An A for Average

By Madilyn Zanardelli

What does it mean to you when you receive an A? Did you study hard? Are you naturally gifted in that subject? Did you deserve it? Or did you do the bare minimum and an A is what you expected? For many high school students an A means nothing, but getting a B or C creates panic, stress, and self-doubt.

This trend of expected As wasn’t always the norm. “In 1998, 38.9% of high schoolers had an A average”, but by “2016, the rate had increased to 47%”. (Weller) While some may speculate that maybe the next generation is getting smarter, the average SAT score that year dropped by 24 points. This issue is known as grade inflation.

Normalizing As and Bs takes away from the quality of work allowing students to lower their work ethics. Now they can meet the bare minimum while still being rewarded. However, blame can’t be placed solely on students as grade inflation is a vicious cycle. 

High schools don’t want to appear underperforming in comparison to surrounding schools, so they can turn a blind eye to simple assignments and easy-to-pass classes in order to keep the number of graduates high and dropouts low. As more and more schools lighten their workload, grade inflation becomes deeply rooted in education.

Similarly, inflation also pressures teachers to give more As. If a teacher gives more Cs, as a C is “average,” they will be labeled a “harsh grader.” When students and parents start to complain, eventually even the school will see them as a “subpar teacher.” As teachers give out more As to keep up with the environment, students are trained to expect them. 

The cycle is hard to stop. If one school were to heighten their expectations, it would only make them look bad as the rest of the counties’ standards are lower. Ensuingly, their students would face harsh consequences when applying to colleges. Eradication of grade inflation is near to impossible.

Standardized testing, though unpopular with today’s youth, would more accurately inform colleges of students’ capabilities. Ideally, the ACT and SAT would allow everyone to be tested on an even playing field with no shield of grade inflation to hide behind. But these tests have their bias, as they favour more affluent families who can provide tutors and extra classes. Another way to assess students more accurately is by using the class rank, but this too has faded out of the application process. 

It is important to realize that grades have never been the paramount measure of academic success, yet, their decline in value indicates that additional criterion of achievement will likely play a larger role in college admissions.