Grade Inflation Gone Wild

By Elizabeth Kanovsky

What exactly constitutes a college class? No, I am not talking about a course taken by a student enrolled in an undergraduate university. I am talking about a Briarcliff High School “college class.” Nowadays, looking through the course catalog for juniors and seniors, the number of so-called college classes offered through UHS, ACE, SUPA, and AP is astounding. I counted over fifteen available for seniors, excluding electives and classes primarily taken by underclassmen like AP World History.There is great disparity regarding the level of difficulty and the amount of work in these college classes. In a few college classes, there is minimal homework every night, and most of the students’ grades are in the A range. In others, there is over an hour of homework each night, and students are lucky if they get a B on a test. From what I have heard on college tours and in alumni interviews, even the classes in the latter category are not comparable to real college courses. Still, they are all considered such.

With the title of college class comes another issue: the weighting. Per school policy, honors classes have a 1.05 weight and college classes (which include AP) have a 1.10 weight. However, I have taken honors classes that were not much harder than regular classes, and some college classes that were much more difficult than others. The weighting does not take these differences into account. Moreover, it leads to massive grade inflation. Fifty four percent of the Class of 2013 has a weighted GPA above 90.00. I’m not saying these grades are undeserved; however, the distribution would certainly change and become more like a classical bell curve if weighting were taken out of the picture. Most colleges don’t even look at weighted GPAs, instead opting to compare GPAs under their own systems.

This article isn’t meant as an attack on the teachers who teach college classes and the administrators who put them in place. Rather, it is a criticism of the educational system as a whole. Too much emphasis is being placed on numbers and college admissions at the expense of learning for learning’s sake. Even I am guilty of this, as there are one or two AP classes that I would not have taken if I hadn’t felt the need. There is no easy solution to fixing the system. We certainly shouldn’t do without college classes and weighing altogether. Nevertheless, I think that we at Briarcliff High School, and the members of America’s entire educational system, need to rethink our attitude towards the classes we take. We need to focus less on how many AP classes we are cramming into our schedules and more on what we are learning and what interests us, than whether the classes involved are AP or regular, weighted or unweighted. As the saying goes, quality, not quantity.

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