Grades are up, Scores are down

23 02 2007

The US Department of Education announced today that the national average on the National Assessment of Educational Progress was down dramatically with only 35% of high school seniors across the country scoring “proficient” in reading.  The percentages for math and science were even more dismal with less than 25% of Seniors scoring proficient in math and about 18% scoring proficient in Science.  (The National Assessment is often viewed as the nation’s education “report card” because of the assessment being the only nationally standardized exam.) 

At the same time, the transcripts of students coming out of high schools make these kids look like the smartest generation in years.  The national average GPA for students is a 2.98, about a B+.  So why the discrepancy?  Shouldn’t these little savant’s be aceing the test like it’s just another Teen Beat Poll? (By the way, in case you were wondering, 35.6% of Teen Beat readers LOVE Justin Timberlake’s new “Future Sex/Love Sounds” album.  Come on, you you know you were curious.)  The problem seems to be that the questions on the National Assessment don’t ask about Britney’s new hair style or how many shades of lipstick Paris carries in her Gucci purse, but real questions that should be covered in the classroom and these “high performing students” with B+ averages would be expected to know. 

The discrepancy comes from an issue that has been creeping up in academia for a number of years now, performance blind grade inflation.  Teachers seem to be in an ever increasing predicament with expectations of the performance of their students tied to their career ambitions, as well as to their personal connection with the kids. 

The cycle goes something like this:

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