Grade inflation is hardly an invention of the 2020s.
There was a time, oh high-expectation Gen Zers and younger cohorts, in which, hard as it is to believe from your cushy report cards, in which a C actually meant a student was doing “average” work. Not perfect, maybe. But adequate for passing the class.
A B was good. An A — wow!
Everything has changed, and not overnight. The reasons for grade inflation are multifarious, not the least of which is highly competitive colleges and universities literally requiring literally straight As through four years of high school in order to be considered for admission.
It’s been decades since that inflation created an even crazier situation in which even straight As are not enough — a student needed a 4.1 or even 4.2 grade-point average to be admitted to elite colleges — weighting of Advanced Placement and other tough classes created the paradigm.
But the current situation in the Los Angeles Unified School District, in which GPAs and graduation rates are both soaring, and yet student scores on standardized tests that are supposed to show students’ grasp of subject knowledge are plummeting, is untenable.
As Reason Magazine reported this week, in the district, “in some grades and subjects, as many as four out of every five students receive A, B, and C grades, while only one in five met grade-level benchmarks.”
The bad news is that this travesty, which in the end only serves to give students unrealistic expectations for their futures, is being done on purpose.
During the pandemic lockdowns, as overall grades worsened, the district eliminated Fs entirely, even for students who did no work at all. A D is technically a passing grade. And now, with students back on campus, the district has still made it almost impossible for teachers to fail a student.
But at the end of the 2022 school year, some 72% of students in L.A. Unified did not meet state standards in math, along with 58% who did not meet standards in English.
“Schools are sending the signal via grades that kids are doing well again,” USC education professor Morgan Polikoff told the Los Angeles Times. But they’re not doing well. Pretending that they are does no one — not the students, not the adult society they are preparing to enter — any good.