Today’s NY Times has an article about Princeton’s attempts over the past few years to reverse its grade inflation. It seems that their efforts have been pretty successful; nearly half the grades given in 2004 were in the A-range, and now it’s less than 40%. The students are hopping mad, and I don’t blame them.
At Swarthmore, students pride themselves — and are furious about — our purported lack of grade inflation. They feel they are at a competitive disadvantage when competing for medical and law school seats against students at the “easy Ivies.” They have the hope, perhaps even the expectation, that admissions officers will equate a Swarthmore C with a Harvard A, and will make decisions accordingly. (I met with a student recently who hoped that medical schools would not hold his F in chemistry against him, because, after all, it’s Swarthmore.)
I have no way of knowing, truly, how Swarthmore’s grading stands up against other comparable schools. If I had to guess, I would imagine that graduate schools realize that applicants from Swarthmore, Princeton and others have performed academically at a very high level, even if their actual GPAs are a little lower than their typical norm for accepted students. Beyond that, I’d be surprised if they were making distinctions within this group of top schools.
Now back to Princeton, and their stated desire to “deflate” grades. Here they travel the world over, literally, to recruit the brightest, most accomplished, most motivated students. These kids really, really know how to do school. So why the surprise that they end up performing very well? Why impose artificial limits in evaluating and rewarding their work?
One more thing – a Princeton student in the Times article complains about competing with students from Yale, apparently one of the “easy Ivies” in his view. Maria, what do you think?