In the last couple of years, I’ve gotten a number of students who come to me and say something like “I didn’t get an A? What did I do wrong?” The A is the obvious grade, and a B means, to their mind, that they missed some significant requirement of the assignment. The idea that an A means going above and beyond the assignment is foreign to them. I am very close to giving up on my anachronistic view of the C, or even the low-B, as an average. Though the chair of the department is trying to encourage “full spectrum grading,” it is a distributed prisoners dilemma: no one wants to be caught holding the bag and being the lowest average grade in the department.
As an indicator, my last exam in the media law class had a total of 180 points available, when it was scheduled to have 150. Anything over 130 would be an A. I haven’t graded it completely yet, but I suspect I will have more As and A-s than any other grade.
The newsletter for my teachers union recently reprinted an essay that appeared in the Washington Post entitled Where All Grades Are Above Average. Honestly, if grades are moving upward, and everyone understands them to be, I don’t have a problem with that. The problem is that this allows someone with absolutely no effort to graduate with a B average. Moreover, we have students applying for grad school who have 3.5 GPAs and no ability whatsoever to engage in graduate work.
Given the continuing grade inflation, one wonders whether a simple translation mapping might work. Right now, a 2.5 is needed to graduate in our program. Perhaps it is not as strange as it sounds to move everything to the standard graduate scale, where anything below a B is failing.
I know of instructors (not at UB) who give a “reported grade” and a “real grade.” I might try this, though I suspect that it would be irrelevant. Much of this stems from my lack of understanding: how can someone spend so much time aimed at getting a grade? How is this a worthwhile pursuit? By the time they get to college, many of these students are so reliant on external validation that the process of learning is just a means to a grade, rather than the other way around.