Read the article to write an analyzing essay.(no outside sourse)
Frist part (2-4 paragraphs)
1. Briefly explain why grade inflation is a controversy today.
2. Introduce the author and title, state the author’s claim
3. Identify the author’s main point#1. What reasons and evidence does the author give to
support his claim?
4. Identify the author’s main point#2. What reasons and evidence does the author give to
support his claim?
Second part (2-3paragraphs)
Response of the article and give your opinion about grade inflation. Is it the article effect to you?
A’s for Everyone!
By Alicia C. Shepard
Sunday, June 5, 2005
It was the end of my first semester teaching journalism at American University.
The students had left for winter break. As a rookie professor, I sat with trepidation in
my office on a December day to electronically post my final grades.
My concern was more about completing the process correctly than anything else.
It took an hour to compute and type in the grades for three classes, and then I hit
“enter.” That’s when the trouble started.
In less than an hour, two students challenged me. Mind you, there had been no
preset posting time. They had just been religiously checking the electronic bulletin
board that many colleges now use.
“Why was I given a B as my final grade?” demanded a reporting student via e-mail. “Please respond ASAP, as I have never received a B during my career here at
AU and it will surely lower my GPA.”
I must say I was floored. Where did this kid get the audacity to so boldly
challenge a professor? And why did he care so much? Did he really think a
prospective employer was going to ask for his GPA?
I checked the grades I’d meticulously kept on the electronic blackboard. He’d
missed three quizzes and gotten an 85 on two of the three main writing assignments.
There was no way he was A material. I let the grade mar his GPA because he hadn’t
done the required work.
I wasn’t so firm with my other challenger. She tracked me down by phone while
I was still in my office. She wanted to know why she’d received a B-plus. Basically, it
was because she’d barely said a word in class, so the B-plus was subjective. She
harangued me until, I’m ashamed to admit, I agreed to change her grade to an A-minus. At the time, I thought, “Geez, if it means that much to you, I’ll change it.” She
thanked me profusely, encouraging me to have a happy holiday.
Little did I know the pressure was just beginning.
The students were relentless. During the spring semester, they showed up at my
office to insist I reread their papers and boost their grades. They asked to retake tests
they hadn’t done well on. They bombarded me with e-mails questioning grades. More
harassed me to change their final grade. I began to wonder if I was doing something
wrong, sending out some sort of newbie signal that I could be pushed around. Then I
talked to other professors in the School of Communication. They all had stories.
My colleague Wendy Swallow told me about one student who had managed to
sour her Christmas break one year. Despite gaining entry into AU’s honors program,
the student missed assignments in Swallow’s newswriting class and slept through her
midterm. Slept through her midterm! Then she begged for lenience.
“I let her take it again for a reduced grade,” Swallow says, “but with the warning
that if she skipped more classes or missed more deadlines, the midterm grade would
revert to the F she earned by missing it. She then skipped the last three classes of the
semester and turned in all her remaining assignments late. She even showed up late
for her final.”
Swallow gave the student a C-minus, which meant she was booted out of the
honors program. The student was shocked. She called Swallow at home hysterical
about being dropped from the program. To Swallow, the C-minus was a gift. To the
student, an undeserved lump of Christmas coal.
“She pestered me for several days by phone,” says Swallow, who did not relent
and suggested the student file a formal grievance. She didn’t. “The whole exchange,
though, made for a very unpleasant break. Now I wait to post my grades until the last
minute before leaving for the semester, as by then most of the students are gone, and
I’m less likely to get those instantaneous complaints.”
Another colleague told me about a student she had failed. “He came back after
the summer trying to convince me to pass him because other professors just gave him
a C,” says Leena Jayaswal, who teaches photography. Never mind that he didn’t do
her required work.
John Watson, who teaches journalism ethics and communications law at
American, has noticed another phenomenon: Many students, he says, believe that
simply working hard — though not necessarily doing excellent work — entitles them to
an A. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a student dispute a grade, not on the
basis of in-class performance,” says Watson, “but on the basis of how hard they tried.
I appreciate the effort, and it always produces positive results, but not always the
exact results the student wants. We all have different levels of talent.”
It’s a concept that many students (and their parents) have a hard time grasping.
Working hard, especially the night before a test or a paper due date, does not
necessarily produce good grades.
“At the age of 50, if I work extremely hard, I can run a mile in eight minutes,”
says Watson. “I have students who can jog through a mile in seven minutes and barely
sweat. They will always finish before me and that’s not fair. Or is it?”
Last September, AU’s Center for Teaching Excellence hosted a lunchtime forum
to provide faculty members tips on how to reduce stressful grade confrontations. I
The advice we were given was solid: Be clear upfront about how you grade and
what is expected, and, when possible, use a numerical grading system rather than
letter grades. If the grade is an 89, write that on the paper rather than a B-plus.
“The key,” said AU academic counselor Jack Ramsay, “is to have a system of
grading that is as transparent as possible.”
Yet even the most transparent grading system won’t eliminate our students’
desperate pursuit of A’s. Of the 20 teachers who came to the session, most could offer
some tale of grade harassment.
“Most of the complaints that colleagues tell me about come from B students,”
said James Mooney, special assistant to the dean for academic affairs in the College
of Arts and Sciences. “They all want to know why they didn’t get an A. Is there
something wrong with a B?”
Apparently there is. “Certainly there are students who are victims of grade
inflation in secondary school,” said Mooney. “They come to college, and the grading
system is much more rigorous. That’s one of the most difficult things to convey to the
students. If you’re getting a B, you’re doing well in a course.”
But his interpretation is rarely accepted by students or their parents. And the
pressure on professors to keep the A’s coming isn’t unique to AU. It’s endemic to
college life, according to Stuart Rojstaczer, a Duke University professor who runs a
Web site called Gradeinflation.com. At Duke and many other colleges, A’s outnumber
B’s, and C’s have all but disappeared from student transcripts, his research shows.
Last spring, professors at Princeton University declared war on grade inflation,
voting to slash the number of A’s they award to 25 percent of all grades. At Harvard,
where half of the grades awarded are A’s, the university announced that it would cut
the number of seniors graduating with honors from 91 percent to about 50 percent.
Despite those moves, Rojstaczer doesn’t think it will be easy to reverse the rising
tide of A’s. He points out that in 1969, a quarter of the grades handed out at Duke
were C’s. By 2002, the number of C’s had dropped to less than 10 percent.
Rojstaczer, who teaches environmental science, acknowledged in an op-ed piece
he wrote for The Post two years ago that he rarely hands out C’s, “and neither do most
of my colleagues. And I can easily imagine a time when I’ll say the same thing about
Arthur Levine, president of Columbia University Teacher’s College and an
authority on grading, traces what’s going on to the Vietnam War. “Men who got low
grades could be drafted,” Levine says. “The next piece was the spread of graduate
schools where only A’s and B’s were passing grades. That soon got passed on to
undergraduates and set the standard.”
And then there’s consumerism, he says. Pure and simple, tuition at a private
college runs, on average, nearly $28,000 a year. If parents pay that much, they expect
nothing less than A’s in return. “Therefore, if the teacher gives you a B, that’s not
acceptable,” says Levine, “because the teacher works for you. I expect A’s, and if I’m
getting B’s, I’m not getting my money’s worth.”
Rojstaczer agrees: “We’ve made a transition where attending college is no longer
a privilege and an honor; instead college is a consumer product. One of the negative
aspects of this transition is that the role of a college-level teacher has been
transformed into that of a service employee.”
Levine argues that we “service employees” are doing students a disservice if we
cave in to the demand for top grades. “One of the things an education should do is let
you know what you do well in and what you don’t,” he says. “If everybody gets high
grades, you don’t learn that.”
But, as I’d already seen, many students aren’t interested in learning that lesson –
and neither are their parents. When AU administrator James Mooney polled
professors about grade complaints, he was appalled to learn that some overwrought
parents call professors directly to complain. “One colleague told me he got a call from
the mother of his student and she introduced herself by saying that she and her
husband were both attorneys,” said Mooney. “He thought it was meant to intimidate
Though I haven’t received any menacing phone calls from parents, Mom and
Dad are clearly fueling my students’ relentless demand for A’s. It’s a learned behavior.
I know, because I’m guilty of inflicting on my son the same grade pressure that now
plays out before me as a university professor.
Last fall when my Arlington high school senior finally got the nerve to tell me
that he’d gotten a C in the first quarter of his AP English class, I did what any self-respecting, grade-obsessed parent whose son is applying to college would do. I cried.
Then I e-mailed his teacher and made an appointment for the three of us to meet. My
son’s teacher was accommodating. She agreed that if my son did A work for the
second quarter, colleges would see a B average for the two quarters, not that ruinous
There’s a term for the legions of parents like me. The parents who make sure to
get the teacher’s e-mail and home phone number on Back to School Night. The kind
who e-mail teachers when their child fails a quiz. The kind who apply the same
determination to making sure their child excels academically that they apply to the
We are called “helicopter parents” because we hover over everything our kids do
like Secret Service agents guarding the president. (My son refers to me as an Apache
attack helicopter, and he’s Fallujah under siege.) Only we aren’t worried about our
kids getting taken out by wild-eyed assassins. We just want them to get into a “good”
(whatever that means) college.
“Parents today have this intense investment in seeing their kids do well in
school,” says Peter Stearns, provost at George Mason University and author of
Anxious Parenting: A History of Modern Childrearing in America. “This translates
into teachers feeling direct and indirect pressure to keep parents off their backs by
handing out reasonably favorable grades and making other modifications, like having
up to 18 valedictorians.”
High school administrators who haven’t made those modifications sometimes
find themselves defending their grading policies in court. Two years ago, a senior at
New Jersey’s Moorestown High School filed a $2.7 million lawsuit after she was told
she’d have to share being valedictorian with another high-achieving student. A similar
episode occurred in Michigan, where a Memphis High School senior who’d just
missed being valedictorian claimed in a lawsuit that one of his A’s should have been
That hyperconcern about grades and class rankings doesn’t disappear when kids
finally pack for college. Along with their laptops and cell phones, these students bring
along the parental anxiety and pressure they’ve lived with for 18 years.
One of my students, Rachael Scorca, says that her parents have always used
good grades as an incentive. And they’ve continued to do so during college. “In high
school, my social life and curfew revolved around A’s,” explains Scorca, a broadcast
journalism major. “I needed over a 90 average in order to go out during the week and
keep my curfew as late as it was. Once college came and my parents couldn’t control
my hours or effort, they started controlling my bank account. If I wasn’t getting good
grades, they wouldn’t put money in my account, and, therefore, I wouldn’t have a
But most of my students tell me the pressure to get top grades doesn’t come from
their parents any longer. They’ve internalized it. “I’d say most of the pressure just
comes from my personal standards,” says Molly Doyle. “It’s also something I take
pride in. When people ask me how my grades are, I like being able to tell them that
I’ve got all A’s and B’s.”
During my second semester of teaching, I received this e-mail from a student
who’d taken my fall class on “How the News Media Shape History” and wasn’t
satisfied with his grade. He (unsuccessfully) tried bribery.
“Professor. I checked my grade once I got here and it is a B,” he wrote. “I have to
score a grade better than a B+ to keep my scholarship and I have no idea how I ended
up with a B. In addition, to that I have brought you something from The GREAT
I invited him to come to my office so I could explain why he’d gotten a B, but
after several broken appointments, he faded away.
Other students were more persistent, particularly a bright young man who’d been
in the same class as the briber. He’d gotten an A-minus and made it clear in an e-mail
he wasn’t happy with it: “I have seen a number of the students from the class, and we
inevitably got to talking about it. I had assumed that you are a tough grader and that
earning an A-minus from you was a difficult task, but upon talking to other students,
it appears that that grade was handed out more readily than I had thought. Not that
other students did not deserve a mark of that caliber, but I do feel as though I added a
great deal to the class. I feel that my work, class participation, and consistency should
have qualified me for a solid A.”
When I ignored the e-mail, he pestered me a second time: “I know it’s a great
pain in the ass to have an A-minus student complain, but I’m starting to wonder about
the way grades are given. I would be very curious to know who the A students were.
While other students may have outdone me with quiz grades, I made up for it with
participation and enthusiasm. I really feel that I deserved an A in your class. If I was
an A-minus student, I assume that you must have handed out a lot of C’s and D’s. I
don’t mean to be a pain — I have never contested anything before. I feel strongly about
I shouldn’t have done it, but I offered to change the grade. My student was
thrilled. He wrote, “With grade inflation being what it is and the levels of competition
being so high, students just can’t afford to be hurt by small things. I thought that you
did a great job with the course.”
But when I completed the required paperwork, the grade change was rejected by
a university official. Though no one questioned me the first time I did it, grades can
be changed only if they are computed incorrectly. “How fair is it to change his
grade?” an assistant dean asked me. “What about other kids who might be unhappy
but didn’t complain?”
I e-mailed my student to let him know that he would have to live with an A-minus. “The gods who make these decisions tell me that they rejected it because it’s
not considered fair to all the other students in the class,” I wrote. “The grade you got
was based on a numerical formula, and you can only change a grade if you made a
mathematical error. I’m sorry.”
“That seems illogical to me,” he e-mailed back. “If a student feels that a grade
was inappropriate and wishes to contest that grade, that student obviously must
contact the person who gave it to them. Who was I supposed to contact? What was the
process that I was to follow? The lack of logic in all this never fails to amaze me!”
I told him whom to contact. I’m not sure if he ever followed through, but I saw
him recently and he smiled and stopped to talk. Nothing was mentioned about the
The day before this spring semester’s grades were due I bumped into another
professor racing out of the building. What’s the hurry? I asked.
She told me she had just posted her grades and wanted to get off campus fast.
But she wasn’t quick enough. Within eight minutes, a B-minus student had called to
A few hours after I entered my final grades, I got an e-mail from a student, at
1:44 a.m. She was unhappy with her B. She worked so hard, she told me. This time,
though, I was prepared. I had the numbers to back me up, and I wouldn’t budge on her
grade. No more Professor Softie.