The Culture of Low Standards and Significant Grade Inflation for America's College Education Majors
In a new AEI Education Outlook “Grade Inflation for Education Majors and Low Standards for Teachers: When Everyone Makes the Grade,” University of Missouri economist Cory Koedel finds that grades awarded to education students at America’s universities are considerably higher than grades in every other academic discipline. As I wrote on The Enterprise Blog today, what makes those findings especially striking is that education majors score significantly lower on standardized college entrance exams like the SAT and ACT than students majoring in other academic areas like science, business, social sciences and humanities. In other words, it’s a case of the least academically qualified college students on campus getting the highest grades and GPAs. Professor Koedel presents evidence of significantly lower grading standards and inflated grades for education majors by comparing grade distributions for 12 academic departments at Indiana University-Bloomington, see chart above (education is the solid line, math and science departments are dashed lines, social sciences are xs, and humanities are the circles). According to Koedel, "The outlying grade distribution in each figure belongs to the education department. The other distributions are cluttered, but this is largely the point: while all other university departments work in one space, education departments work in another." Talk about an outlier - education grades are "off the charts" compared to every other academic department!?The grade distribution shown above for Indiana is not at all unique but found elsewhere including at the University of Missouri-Columbia and Miami University (in another paper by Koedel). In a larger sample of large public universities, Professor Koedel finds that the average course-level GPA for education departments is 3.66. I presented evidence recently of significant grade inflation for the education department at Cornell University compared to other departments. Assuming that it can be documented that there's a nationwide culture of low academic standards and inflated grades for college students majoring in education, what does it mean?Here's Professor's Koedel's conclusion: "Low grading standards in university education departments are part of a larger culture of low standards for educators, and they precede the low evaluation standards by which teachers are judged in K–12 schools. The culture of low standards for educators is problematic because it creates a disconnect between teachers’ perceptions of acceptable performance and the perceptions of everyone else. Society resists change, and resistance to change is particularly acute in education. But there is no rational reason for the low grading standards in education departments. Rather than asking why these grading standards should be changed, perhaps the more reasonable question is why they shouldn’t be changed. Put differently, if we were to start over with university education and could choose the grade distributions in each discipline, would we choose the currently observed discrepancy between education departments and all other academic departments?"