Grade inflation has been an issue for many years. The history goes as far back as 100 years ago. It is no news that grade matters, as it facilitates admission to colleges and universities, and aids job and internship opportunities. It also provides information about the academic progress of students, the school administration, parents and shows the student’s area of strength or areas that should be improved.

Grade inflation continues to rise at top universities, and according to critics, it devalues degrees. This is because the primary aim of College is to provide learning to students. The persistence of grade inflation prevents students from learning. When students are not equipped academically, there is almost no way they can serve society. 

Many students are obsessed with having higher grades, rightly so because they need these top grades to secure a better chance at the top universities. However, grade inflation does not add any value to them.

If one school, for example, practices grade inflation and the other does not, the students of the latter school might feel like they’re at a disadvantage. However, we may want to look at this, students are still not the ones inflating grades. The people responsible are the teachers and the school professors. Therefore, colleges and universities must provide fair and accurate tools for instructors to use in grading students.

In this article, we are going to discuss the circumstances that surround grade inflation and how to combat it.

What is Grade Inflation?

Grade Inflation is a situation whereby students are not given grades based on their own merit, knowledge, or work, they are given grades beyond what they deserve or what they should get.

It is a common practice in institutions around the globe. Sometimes, this act is done unintentionally, while in many cases, grade inflation is done intentionally. It can also be because of a school official policy that the average GPA is high.

A good example of grade inflation is when Stanford University made an official policy that none of their students should receive an F in an assessment. Although grade inflation is officially banned at several colleges and universities, it is more likely for it to occur in institutions that have not taken an official stance on the issue.

Regardless, grade inflation has nothing but a negative impact on not only the students but also the faculty members that engage in the act.

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Examples of Grade Inflation in US Colleges

Many colleges and universities in the United States have been alleged to influence the grades of their students at a point in time. We are going to look at some of these schools below;

  • Harvard University

Grade inflation in Harvard university is related to lax academic standards. There are reports to suggest that professors inflated the grades of their students as far back as the 60s and 70s. Mostly to influence the grades of Black Americans and also the white students.

  • University of Alabama

This school has also been mentioned as regards a recent case of grade inflation. In the year 2003, Robert Witt, the university president responded to criticism that suggests his administration did nothing to kick against grade inflation.

  • UC campuses

This school also has a high reputation because of its grading policies but some departments in the school do not adhere to the guidelines.

  • Princeton University

In the year 2004, Princeton began to use guidelines for grading distributions across its departments, and the academic departments are truly enforcing these guidelines to curb the school history of grade inflation.

All of the above-listed schools have been setting up strict grading guidelines and enforcing them in all their departments to combat the rampant issue of grade inflation in the United State. Other schools such as Wesley College, Northwestern University, Fordham University, Bates College, Reed College, and many more have also developed grading guidelines that the schools must follow.

It is interesting that not only are colleges and universities infected with grade inflation but even elementary schools are not left behind. An example of one of these elementary schools is the Pittsburgh School District. Since the year 2009, the school has also been doing all it can to fight the grade inflation disease and bid it bye from its school.

How Did Grade Inflation Begin?

In the 1960s, during the Vietnam war, students had to maintain a high GPA of 3.0 average on a scale of 4.0. That began the issue of US grade inflation to ensure they qualify for a student draft deferment. This is probably because professors were hesitant to grade students poorly according to how they performed, which could be D’s and F’s. This is because, in the 60s and 70s, poor grades could land students in Vietnam to fight the war.

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In the last couple of decades, grade inflation has been attributed to the rapid increase in the “consumer-based approach” to education. According to them, this has created internal and external incentives for the faculty to inflate grades generously. 

Also, grade inflation can produce better reviews for the instructor and help students stand a better chance at top schools and in the job market.

There is a projection that grade inflation will get even worse in the coming years as many students are getting laid back. Also, this has affected the content mastery of students as they only strive to ace their exams without gaining adequate knowledge.

Types of Grade Inflation

1. Static Grade Inflation: occurs when grades overstate the students’ content knowledge or academic performance. It grades the student performance overtly at a fixed point in time. Although exams are imperfect and some students might have faced extenuating circumstances that can cause them to underperform, static grades suggest a disconnect between grades and content mastery at a given point in time. 

2. Dynamic Grade Inflation: occurs when the level of content knowledge associated with a given grade decreases over time. Here, the link between the student’s grades & their performance changes with time. This is troubling because those who rely on the information provided by student grades cannot know how to interpret it at a given point in time.

3. Differential Grade Inflation: occurs when the association between knowledge and grades is different because of the students’ background or school type. The relationship between the students’ grades & performance differs according to the school/student type. Differential grade inflation can occur in either a static or dynamic environment. 

Causes of Grade Inflation

Many factors contribute to grade inflation. Some of these factors are a decrease in the academic standards of the students or an increase in the student performance, and it could also be both. 

Read: Achievement Testing in Education: Meaning & Examples

There are also pressure factors that cause grade inflation. For example, a teacher may try to reduce the pressure mounted on him/her by the students’ parents, from the school and the student.

Also, when a teacher cannot determine whether the student understands the content of the lesson or not.

Another reason an instructor or teacher might be involved in grade inflation is if the supervisors and the colleagues of this instructor are questioning the work ethics of this instructor. In a move to appear as performing excellently, the instructor might indulge in grade inflation.

The responsibility of the faculty member is to ensure there are no incidents of grade inflation by examining the grades of the students through progress tracking and personalized feedback. If a faculty member fails to perform this responsibility, teachers and students will get away with grade inflation.

When students who put in the work in their courses do not receive support or get any feedback, they may be inclined to receive grade inflation.

Effects and Implications of Grade Inflation on Students

There are many implications of grade inflation on students and we are going to look at some of them.

  • When students are aware, they are getting better grades than they are supposed to, they may develop lesser interest and become disillusioned. They may even decide to stop studying or putting in more effort, as that would be considered a waste of time to them.
  • The level of students’ creativity will drop. This is because they’ve realized they can do substandard work and still get above-average grades. 
  • With top grades, students should wonder if grade inflation is benefiting them or their university’s reputation.
  • In reality, grade inflation does not help students or the universities that use it. There is no one clear path to end grade inflation, but deflating grades is necessary to protect the integrity of college as a learning environment and not just a credential factory.

How to Avoid Grade Inflation 

1. The teachers or instructors should not forget that the grading experience is for the improvement of their students. The educational process should be a learning experience for the students. Students will readily accept lower grades if they’re helped to understand the reason why they have the grade and they can see, or you can show them ways to improve the grades.

2. Completely avoid general expressions or statements that could cover the entire work of the students without specification. Expressions such as “great work” should be avoided. As a teacher, be specific while praising your students. Praise them in their areas of strength or where they excel, and communicate with them clearly, the areas where they need to improve.

3. Show them examples of previous works. Let them see why one work has an A grade while the other has a C. This has proven helpful. 

4. Personalize the feedback. That way the student will feel supported. And that will also allow the management to justify the grades of the students in terms of its fairness.

5. You can use quizzes and assignments to track the progress of students in a particular course. The result over time can help the faculty member to support the students that may be struggling by providing them with an intervention.

6. Rubrics that focus on the strengths of the students and acknowledge them to grade them. Be specific to use rubrics that grade their area of strength and their weak areas accordingly. 

7. Use Rubrics to grade your students fairly. Rubrics are recommended because it has been proven to demonstrate an accurate and fair grading system. So if your grading is ever questioned, you are assured that you have substantial evidence to back you up.

Evaluating Teachers Effectiveness Using Formplus Templates

In cases where a teacher’s effectiveness is being questioned, the faculty or administration of the school can make use of the Formplus Teacher Evaluation Survey Template to evaluate the teacher.

Not only does Formplus have many form templates that can be used for various researches, but all the templates are also extremely easy to use. 

The administration of the school can develop this survey template for the students to use. Since it is the students that are taught by the teachers.

The Teacher Evaluation Survey Template can be edited and customized as wanted by the school.

Once you have completed your design, you can send the link to the students via their email addresses. 

Formplus also has a feature that allows you to gather your survey results and analyze them. So not only can you design and administer your form using Formplus, but you can also collect the results and analyze them.

Making use of this form will assist the faculty and school management to gain insight into the performance of the teachers and the impact of their teachings.

Are the students benefiting in the class, do they understand what is being taught? Are the teachers disciplined, do they respect their students? e.t.c.

The Teacher Evaluation Survey Template gives the students the opportunity to express their thoughts on the performance of their teachers.


The issue of grade inflation should be highly discouraged in society. Students should learn that getting a low grade is not necessarily bad because it can expose the students to their shortcomings and encourage them to put in more effort. This can also teach students which classes are not the best choice for them. 

  • Formplus Blog
  • on 10 min read


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