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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Thursday, April 18, 2024

The grade inflation problem

At the end of the day, grades are understandably students' top concern. It is your academic record that opens the door to many post-graduate opportunities. Yesterday, an article examined students' concerns about introductory courses, in which students often receive lower grades than they do in middle level and upper level courses.

At other colleges and universities, however, professors and administrators are concerned about grade inflation, not the relative lack of high grades in introductory courses. Some professors feel such pressure to give students good grades that they give two grades -- a "real" grade and the one that is actually reported to the registrar.

Stuart Rojstaczer, a Duke University professor and creator of, has been vocal in his objections to grade inflation. In a January 2003 opinion piece for The Washington Post, he went so far as to say that "In the absence of fair grading, our success in providing this country with a truly educated public is diminished. The implications of such failure for a free society are tremendous."

Until recently, embarrassment has been the only motivation for a university to reconsider its grading procedures. For example, Tufts' Professor Charles Inouye, while he was Dean of Undergraduate Education in 2001, gained attention in a number of newspapers when he criticized Harvard for the number of A's students receive. Shortly after, in response to opinions of faculty and major newspaper reports, Harvard President Larry Summers initiated a grading evaluation.

Earlier this month, Princeton Dean of the College Nancy Weiss Malkiel proposed a plan that will limit the number of A's a department can assign. This aroused the expected amount of noise, from faculty as well as students. Students argue that the amount of A quality work cannot be pre-determined. Professors risk losing their discretion in grading.

At Tufts, we are concerned about the lack of A's in introductory courses "weeding out" students. Perhaps we should be relieved that we are not dealing with the bigger headache of how to prevent the proliferation of A's. Preventing grade inflation before it happens is a lot easier than rolling it back.