College Guide


August 24, 2011 10:00 AM The Grades of Future Teachers

By Daniel Luzer

Many critics argue that American college students seem to earn grades that are too high, or too high at least for the actual effort they’re putting in. In 1991 the average college GPA was 2.93. In 2006 the average college GPA was 3.11.

Well, guess which students earn the highest grades? It’s future teachers. According to a new study by Cory Koedel published by the American Enterprise Institute:

Students who take education classes at universities receive significantly higher grades than students who take classes in every other academic discipline. The higher grades cannot be explained by observable differences in student quality between education majors and other students, nor can they be explained by the fact that education classes are typically smaller than classes in other academic departments.

This is despite the fact that education majors have the lowest high school grades and standardized test scores of all college students.

Now obviously there’s nothing we can do about this from a policy perspective. Grades are awarded by professors. If they think their students all deserve As and Bs (the average classroom-level grade GPA in American education departments is 3.8), well, that’s their prerogative.

But this is an important thing to keep in mind when discussing standards-based reform and rewarding and punishing teachers based on student achievement. Tough grading might be sort of a novel concept for many teachers.

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


  • Drew on August 25, 2011 9:54 AM:

    "This is despite the fact that education majors have the lowest high school grades and standardized test scores of all college students." [Citation needed]

  • Etcetera on August 25, 2011 8:01 PM:

    My degree in education was laughable. Any idiot was routinely admitted and was granted a degree. Unfortunately, only about ten percent of education graduates actually get hired and there is no correlation between how well you learned how to teach and whether or not you pass an interview. Because of this, there is very little actual passion for education and half of new teachers leave within five years.

    The solution to the so-called teacher shortage is not pumping out more "teachers," it's improving the program so we don't end up hiring kids who took education because they had the grades to do so.

  • Linzel on August 25, 2011 10:53 PM:

    It was a LOW hurdle but one we needed to get past. What concerns me most is we cultivate teachers from the bottom rungs rather than from the top. The BEST in each field should be teaching [if they have the personality :) ]

    I'll say that my old jurisdiction was more focused on pass/fail rates not actual learning. Where I am now, the community is focused on the IVY league and not actual learning. The teaching staff worry about the learning process and creativity [and getting 5's on AP's]

  • Michael on August 26, 2011 4:57 AM:

    If the material they're studying is extremely simple and easy to master, why shouldn't they get high marks on it?

  • Kevin on August 26, 2011 12:24 PM:

    Most of my master's level classes are about research, constructivism, and other methods that "need to be implemented" to increase the quality of education. In other words, my classes have taught me the way public education SHOULD be (which is GOOD), but not how to navigate and perform successfully in the current broken system (which is BAD). I am taking classes from a regional state university in the Midwest.

    You know how a lot of people complain that they never used certain bodies of knowledge from literature or algebra or world history after graduation? It's worse than that in some education colleges: Many teachers tell student teachers to "Forget what you've learned, and start surviving". How many student teachers don't take any class in curriculum design? In assessment? In beahvioral management or special education, beyond a single class for each which merely helps you to "identify" and not provide solutions?!