The ‘report establishes we have a problem,’ dean said
A newly released report revealed 79 percent of grades given to Harvard students in 2020-21 were in the A range, nearly a 20 percent increase from a decade ago.
Approximately 60 percent of grades given in the 2010-11 year were in the A-range, The Harvard Crimson reported Thursday.
“Mean grades on a four-point scale were 3.80 in the 2020-21 academic year, up from 3.41 in 2002-03,” according to The Crimson.
Dean of Undergraduate Education Amanda Claybaugh and Dean of Harvard College Rakesh Khurana presented the report at the first meeting this year of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
The “report establishes we have a problem — or rather, we have two: the intertwined problems of grade inflation and compression,” Claybaugh said at the meeting.
Claybaugh told The Crimson that faculty may feel compelled to give good grades because they are linked to positive course evaluations required for professional advancement.
Even more, “grade compression,” or grades concentrated at the higher end, offers insufficient information about students’ success in courses relative to their peers, according to the report.
It also “complicates selection processes for prizes, fellowships, or induction into Phi Beta Kappa, which rely heavily on students’ grade point averages,” according to The Crimson.
Claybaugh told the paper that the report and the discussion would prompt faculty to reexamine their grading decisions and ideally push average grades down.
During the meeting, faculty brought up several strategies to address grade inflation and compression.
Romance languages and literatures Professor Annabel Kim suggested the “abolition of grading” and the institution of “narrative-based” evaluations, according to The Crimson.
The professors came out of the meeting “without clear next steps” The Crimson reported.
Claybaugh told the paper they were in “the stage of generating thinking” about the problem.
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