University officials dismiss potential grade inflation

One college grading trend may have found new life at the University of Notre Dame, but SIU officials say the university won’t consider it any time soon.

Grade inflation, the phenomenon of rising university-wide GPA averages because of lower grading standards, has caused Notre Dame to recommend that teachers consider increasing grading standards to limit the amount of A’s they give out. Princeton University combated the issue in 2004 with guidelines that allowed only 35 percent of each class’ students to receive an A.

John McGreevy, Notre Dame dean of the College of Arts and Letters, said in a USA Today article instructors should reserve A’s for the most exceptional students. While the article said Notre Dame students and faculty attribute easy instructors as the higher GPAs’ cause, university administrators said faculty have the right to distribute the grade they feel each student deserves.

“One thing faculty cherishes the most in their academic freedom is how they grade their students,” said Jim Allen, associate provost for academic programs. “To place restrictions on the amount of higher grades they receive would not be responsible.”

Allen said he does not think grade inflation has been a problem at the university, nor will it ever.

“I have had classes in which I distributed more A’s than any other grade, but I have also had classes in which I gave out more D’s and F’s than any other grades,” he said.

Beyond grading standards, University Spokesman Rod Sievers said faculty members are not required to have their syllabuses or course regulations approved.

“All of this falls under the umbrella of academic freedom,” he said. “Professors set the course of study and grading policies for their class at the start of each semester.”

Kimberly Asner-Self, associate professor in educational psychology and special education, said she is grateful instructors are not required to use administration-approved syllabuses.

“I think the administration is doing their job just fine when it comes to their requirements for our courses,” she said. “I have no concerns because they haven’t infringed upon my teaching.”

Asner-Self said besides contact information and emergency procedures, the policies and procedures are completely at her discretion.

“I teach graduate students, so I already know they don’t need a parent-figure teaching them,” she said. “I prefer to think of them as professionals in training.”

Asner-Self said she takes student course evaluations very seriously because they are her only way of knowing what she has done well throughout the semester and what she needs to improve, she said.

Administrators said they are comfortable with the university’s grading standards, and Jordan Cox, a sophomore from Paducah studying pre-pharmacy, said there is no reason to make grading policies stricter.

“I expect teachers to give students the grade they deserve,” he said. “It shouldn’t have anything to do with inflation or trying to offer a variety of scores. When I go to see my final grade, I would be highly (upset) if I was graded down because I didn’t make some percentage cut to receive a good grade.”

Cox said he has learned how to perform well in courses by adjusting to each teacher’s style, but insists he has always gotten the grade he deserves.

“I know which classes I absolutely cannot miss, which ones I can and which teachers are more lenient and understanding that their class is not the only one we’re taking,” Cox said.

While Notre Dame keeps track of grade inflation, officials at schools such as Illinois State University, Southeast Missouri State University, Northern Illinois University and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville said they do not track students’ GPAs after they enter the university because too many students transfer in and out to keep track of the university averages.

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