High School Seniors' High Grades May Be Deceiving

Grades are rising, on average, but SAT scores are falling—so are students learning?
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 18, 2017 10:00 AM CDT
High School Seniors' High Grades May Be Deceiving
Top grades mean nothing if you're not really learning.   (Getty Images/IcemanJ)

If you've got a straight-A student living under your roof, you may want to give your teen a pop quiz once in a while. A new study reveals that even though a larger percentage of high school seniors than their 1998 counterparts are heading off to college with an 'A' average, SAT scores have fallen—meaning, as USA Today notes, that those chart-busting grades might actually be "fool's gold." Per Inside Higher Ed, the study released Monday—which will be included in a book on testing, grades, and college admissions coming out next year by Johns Hopkins University Press—shows that 38.9% of high school seniors graduated with an A average (which includes A- and A+) in 1998. In 2016, the figure was 47%. The average GPA score also rose during that period, from 3.27 to 3.38.

But SAT scores were another story, dropping from 1,026 points to 1,002 out of a possible 1,600. Inside Higher Ed notes that if GPA were indicative of learning, SAT scores "should be going up, or at the very least remaining stable." Where grade inflation seems to be most prominent: in schools with more white, affluent students, as well as in private schools, where the inflation rate is three times that found in public schools. The study authors warn that leniency in handing out top marks could "paradoxically disadvantage" certain students, as OK students may get mixed up with real top performers when college admissions officers review transcripts. The authors say class rank could be a better indicator than GPA of how a student measures against his or her peers but say more schools are giving it up. (Some colleges are dumping SAT scores.)

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