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April 23, 2011 12:00 PM Grades, Relatively

By Daniel Luzer

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People have been complaining about grade inflation in American colleges for years. With all of those students earning As, what does an A even mean? As the University of North Carolina’s Andrew Perrin complained: “If everyone gets an A for adequate completion of tasks, it cripples our ability to recognize exemplary scholarship.”

Well now it looks like Perrin’s school is working on a solution. According to an article by Claire McNeill in the UNC paper, the Daily Tar Heel:

On Friday, the Faculty Council approved [a new transcript] policy with a 21-13 vote. The change will apply to students entering UNC in 2012 and after.
Under the new policy, each student transcript will include the median grade in each of their classes, the student’s percentile rank compared to peers in the same section and a “scheduled point average”— the average median grade for all students enrolled in the student’s mix of courses.

Providing context for grades is an interesting idea. “It’s great for employers to be able to look at transcripts and know what that grade really means,” said one professor.

Well yes, in theory. But “context” doesn’t combat grade inflation anymore than the Bureau of Labor Statistics indices combat real inflation.

Such information about UNC classes seems like it would mostly be irrelevant for employers or graduate schools. It’s only information about one student relative to another student at UNC. Employers and graduate schools generally aren’t interested in comparing students at UNC; applicants are all from different schools.

If no one else provides contextual information, what good is it? [Image via]

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer