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Observers recently have maintained that grades in secondary and postsecondary institutions have become inflated. Grade inflation would be troubling to many K-12 educators and policymakers but this possibility is an especially serious concern to many colleges and universities because such inflation could bias their admissions decisions and make it increasingly difficult for them to distinguish among high-achieving students. This study examines this possibility by evaluating changes in high school grading standards across the nation as a whole from 1982 to 1992. The authors examined not only changes in the grade distribution over time but also changes in the educational system and in the characteristics of the student populations. They investigated how grades have varied between males and females, minorities and nonminorities, and poor and rich students; trends in grading standards across types of schools; relationships between grades and student performance on achievement tests; and the influence on grades of changes in tested proficiency and course-taking. The authors detailed analysis concluded that no such grade inflation has taken place, at least in mathematics, over the study period.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction: The Importance of Grading Standards

  • Chapter Two

    Grade Inflation: Anecdotes and Systematic Evidence

  • Chapter Three

    Data and Methods

  • Chapter Four

    Shifting Grades over a Decade? A Descriptive Analysis

  • Chapter Five

    Have Grades Become Inflated? Mathematics Grades in the Context of Tested Proficiency and Coursework

  • Chapter Six

    A Detailed Look at Predictors of Grades in 1982 and 1992.

  • Chapter Seven


  • Appendix A

    IRT Scaling of Mathematics Test Scores, 1982 Hsb Seniors and 1992 NELS Seniors

  • Appendix B

    Subsample Noncomparability

  • Appendix C

    Analysis of the Feasibility of Using SAT and ACT Scores As Covariates

  • Appendix D

    Hierarchical Linear Models Used to Explore the Predictors of Grades

  • Appendix E

    Estimating and Adjusting for Reliability of the HSB and NELS Tests

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