a broader scale, Ministries of Education in all countries have expressed concerned about apparent grade inflation and must question the validity of accreditation should this practice continue. Trustworthy educational institutions are reflections of the community as a whole.

WHAT SCHOOLS CAN DO

The grades assigned by a school should correlate with how well the student performs on external assessments, (such assessments are required for AIAA accreditation). If the student’s grades are very high and the standardized assessment scores are low or far below the grades assigned, there is suspicion that the school has not adequately measured the student’s performance and assigned grades that were not earned.

Course grades should reflect the student’s acquisition of course material. Although attendance, class participation and homework assignments should be considered in a student’s grades, they should not be the determining factor in assigning grades.

Introductory level courses should assure that the largest factor of what grade is given is based on the student’s acquisition of the course material – how much the student learned about what was taught. Classes of a more advanced nature should have even a higher standard.

Universities have instituted policies in order to counteract possible for grade inflation. Policies such as allowing no more than 25% of the class to receive A’s or reintroducing grades on a curve have reduced grade inflation in some instances.

WHAT AIAA IS DOING

AIAA requires their member schools to provide assurances that the grades assigned to students accurately reflect the students’ work. Additionally, AIAA monitors each of its member school’s issuance of student grades for possible grade inflation. This includes checking the transcripts that AIAA stamps and forwards to the Ministry of Education. It also involves randomly spot checking to see if transcripts appear to be grade inflated. If so, we then request to see the entire work of the student that led to the assignment of that grade. If we find that the grades assigned do not accurately reflect the student’s work, we take steps to resolve the issue with the school, by placing the school on probation or revoking the accreditation status of the school.

We are in the business of helping students succeed. We must avoid the trap of giving students and their families an inflated sense of their accomplishments. Real success is not built on false achievements.