The ABCs of Rating Inflation at Tufts

If the letters “ABC” send shivers down your spine, you may be a Tufts student and currently in the middle of shoulder season. Like Tufts becomes an increasingly competitive institution, here we will take a look at the notes to Tufts in the national context of ratings inflation.

Overall, a 2010 study by the College of Teachers Register found that the public and private college grade point averages increased significantly during the height of the Vietnam War and have steadily increased since the 1980s. Tufts was not included in the data, although an article from 2008 published in the Daily revealed an increase in the average GPA of 3.26 in the 1997–98 academic year to 3.39 in 2007–08 for the School of Arts and Sciences. the Registrar’s Office the policy of sharing information about the average GPA prevented them from providing more recent information to the Daily.

Deans of Academic Affairs Samuel Thomas and Heather Nathans, both also teachersshared that Tufts is responsible to the New England Commission on Higher Education.

“​​[The grading system at Tufts] looks very similar [to those at other colleges]and I imagine part of that is due to accreditation processes,” Nathans mentioned. “Transcripts must be legible in all institutions. When you have an external accreditation body, [such as the New England Commission on Higher Education]they want to see that you are actually evaluating student work in some way.

James Glaser, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Political Scienceobserved an upward trend in GPA, especially during the pandemic.

It was a slow increase for a long time,” Glaser said. “And then [over] for the last two years it’s been quite dramatic, and part of that is – I think – a function of the exceptional pass provision that was put in place due to [COVID-19], which has allowed many students to withdraw from grades that would lower their grade point averages. … I think that [exceptional pass] suited the circumstances… [though] this had the potential to mask any problems students might have, making them less prepared for future classes. This is the main reason why we… do not pursue this policy.”

Jonathan Conroy is a senior IT specialist who was both teaching assistant and lecturer for Algorithms (CS 160). He noted that he had heard that there had been more requests for reclassification of students in Algorithms during the pandemic than there had been before.

I’ve only been TA for [COVID-19]and so I can’t speak to this personally, but I’ve been told that we used to get far fewer requests for reclassification before the pandemic, even though the grading has remained relatively constant throughout the semesters” Conroy mentioned.

While Conroy’s This anecdote is not proof of grade inflation, it could be indicative of changing student expectations regarding grades.

Thomas revealed that members of the administration do not impose any specific parameters on the distribution of exact grades, respecting the autonomy of each instructor.

We have grading policies, but we in the administration are not looking [at] how teachers grade individual lessons and say, you know, ‘You gave too many A’s or something,” Thomas said. “I think it falls under this type of academic freedom.”

Academic performance may be a criterion in college rankings, but Glaser says it does not put inflationary pressure on ratings Tufts.

I don’t think the faculty think about… how each of these individual levels [grading] the decisions [add] up to a certain result at school or university level, Glaser mentioned.

From a teacher’s perspective, Nathans describes the thought process behind assigning grades and how it relates to a student’s progress throughout the course.

You consider each student as an individual and you [ask], “How far has this person strayed from their starting point to achieve the learning objectives?” said Nathans. “I think if faculty weren’t grading based on student progress, we’d literally be handing out the test and saying, ‘See you in the finals..'”

Thomas elaborated on what the notes represent.

I think it’s a very complex set of variables that combine to determine whether someone will be successful or not,” Thomas said. “Are students who got A’s in organic chemistry smarter than students who got B’s?” I’m pretty sure I’d say “no”…and I’m not evaluating whether these students are smarter.

Glaser partly linked to an increase in high ratings to Tufts to an increasingly competitive student body.

I think… the large number of very strong students who are at Tufts and other good institutions…is correlated with high grades,” Glaser mentioned.

Nathans, however, does not consider GPA to be a great reflection of skill.

I think GPAs are perhaps the least expressive aspect of what Tufts students are,” Nathans said. “I do not know [if Tufts students] are much smarter. I just think [that] Tufts students ask fantastic questions and are compelled to do a truly amazing job in service of those questions. And I think the grades they can get are a manifestation of that.

The question is whether the grades reflect the level of rigor of a course.

Are the grades [a] rigorous measure? I don’t think it’s the same thing. …these are somewhat different dimensions” Glaser mentioned.

Nathans disputes the term “rigour” itself.

The term rigor can be used to close doors rather than open them, … as it can often imply that there is only one way to learn,” Nathans mentioned. “And that rules out…opportunities for people. It becomes something that can seem very exclusive.

This is particularly relevant for courses that are informally perceived as serving to weed out students.

“I know that there are departments across [the School of Arts and Sciences] who are particularly aware of this reputation”, Nathans mentioned. “One of the things I really enjoy hearing teachers talk about [is] …how you crop [weed out classes] to get them away from the hazing…to make them as welcoming as possible and to really maximize student success.”

Susan Atkins, associate director of employer relations at the Career Centerwrote in an email to Daily that grade inflation can have multiple consequences.

“I“We understand that grade inflation creates unequal opportunities for students depending on the employer and their use of grades or transcripts as part of the assessment process,” Atkins wrote. “Certain industries require a GPA, and of course grade inflation could have a positive impact for some students seeking employment in those particular fields. The downside of grade inflation is that it does not provide students with reliable information about what they are doing and not doing well. If someone gets all A’s and very little constructive feedback, they may be less prepared for the demands of the “real world”.

These claims are clarified by an investigation carried out by the Career Center.

Responses to our survey varied by industry sector, and we learned that approximately 53% of our surveyed employers do not require transcripts as part of their overall application process,” Atkins wrote. . “We found that around 25% of employers want to see specific grades as part of their application process rather than seeing a pass/fail grade or an exceptional passing grade. Finally, about 22% want to see grades and will review both pass/fail and actual student grades as they are being considered for a job.

According to Conroyundergraduates generally view their academic grades through a short-term lens.

I hear people stressed about the grade they received and the grade itself, not necessarily about an end result in the future,” Conroy mentioned.

Going forward, it remains unclear how the general trend of nationwide rating inflation affects Tufts and to what extent it is organic or manufactured.

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