A better grading system is possible


Some defend grade inflation by labeling those who uphold academic standards as “grade deflators.” Nonsense — this argument is vacuous and without merit. While the policy of handing out easy A’s  and B’s may make a professor popular, it is an insult to good students and to higher education.  Students who excel deserve to be recognized for their effort and understanding. Professors who give out too many high-letter grades dilute everybody’s GPA and mask the true performance of our  best and brightest. If professors don’t uphold academic standards, who will?

Our superior students deserve more. A letter grade of A should reflect excellence, not mere attendance. Grade inflation succumbs to the all-too-easy temptation to please and, in the process, allows academic standards to fall.

The long-overdue adoption of the plus-minus system has helped, but a more continuous numeric grading  system would be far superior. Students should receive a numeric grade that reflects their rank and actual performance relative to classmates rather than be lumped into crude letter-grade categories. Implementation  of a numerical grading system would help control the temptation to please and would erase the dichotomy of grade inflation versus grade deflation.

Pianka is a professor of integrative biology. He is wrote in response to a "You Ask, We Answer" piece on UT's plus-minus grading system.