High School Grade Inflation

We can’t tell you how many parents mention the GPAs of their children during free consultations. Notwithstanding that our free consultations are designed expressly to answer questions about our services — and not to discuss the specifics of a student’s case for admission — a GPA, in and of itself, means nothing. A 4.0 GPA from a mediocre public high school in Florida is not the same as a 4.0 GPA from the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Virginia. You see, with just a GPA, we don’t know the high school. We don’t know the scale. We don’t know the rigor of the coursework. So, no, your child’s 4.0 means nothing to us.

A piece up on Inside Higher Ed focuses on potential high school grade inflation.

In fact, a piece up on Inside Higher Ed shines a spotlight on how grade inflation is rising at high schools across America, at least according to ACT, Inc., the maker of the ACT (so, yes, the company that put out this data does have a vested interest in dinging grades as the primary source of academic achievement — particularly in light of so many colleges choosing to go test-optional). As Scott Jaschik writes in a piece entitled “Are High School GPAs Rising? Should You Care?,” “The average high school grade point average increased significantly from 2010 to 2021, with most of the gains coming during the last five years, according to a new report released today by ACT. During the same time, composite scores on the ACT fell from 21.0 to 20.3, suggesting that grade inflation is a serious problem, the testing company said. In that same time period, most of the students studied changed the way they classify themselves, with A becoming the most common way and the number of B students and C students going down.”

Propaganda for ACT to encourage colleges to revert to test-mandatory policies and/or encourage students to submit ACT scores even under test-optional policies? Maybe. True nonetheless? Maybe. Grades and coursework have always been the single most important factors in the elite college admissions process. Of course, students with perfect grades in the most rigorous coursework are often denied admission by our nation’s most elite universities. After all, it’s not just about grades and scores. There are many other factors in elite college admissions. But high school grade inflation across American high schools over the last several years is certainly worth noting.


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1 Comment

  • Jemina Edwards in NC says:

    This is true, Coach- it seems like my daughter’s entire class had a 4.0 and no class rank and no test scores, so what is left to screen a candidate? Left handedness? Re Hair? How about baton twirling ability? How ridiculous this has become in admissions. My daughter was announced as Valedictorian after the admissions period was said and done. So she graduated First in her class and had a 36 ACT, but the Ivy program she applied to refused to look at test scores (they are score-free!) and had no idea of her being number 1 in a class of 478. Surprise- not admitted. But had she concentrated on a ’cause’ instead of grades and tests? She probably would have been admitted.

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