More Grade Inflation Nonsense

Princeton Cracks Down on Grade Inflation

In a move students protested last year, Princeton became the first elite college to cap the number of A’s that can be awarded.

Previously, there was no official limit to the number of A’s handed out, and nearly half the grades in an average Princeton class have been A-pluses, A’s or A-minuses. Now, each department can give A’s to no more than 35 percent of its students each semester.

As a professor at a major research university, I can hardly express how angry I get at the whining over grade inflation. Why? Because the people doing all the griping are administrators — usually lawyers with zero classroom experience — who simply look at your grade distribution and decide that something is amiss.

This is my situation exactly: my boss is a law-school graduate who never practiced but instead became a college administrator. He’s never taught a single course, but has the audacity to judge my performance not based upon my syllabi, course materials, or student evaluations, but almost entirely upon my grade distribution. This is a totally bogus criteria, established by those who have no intellectual manner in which to judge student performance. It’s a sham.

The fact of the matter is that students at Ivy League schools should be getting a disproportionate number of As — otherwise, why were they admitted? I myself have never had much problem in this regard, as there are always those students who slack off or otherwise fail to perform. But I have always given each student the grade they deserve, and no administrator should be allowed to direct me to do otherwise.

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Leopold Stotch
About Leopold Stotch
“Dr. Leopold Stotch” was the pseudonym of political science professor then at a major research university inside the beltway. He has a PhD in International Relations. He contributed 165 pieces to OTB between November 2004 and February 2006.


  1. Davod says:

    I agree with your comments. I could never understand the proportional allocation of grades {that may not be what it is called.} If most people in a class do the work and their work reflects the highest standards you can aspire to then those people should be marked appropriately. I used to hate it when a teacher would tell you before the start of the course how the grades were going to pan out.

    The problem I have is with teachers who really shouldn’t be teaching.

  2. Davod says:


    America is not the onkly country with educational problems. I just read that in the UK ths scoring had been adjusted so that to pass the equivelent of, I think, the SAT, the minimum mark to pass was 17 out of a hundred. The government agreed to the changes and is praising the increase in the number of students passing the courses. Talk about sick. How long will these students be able to hold a job, if the can get one.

  3. I wrote at length on this subject a posted a few days ago, here – and I also noticed the horribly misguided trend of judging an intructor’s performance strictly on a class average. It’s pretty maddening.

    But I take issue with this statement of yours – The fact of the matter is that students at Ivy League schools should be getting a disproportionate number of As — otherwise, why were they admitted? – which all but gives Ivy Leaguers the blessing to rest on their laurels and slack off, because after all, the mere fact that they were admitted to top schools is enough to earn them A’s.

    I don’t agree that those students should be getting A’s by virtue of the smarts that got them into good schools; rather, I think that their smarts merit giving them more challeging classes, in which a B means more than an A would mean at another school. The purpose of university courses, as I see them, is to educate students to achieve at their potential – not to merely to rank them based on how well they compare on how well they learn material that may be challenging to some students, but an absolute cakewalk to others. (This is why some of my least favourite students are my A students – not all of them, but the ones who have already seen the material in my class and who are taking it for the easy grade.)