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|Zach|
02-03-2005, 04:33 PM
http://apnews.myway.com/article/20050122/D87PDHVO0.html

By GEOFF MULVIHILL

PRINCETON, N.J. (AP) - For students at Princeton University, final exams are even more stressful this year: The Ivy League school decided to make it harder to earn an A.

The crackdown on high grades, part of a national battle against grade inflation at elite schools, has increased anxiety, and in some cases, made friendly students wonder whether they should offer study help to their competitors, er, classmates.

"Sometimes, your old high school mentality comes back to haunt you," said Monica Saumoy, recalling the cutthroat competition to get the grades she needed to get into Princeton.

As she studied for an organic chemistry exam in a coffee shop last week, the sophomore and aspiring doctor said she's doing her best to remain cooperative with her peers as they all aim for high grades. "You don't want to stop helping people," she said.

But they all know those A's aren't going to be as plentiful.

In a move students protested last year, Princeton became the first elite college to cap the number of A's that can be awarded.

Previously, there was no official limit to the number of A's handed out, and nearly half the grades in an average Princeton class have been A-pluses, A's or A-minuses. Now, each department can give A's to no more than 35 percent of its students each semester.

Princeton's effort is being monitored closely by other hallowed halls, and some expect to see a ripple effect in coming years.

At other Ivy League schools, the percentages of A's in undergraduates courses ranges from 44 percent to 55 percent, according to Princeton's Web site. At Harvard University, 91 percent of seniors graduated with some kind of honors in 2001.

If the reaction of Princeton students is any indication, limiting honors may mean sharper elbows. Princeton students - never exactly slackers - have been studying even harder this semester, said Tom Brown, executive secretary of the student government.

"You do feel you might be one of the ones they just cut off," said Natasha Gopaul, a senior at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

Grade inflation seems to date to the Vietnam War era, when many professors were reluctant to flunk students and consign them to the draft. Other factors made it snowball, including tuition increases that have convinced some students and parents that good grades are an entitlement.

The problem tends to feed on itself; if one department or school is doing it, others are under pressure to follow, or risk putting their students at a disadvantage.

Several schools have made efforts to rein in ballooning grade point averages. Starting this year, Harvard will limit the number of students who can graduate with honors. Northwestern University set up a committee to study grade inflation at its journalism school.

In 1997, Duke flirted with adopting a complex class-ranking system formula that would have made an A in a class taught by a professor who gives a lot of A's worth less than one in a class taught by a stingier faculty member.

Valen E. Johnson, the Duke professor who designed that system and went on to write the 2003 book, "Grade Inflation: A Crisis in College Education," doesn't like Princeton's new system.

"There's a danger that they're going to drive students away from classes perceived as being competitive," said Johnson, now a professor at the University of Texas' MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

Students are particularly worried about having fewer A's given out in upper-level classes.

"Especially if there are only five people in a class," said Jon Epstein, a junior computer science major from Cleveland, "It will create more competition to get A's."

Princeton officials will send letters to about 3,000 graduate schools and employers to explain the new grading standards - helping assuage students' fears about losing out to students at other elite schools where grades aren't being held in check.

Saumoy, the pre-med student, remains nervous. "I've heard that med schools don't really care what school you came from," she said.

Rain Man
02-03-2005, 04:46 PM
Grade inflation is just ridiculous, especially in grad school. I was a teaching assistant in a course, and the only guy who got a C in the course was the guy who literally could not solve a single problem on the final. Not one. And he hardly even knew how to approach the problems. I liked the guy, but I had a discussion with the professor about why he was given a passing grade. It cheapens the degree for people who actually learned something.

I think that all schools should go to a ranking system. If you're the top student in the class, you get a 100. If you're in the 80th percentile, you get an 80. It's simple and straightforward, and employers will be able to tell that someone in the 25th percentile at Michigan is still a better candidate than someone in the 80th percentile at Doofus U.

Beatlemanu
02-03-2005, 04:50 PM
I think they should get rid of classes in college/universities all together, it really would have made my 7 years of undergrad life a lot easier... :banghead:

ChiefsCountry
02-03-2005, 05:02 PM
Grade inflation is a bunch of bull shit. Its hard enough to get good grades, yet they bitch when people do get A's.

|Zach|
02-03-2005, 05:08 PM
Grade inflation is a bunch of bull shit. Its hard enough to get good grades, yet they bitch when people do get A's.
I think this is more of an ivy league thing.

cheeeefs
02-03-2005, 05:54 PM
That's scary stuff, I wouldn't want to be in Princeton while this system goes through its growing pains. I know that the grades seem awefully inflated at all ivy league schools, but that's because the type of person that is going to go to an ivy league school, and pay for said school is going to study a bit harder then Joe Somebody at Madeup County Community College. If there is a problem then professors need to get more direct guidance on what does and does not constitute an A, B, etc... Hardcapping the A's handed out serves no purpose other then to piss off the poor person who worked their ass off, turned in A material and got a B out of it.

The university I am at has an informal forced grade structure like that, about 2 out of 40 people are allowed A's. It's not written in stone, but in one of my classes we've done 5 essay's and each time there are two A's in the class. so far I'm always one of the two A's, but I have some friends whom I consider smarter then me and I've read the papers they have turned in for B+'s and I honestly don't see the difference in quality between their papers and mine. I would be awefully frustrated to be them.

However, I know that 91% of Harvard graduating with honors is BS. That cheapens the value of the honors system and only servers to truly make those who don't get honors look bad. It seems to turn into a system that it speaks louder to "not" be on the list then it does to be on the list, which is not a way to determine the best of the best. Something needs to be done, but hardline grade caps are unjust and self defeating.

ENDelt260
02-03-2005, 05:57 PM
Yeah, that's why I didn't go to those shitty schools.

Rain Man
02-03-2005, 06:08 PM
That's scary stuff, I wouldn't want to be in Princeton while this system goes through its growing pains. I know that the grades seem awefully inflated at all ivy league schools, but that's because the type of person that is going to go to an ivy league school, and pay for said school is going to study a bit harder then Joe Somebody at Madeup County Community College.


But if everyone at those schools is running on high-grade fuel, they should be covering more material and learning more and learning faster. If they're doing that, they can make a distinction between high performers, average performers, and low performers and put out better students to boot.

If the school itself has a great reputation, then a moderate GPA there will still be better-received in the workplace than a high GPA at Madeup County Community College. As it is, the Ivy League Schools (and all schools, for that matter) graduate ONLY students with high GPAs, which just dilutes the resumes of the true high achievers.

I wish we would go back to a system where an F is 'failed', a D is 'below average', a C is 'satisfactory', a B is 'above average', and an A is 'exemplary.' As an employer, I get tired of interviewing high-GPA students who can't solve basic problems in their major.

We actually started doing testing this year for our job applicants. You can come in for the interview, but if you can't pass the math test, you're out. Screw this reliance on school grades to evaluate people. Interestingly, we just had two candidates from the same program, one with a 3.0 GPA and the other with a 3.7 GPA. The 3.7 did fine on the test, but the 3.0 kicked butt on it, and that's the one who eventually got hired.

FloridaChief
02-03-2005, 06:12 PM
These well-respected, certified universities are a goddamned joke. Thank goodness I went to a sturdy Community College...

cheeeefs
02-03-2005, 06:19 PM
But if everyone at those schools is running on high-grade fuel, they should be covering more material and learning more and learning faster. If they're doing that, they can make a distinction between high performers, average performers, and low performers and put out better students to boot.

If the school itself has a great reputation, then a moderate GPA there will still be better-received in the workplace than a high GPA at Madeup County Community College. As it is, the Ivy League Schools (and all schools, for that matter) graduate ONLY students with high GPAs, which just dilutes the resumes of the true high achievers.

I wish we would go back to a system where an F is 'failed', a D is 'below average', a C is 'satisfactory', a B is 'above average', and an A is 'exemplary.' As an employer, I get tired of interviewing high-GPA students who can't solve basic problems in their major.

We actually started doing testing this year for our job applicants. You can come in for the interview, but if you can't pass the math test, you're out. Screw this reliance on school grades to evaluate people. Interestingly, we just had two candidates from the same program, one with a 3.0 GPA and the other with a 3.7 GPA. The 3.7 did fine on the test, but the 3.0 kicked butt on it, and that's the one who eventually got hired.

I would have to agree with your argument when using "the workplace" as your basis for reasoning. However, as applicable to undergrads, most Harvard and Princeton students aren't looking to go into the workplace, they are looking to get into masters programs, Doctorate programs, Juris doctorate, or a med school. Programs which use as their basis of admission these inflated grade systems. My girlfriend has an A- average and might not get into her first choice law school because of an uncompetative GPA. Hardcapping A's at a ivy league school makes it a very difficult choice for a student who wants to get the best available education, but at the same time wants to advance into one of the aforementioned programs. What is their incentive to go to Princeston where they might not get the A, or go to an easier school where they can walk away with the highest possible GPA?

Rain Man
02-03-2005, 06:32 PM
I would have to agree with your argument when using "the workplace" as your basis for reasoning. However, as applicable to undergrads, most Harvard and Princeton students aren't looking to go into the workplace, they are looking to get into masters programs, Doctorate programs, Juris doctorate, or a med school. Programs which use as their basis of admission these inflated grade systems. My girlfriend has an A- average and might not get into her first choice law school because of an uncompetative GPA. Hardcapping A's at a ivy league school makes it a very difficult choice for a student who wants to get the best available education, but at the same time wants to advance into one of the aforementioned programs. What is their incentive to go to Princeston where they might not get the A, or go to an easier school where they can walk away with the highest possible GPA?


I see where you're coming from. I think your points also illustrate why the system needs so badly to be fixed. An A- average shouldn't be considered weak, and it makes it hard for grad programs to evaluate candidates just like it makes it hard for employers.

The problem is that one school can't fix it alone. All of the schools have to act in unison, and that's not going to happen as long as some of them gain by handing out A's like they're M&Ms.

cheeeefs
02-03-2005, 06:38 PM
yep, necessity is the mother of invention, these university's have carved out their current grade structures out of a necessity. It isn't perfect, but to fix it is to play with many many peoples lives over the course of however many years it took, and each move is going to have unseen affects elsewhere. :shrug:

|Zach|
02-03-2005, 08:17 PM
as long as some of them gain by handing out A's like they're .
I want some M&Ms

ChiefsCountry
02-03-2005, 09:11 PM
I think this is more of an ivy league thing.

No, SMS had a thing about this in the Standard the other day. :cuss:

cdcox
02-03-2005, 09:49 PM
My grading scale for UG engineering classes is:

90% and up is an A
85% and up is a B+
80% and up is a B
75% and up is a C+
70% and up is a C
60% and up is a D
below is an F

I occasionally move the scale down a point or two, but have done that less and less in recent years as I have grown old and mean. Anyone who gets an A or B+ has a decent idea what is going on in the course. Sometimes the B students are getting iffy, while the C+ and C students are clearly below average. The reason B and below is iffy is because engineering undergraduate live in a culture of partial credit. Put some junk down on a problem and you are likely to get a third to half the possible points on an exam problem. I've beent trying to tighten up on this too. Still, liberal giving of partial credit is probably the area where I am contributing most to grade inflation.

I don't think my grading standards are much different than in other engineering programs around the country. Some of the softer programs might grade easier. Our best students have gone on to graduate school at MIT, Illinois, Georgia Tech, etc and done very well.

At the elite schools, the students are incredibly well prepared. Probably most of them are perfectly capable of doing A work. I'd have to teach at one of those schools to know if 90% of the students deserve to be honor students, but I kind of doubt it. It is not their ability I am questioning, but their motivation to actually do their best.

Graduate school is a little different, since the students have to maintain a B average to stay in good standing. So only the A to B part of the scale is used for the most part. This is pretty much true at all graudate schools. Any graduate GPA below 3.5 should be considered below average. I do give C's for performances that are unsatisfactory for a graduate student (that is what a C means in graduate school). When I give a C, it is basically sending a message to anyone who reviews the transcript that this persons performance was below expectations in this course.

Oh, and ALWAYS look at the individual grades on the transcripts rather than the overall GPA. Even if they are a 3.5 student, if they pulled C's in all their math classes, they aren't going to have strong quantitative skills. Lots of students do well in the soft courses, thereby raising their overall GPA.

In summary, you can still get information from the transcript, if you know how to read it using the current mind set.