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Participation Trophy Culture? Half of High School Students Earn A’s While SAT Scores Drop

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Grade inflation is rampant in American schools. The root cause of the problem has been debated for decades, yet even greater numbers of students are given superior marks. The test scores, though, don’t reflect this high level of achievement. SAT scores show a gradual downhill slide. So what’s behind the gleaming report cards?

The Daily Wire examined the phenomena. They cited Michael Hurwitz ,who works with the College Board and Jason Lee, a doctoral student at the University of Georgia’s Institute of Higher Education. These two conducted a survey of students to see how grades correlate with test scores.

Their findings confirm what many in the educational field intuitively felt. 47% of high school seniors in 2016 had an A average. This number was significantly lower back in 1998: 38.9%. And by then, the conversation on grade inflation was already in full swing.

The uptick in grades seems, on its own, to be problematic. How can almost half of seniors be considered above average? Some feel like this is the result of a generation who has been told that everything it does is special.

Yet it gets worse when you look at test scores. SAT scores in 1998 averaged out at 1,026. In 2016 that average had declined to 1,002 (out of 1,600).

While the drop in test scores isn’t as sharp as some would suspect, it doesn’t correlate with the rise in the basic performance metric used by schools. The way we grade has become problematic.

While the survey looked at high school students, similar problems occur in colleges and universities across the country. The demand for good grades for average performance has hit all levels of our educational system, though some professors still have the latitude to establish their own grading rubrics and policies.

And it may be this isolated resistance that is the reason why so few who graduate high school make it through college. Our nation’s high school graduation rate has never been higher. 83% of students graduate. College attrition rates, though, don’t reflect the same numbers.

Harvard’s Graduate School of Education compiled numbers for college graduation. 56% of students finish a four-year degree within six years of starting college.

Only  29% of those starting two year degree programs finish in under three years.

Grades were designed to show where one student stood in relation to his or her peers. The “C” was the median grade, and represented average performance. Only those truly above average were given an A.

Now, though, at least 47% of students appear to be above average. And that isn’t counting the ones who made a B. What’s the solution? Do we return to fair and accurate reporting of grades, or cut them out altogether?