PRINCETON GRADE DEFLATION NO MORE...and thoughts on what grading should mean

moop

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http://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S41/26/23O37/index.xml?section=topstories

Ok so probably nobody really cares all that much unless they go to Princeton or is an adcom charged with evaluating Princeton transcripts with those from other colleges, but I am happy to bring to SDN's attention that the arcane, ineffective, stress-/suicide-inducing, archaic, and just plain fu*cking stupid grade deflation policy has officially repealed, effective immediately as of yesterday. Actually, with the amount of attention put on GPAs and discussing grade deflation, probably a good amount of people find this interesting (hopefully).

Honestly, I don't quite believe that the symbolic repeal of the actual policy (only 35% of grades in a department can be As) will really do anything for students immediately starting this semester, but the symbolism this holds cannot possibly be understated. My fellow Tigers of the future will never have to have those awkward emails with professors where the latter says (direct quote follows),
"In accordance with University policy, we had to adjust your final grade of 89.4 in the course to a grade of B. I know this will inevitably cause some disappointment on your part (and I understand why based on your efforts in office hours), but I hope that in the grand scheme of things, the grade will not cause you undue difficulty in securing a job or admission to graduate school. My experience tells me that has generally not been the case for most undergraduates."​

Let us rejoice our privilege in a modern academic environment where professors, and professors only, retain the ability to give grades as they see fit, without any outside pressure from administrators who know nothing of the students being directly affected by their policies. Let us hope that other universities who are also in favor of artificially deflating grades (though not necessarily in as direct and explicit a way as Princeton did) will follow in Princeton's footsteps and reserve the right of judging and evaluating students only to those who have come in direct contact with students.

Let us remember the martyrs who have given their academic careers to show the faculty of Princeton how myopic, how ineffective, and how much damage their policy has done to a wonderful campus of friendly students over the course of a decade.

And above all, let us restore in our students nationwide a true love of learning and encourage them to develop fascination, wonder, and even obsession in an academic discipline, rather than driving them to become gunning grade grubbers, robots of numbers, and dispassionate zombies whose sole goal is to get a certain letter printed on a watermarked piece of paper.

Hopefully then, and only then, will we remember that college is not a race to the riches for grades or mere preparation for a preprofessional career, but a once-in-a-lifetime chance to learn, grow, and blossom in academic fertility and personal development.

TLDR: I have a lot of feelings, and grade deflation is stupid and ineffective. Liberal arts & learning FTW
 
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Lucca

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Good policy change is definitely good.
 
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moop

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Ok, grade deflation does indeed suck and puts students at a disadvantage, but 89.4% at my state school was largely a B...
Maybe it makes sense if the class were huge (as I would assume at a state school) and a curve was applied, but in a class of 26? o_O
 

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Grade deflation does suck. I mean, if you have a guy with a 3.5 from MIT and a 3.9 from Penn State, equal MCAT, they're going to prefer the guy from Penn State.

I attend an undergrad known for grade deflation, where 25% As/A-s is considered generous. They lure in high school seniors with rankings, alumni network etc., and weed them out in the process. ~50% will conclude they're too stupid for medical school (even though they aced the science SAT IIs and Math SAT), and a good amount of the rest will go to a low-tier school because that 3.5-3.6 won't cut it for Vanderbilt or UChicago. It's a similar trend for law and business if my friends are correct. ;)

Good to hear the Princeton is removing their policy, though.
 
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at my school, teachers could use the 10 point scale or the traditional scale. most used traditional, so it was a treat when we got a 10 point scale teacher lol. definitely better to have teachers in the ultimate control of the grades. a few of my teachers even said if you get an A on the final, you get an A in the class because obviously you've mastered the concepts that i deem the most important. some did similar things (albeit a bit reversed) like if you have an A average on the quizzes/tests, you have done all of your homework, and you get an A on the term paper, then you don't have to take the final, etc. those were always nice as well.
 

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Maybe it makes sense if the class were huge (as I would assume at a state school) and a curve was applied, but in a class of 26? o_O
I fail to see the relevance of class size. If YOU didn't get 90%< how does any other factor matter?

That said, I don't belive in holding students to unrealistic expectations either...
 
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Yeah at my school, there was a faculty committee held during my senior year to combat grade inflation. Unfortunately, medical schools care about the absolute number and nothing else. It would be nice if every school had standardized standards, but that's not going to happen.
 

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Yeah at my school, there was a faculty committee held during my senior year to combat grade inflation. Unfortunately, medical schools care about the absolute number and nothing else. It would be nice if every school had standardized standards, but that's not going to happen.
Well, there is no real need because the number of people applying to medical school is far less than the rest of the students (outside of freshman year where everyone and their mother is a premed). For most other graduate and professional programs, GPA matters for the top tier, but you will always find a place to accept you as long as your GPA is >3.0.
 

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Honestly, removing the grade deflation policy is still going to cause problems, unless Eisgruber finds a better replacement.
Before the policy, there was a huge gap between humanities and science departments in terms of grading difficulty. While I don't think that we're going to revert back completely, I'm still afraid that standardization across departments is still going to be a problem (hell, it was a problem even WITH the policy).
Alternatively, professors won't change their grading habits and will still give harsh grades - only this time, without any grade deflation letter to excuse potentially mediocre grades.

All that said, I do acknowledge that our grade deflation wasn't nearly as bad as in other schools, which didn't even call it grade deflation.
But I do think that Yale/Harvard's grade policies, with their A- median, is complete BS.
 

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Won't the exact same experience still exist in any curved class? For example, Organic Chemistry pretty universally does away with the 70/80/90 C/B/A divisions and just ends up awarding A's to the top quarter or so regardless of the real numbers. At many schools this same system is used in physics, biology and even freshman chem.

I don't see how this policy change will make the statement "there are a limited percentage of As to be awarded" any less true for the majority of premed courses. Maybe your philosophy professor can now give you that A- instead of B+ because you tried really hard, but the premed core will keep right along stressing students out and weeding the bottom half or more out over a few years.
 

mehc012

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Maybe it makes sense if the class were huge (as I would assume at a state school) and a curve was applied, but in a class of 26? o_O
Yeah. At my school, anything below a 90% was a B, regardless of class size.
 
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efle

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Grading should obviously be on a predetermined scale. Having to beat out your peers, wishing them unwell, so you can do "above average" is bull****.
It'd be interesting to see what a standard premed curriculum like that did across universities, such that it is suddenly totally fine for everyone at MIT to score 90+ percentile and get an "A" in physics. I bet you'd see a lot more Top20 premeds making it all the way through and a lot less Average UState applicants, since everyone would suddenly be competing against a universal standard instead of their peers of varying abilities.
 
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It'd be interesting to see what a standard premed curriculum like that did across universities, such that it is suddenly totally fine for everyone at MIT to score 90+ percentile and get an "A" in physics. I bet you'd see a lot more Top20 premeds making it all the way through and a lot less Average UState applicants, since everyone would suddenly be competing against a universal standard instead of their peers of varying abilities.
True, I don't know if that's a bad thing or a good thing. But professors at top 20's literally aim to have a wide distribution (make the exam hard as ****). It makes us feel pretty stupid.
 
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In my science classes, 80s are usually As. I think I got an A+ in orgo II with an 83. The averages for most of our exams are in the 60s.
 
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Honestly, removing the grade deflation policy is still going to cause problems, unless Eisgruber finds a better replacement.
Before the policy, there was a huge gap between humanities and science departments in terms of grading difficulty. While I don't think that we're going to revert back completely, I'm still afraid that standardization across departments is still going to be a problem (hell, it was a problem even WITH the policy).
Alternatively, professors won't change their grading habits and will still give harsh grades - only this time, without any grade deflation letter to excuse potentially mediocre grades.

All that said, I do acknowledge that our grade deflation wasn't nearly as bad as in other schools, which didn't even call it grade deflation.
But I do think that Yale/Harvard's grade policies, with their A- median, is complete BS.
I like Eisgruber. Much more than old man Tilghman.
 

mehc012

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In my science classes, 80s are usually As. I think I got an A+ in orgo II with an 83. The averages for most of our exams are in the 60s.
Man, I want to go to your school.
 
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In my science classes, 80s are usually As. I think I got an A+ in orgo II with an 83. The averages for most of our exams are in the 60s.
You go to an Ivy, you said? And you can get A+? So...Cornell or Penn?

Edit: Sounds like Cornell. lol
 
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dewman

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Man, I want to go to your school.
I don't know about the poster, but at least in my school it was a nightmare. Kids will study for hours and hours and hours before the exam to only have some ridiculous questions that only few can get right. Everyone ends up fighting for the hopes of only beating the curve, and the highest scorer doesn't even do that phenomenally on the test.
 

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This thread reminded me of this ridiculous story I heard. A teacher had in his grading rubric that whatever the highest grade was for a particular exam would be automatically bumped up to a 100 and the other grades adjusted accordingly. (So if the highest grade was an 85%, an 85 would become a 100) . The students decided to take advantage of the grading rubric and they all sat in the hallway during the final exam so that the highest grade was a zero and they all got As.

Obviously, the teacher changed the rubric after that year.
 

Aerus

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True, I don't know if that's a bad thing or a good thing. But professors at top 20's literally aim to have a wide distribution (make the exam hard as ****). It makes us feel pretty stupid.
This isn't universal to just the Top 20. It's more of an individual policy than a school wide policy. Many professors see the benefits of having a wide distribution, essentially seeing who actually knows their stuff and who is just going along with the class.

Man, I want to go to your school.
One of the Organic professors in my school usually sets an A on the midterm as above 50%. Do you want him as your prof as well?

His midterm averages were in the 30's and it's not a common sight to see students actually finishing the exam.
 
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This thread reminded me of this ridiculous story I heard. A teacher had in his grading rubric that whatever the highest grade was for a particular exam would be automatically bumped up to a 100 and the other grades adjusted accordingly. (So if the highest grade was an 85%, an 85 would become a 100) . The students decided to take advantage of the grading rubric and they all sat in the hallway during the final exam so that the highest grade was a zero and they all got As.

Obviously, the teacher changed the rubric after that year.
Yeah this was a true story at Hopkins. Fu*ckin' awesome

http://www.jhunewsletter.com/2013/01/31/computer-science-students-successfully-boycott-class-final-76275/
 
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This isn't universal to just the Top 20. It's more of an individual policy than a school wide policy. Many professors see the benefits of having a wide distribution, essentially seeing who actually knows their stuff and who is just going along with the class.



One of the Organic professors in my school usually sets an A on the midterm as above 50%. Do you want him as your prof as well?

His midterm averages were in the 30's and it's not a common sight to see students actually finishing the exam.
True, true. But it just so happens every prereq in my school has that policy. My Orgo professor this summer was hurt that someone scored a 100 on his midterm because it was clearly "too easy" even though he said it was more than adequate to test our knowledge.
 

mehc012

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This isn't universal to just the Top 20. It's more of an individual policy than a school wide policy. Many professors see the benefits of having a wide distribution, essentially seeing who actually knows their stuff and who is just going along with the class.



One of the Organic professors in my school usually sets an A on the midterm as above 50%. Do you want him as your prof as well?

His midterm averages were in the 30's and it's not a common sight to see students actually finishing the exam.
Yeah. I want those profs. Those classes are never as hard as they sound, honestly, and then you get to benefit from the curve. I usually just don't have a curve (they can't really do that with tiny classes).
 

Aerus

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Yeah. I want those profs. Those classes are never as hard as they sound, honestly, and then you get to benefit from the curve. I usually just don't have a curve (they can't really do that with tiny classes).
I really don't see much of a difference in difficulty other than, with a curve, the professor has more power over your grade than without one.
 

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No, you don't.
Sounds a lot like Wash U, doesn't it?

EDIT: I also want to say that being graded on a curve sucks. You are literally fighting for your grade on every exam because you have to "beat the curve." I fortunately managed to get above the mean enough to have a 3.7_ GPA from Wash U, but that required constant stress pretty much every week and so much studying that I wish I had used that time to do more EC's. I'm grateful that I have had some success this application cycle, but I still hated the "you have to beat the mean on every exam or you're toast" mentality I had to suffer thru.

Wash U also has quite a bit of grade deflation. It's enough to make a lot of students have depression and anxiety, as shown by the number of depressing stories on our "Wash U Confessions" page.
 
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mehc012

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I really don't see much of a difference in difficulty other than, with a curve, the professor has more power over your grade than without one.
In one you have to actually do well, well in the other one you just have to do better than other people.
 

Aerus

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In one you have to actually do well, well in the other one you just have to do better than other people.
Generally in my experience, professors who don't curve give an easy enough exam where there are still people who will get a certain % of A's. It's rare to see professors who give 0 A's at all.
 

mehc012

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That is true, I never denied that. I just find that in classes where there is an upward curve, it is easier to do well. In the case where there is a downward curve if everyone well, that's another story.. But the ones that I was referencing we're all cases where they make it harsh, and then curve upwards. Those don't worry me at all.
 

efle

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In one you have to actually do well, well in the other one you just have to do better than other people.
Exactly. If you're at a top tier premed program, it SUCKS being graded on whether you beat all the people around you - much harder to come out top quartile against a bunch of 98-99th percentilers than to know enough to get a high percentage on any reasonable test. Hence the "lol MCAT Ochem is such a joke" attitude at places like Hopkins.
 

Aerus

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Hence the "lol MCAT Ochem is such a joke" attitude at places like Hopkins.
That attitude is pretty universal, at least where I'm from. And I certainly don't go to Hopkins.
 

mehc012

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That's true, MCAT Ochem is a bad example. I still believe its harder to beat a bunch of Hopkiners on a curve than to beat a 70/80/90 C/B/A style test.
It depends...if it's one of those 'I make the test uber hard and everyone does crappy, then I curve up', I find those not bad. If it's 'everyone will score in the 80s to 90s and then I curve so that a 95 could be a B', those suck.
 

efle

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Curving backwards sucks more, I agree. I never understood that logic, "lets make an exam so easy that missing a single point puts you in the bottom half". It's your job to teach us and assess whether we have learned, and that's what you come up with to identify who is learning well??
 

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Yeah I go to Cornell. The curve really works in your favor if you are a strong student. Our exams are so much more than just knowing the information, which probably will get you a C or D.
 

asw98

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This was the grade distribution (which was set at the start of the semester) for my intro chemistry class.
A+ 5.5%
A 7.7%
A- 13.7%
B+ 12.3%
B 12.9%
B- 16.2%
C+ 10.2%
C 7.9%
C- 7.1%
D-F 6.5%
 

Lucca

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This was the grade distribution (which was set at the start of the semester) for my intro chemistry class.
A+ 5.5%
A 7.7%
A- 13.7%
B+ 12.3%
B 12.9%
B- 16.2%
C+ 10.2%
C 7.9%
C- 7.1%
D-F 6.5%
Lol that's awful man that doesn't really make much sense at all.
 

asw98

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Well, at least the professor advertised the distribution at the beginning of class, actually it was his first slide. There were several classes that seemed much easier, but curved much harder (mean was C+, median B-). You just have to be a good test taker and really know how to apply the information to whatever crazy problem the professor came up with. In a lot of our science classes your grade is only determined by exams (orgo, genetics, biochem).
 

Lucca

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Well, at least the professor advertised the distribution at the beginning of class, actually it was his first slide. There were several classes that seemed much easier, but curved much harder (mean was C+, median B-). You just have to be a good test taker and really know how to apply the information to whatever crazy problem the professor came up with. In a lot of our science classes your grade is only determined by exams (orgo, genetics, biochem).
It's the same case here but competitive grading is just an awful way to go about things. I can't imagine students study together over there or help each other out on practice problems knowing that only a few will be "allowed" to get an A
 

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It's the same case here but competitive grading is just an awful way to go about things. I can't imagine students study together over there or help each other out on practice problems knowing that only a few will be "allowed" to get an A
I've actually never run into that problem. With classes so large (gen chem was almost 1000 students), you don't feel like you are fighting against each other, just the mean and the curve.
 

Lucca

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I've actually never run into that problem. With classes so large (gen chem was almost 1000 students), you don't feel like you are fighting against each other, just the mean and the curve.
Ideally you wouldn't be fighting against anything and instead you could just focus on learning.
 
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True, I don't know if that's a bad thing or a good thing. But professors at top 20's literally aim to have a wide distribution (make the exam hard as ****). It makes us feel pretty stupid.
At my school, professors tried to make the exams hard enough that the best student would be challenged, and they just curved from there. I liked it, actually--it made you think!
 

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I fail to see the relevance of class size. If YOU didn't get 90%< how does any other factor matter?

That said, I don't belive in holding students to unrealistic expectations either...
Big fish, small pond with other big fish.

GPA's are used to rank students within the class but also to compare students between different institutions when applying for jobs and graduate schools. The former can be done in a different method and the latter benefits from no forced deflation.

I went to a small competitive NELAC and I can assure you that the pointy end of the stick here was pretty big. The top half of my class would, I estimate, been atleast in the top 10-15% of my home state school. Saying that the GPA differential there doesn't hurt matters is misguided.
 

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Only two kids (myself included) got an A in my ochem class, and half the class ended up with C- our lower. Not having a curve can cut both ways.
 

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At my school, professors tried to make the exams hard enough that the best student would be challenged, and they just curved from there. I liked it, actually--it made you think!
Alternatively, I had a math class where the HW problem sets were extremely hard but the exams were standard math exams. The HW sets were definitely for a grade but they were not a huge deal. I liked having that extra challenge without ever having to stress that it could seriously change my grade (well, it could if you were a really borderline case - it was like 3%). That's the class where I finally learned to figure out math proofs on my own, I'm definitely thankful for that.
 
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Only two kids (myself included) got an A in my ochem class, and half the class ended up with C- our lower. Not having a curve can cut both ways.
It's still really nice to know where you stand. I do agree that if professors cut rid of "the curve" they'd still make it hard as hell to get an A.
 

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All that this tells me is that it's better to go to a grade inflation school.
 
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