Former Ivy League TA: I Inflated Grades so Students Wouldn't Complain

Former Ivy League TA: I Inflated Grades so Students Wouldn't Complain

Higher education has a new motto: “Pampering our students to avoid complaints.”

At least, that is the philosophy of one former teaching assistant from Columbia who now admits to inflating grades so she could avoid dealing with consequences like angry students.

Allison Schrager discusses her squeamishness in a piece for Quartz, The Atlantic’s economics journal.

Schrager’s article appears amid a spate of recent articles exploring grade inflation at Ivy League schools. One such piece at Breitbart News bemoaned grade inflation at Harvard.

Even as far back as 2011, a pair of researchers made waves with a study showing that the percentage of “A”s given per student at our colleges and universities skyrocketed 28 percentage points since 1960 and 12 points since 1988.

As Schrager notes, some have explained the practice as a self-serving one perpetrated by professors hoping to get positive teaching evaluations from students. However, she had a different reason.

She just didn’t want to deal with all the whiny students and parents.

Schrager writes that “the real reason so many of us inflate grades is to avoid students complaining,” and goes on to explain, “Anything less than an A- would result in endless emails, crying during office hours, or calls from parents.”

“Dealing with all the complaints takes time and, as a PhD student, I had my own research to do,” the former economics TA writes.

Schrager also informs her readers that she “found all the complaining offensive” and said that the grading system in Britain, where there is one system and one national standard, was much better.

The former TA closes with a trenchant point. She says, “grade inflation robs students of an important life skill: We learn the most from failure, which happens even when we try hard, and our ability to overcome it. That kind of resilience will be rewarded more in the increasingly competitive labor market–and is worth a lot more than straight A’s.”

One problem with grade inflation that Schrager didn’t explore is that of veracity. Can high grades be believed if practically everyone has them? As the saying goes, “If everyone is special, then no one is.”


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