Grade inflation hurts students. Yup! Don’t get me wrong, parents and students love to see A’s and B’s on report cards and transcripts because it gives them a sense of security that they can get into a “good” college and that everything is okay. The problem is that this false sense of security leads to relaxed study skills, and worse, the misleading belief that the student has a mastery of the material and will be successful at the next level.
One of my clients took the entire math series – all the way to Calculus – and received A’s and B’s in every course at her public charter school in California. When she entered community college upon graduation, she was surprised that she would be required to take a high-school-level math course after taking the math placement exam. What surprised me was that she failed that Algebra 1 course TWO TIMES because she didn’t have 5th grade math skills. She couldn’t add and subtract fractions, solve equations, or even understand Algebra concepts. This is what happens with grade inflation.
When students get high grades for lackluster performance, they don’t learn to read critically, they can’t solve problems, and they believe that they’re doing just fine. We need to give students the grades that they deserve so they can learn early on how to study to get their coveted A’s.
A friend who teaches at a prestigious university told me that he feels like he is teaching remedial classes. The students enter his class with such poor academic skills that he seriously can’t teach the class and cover the material he needs to because the majority of the students wouldn’t pass the class. The administration puts pressure on professors to give good grades, so once again, we have grade inflation even at the highest levels.
I attribute this problem to “helicopter” parenting that starts in elementary school. When parents swoop in to protect their children from hurt feelings when they don’t win 1st place awards or get straight A’s, the student doesn’t have the real-life opportunities to improve their skills so they can earn the trophies or grades that they deserve. Besides, the students know when their parents or teachers don’t believe in them and helicopter parenting contributes to students’ low self-esteem and all of the negative behaviors as a result.
So what’s the solution? Rather than protect students from the truth by inflating grades or giving trophies to every student, teach the students how to be successful. Guide them to improve their skills and give loving and healthy feedback along the way. After all, we don’t want a society filled with entitled adults without skills or knowhow!