Friday, February 23, 2007

A Saga of Grade Inflation and the LIFE Scholarship

Today's Newsless Courier (aka The Post and Courier) provides yet another clue that our entire nation has become Lake Wobegone--"where every child is above average." This gem of information is contained in AP article about a federal study comparing results of NAEP math and science testing with the same students' transcripts for 2005 graduates. The overall average for high school graduates has risen to a B.

The AVERAGE is B--get it?
So A, which USED to mean "excellent," is the only "above average" grade left? And C, which USED to mean "average," now means "below average."

It gets worse, though. While the grade-point average has risen to B, actual knowledge, as assessed by testing, has dropped.

Let that sink in for a moment. . . .

We can fudge around on this as much as we like, but the reality is that grades are rising and knowledge is dropping.

Well, it makes sense to a teacher. The harder a student must work and study to get that A (or B), the more the student has learned. You think?

Now, look what has happened to the Life Scholarship here in SC. I'm sure when the State Legislature made one of the criteria a 3.0 GPA [the others being a SAT minimum of 1100 and top third of class] it had no IDEA that would qualify the AVERAGE high school graduate. Now, it turns out that so many students qualify that the program has become a victim of its own success. The latest proposal is to change that criterion to a GPA of 3.25!

[Notice they're not proposing raising the SAT score!]

Ask yourself, how many average SC high school graduates with SAT scores below 1100 receive the LIFE scholarship based on their "above-average" B in high school and then go on to lose the money because they are unable to maintain a B in college? Is that a good picture?

And the pressure is on teachers to provide many of those B's [don't grade too hard!] so that middle-class students can get their LIFE scholarships.

The statistics show it: administrators like Inez Tennenbaum and Maria Goodloe-Johnson can fuss all they want over standardized testing, but it's the only measure that keeps them honest. Not grades.

Oh, and if you think that 11oo seems like a stretch, keep in mind 1100 is only slightly "above average" and doesn't begin to measure the ability it did 10, 15, or 30 years ago, after its multiple downward recenterings.

The average SC high school graduate has a B average and an SAT score WELL BELOW 1100.

What does that tell you?

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