Grade Inflation

Mark D. McCann, Ed.D.

Abstract: GRADE INFLATION: THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MATH REPORT
CARD GRADES AND STANDARDIZED TEST RESULTS AT THE ELEMENTARY LEVEL (2003)

The purpose of this study was to investigate the potential presence of grade inflation in private religious-based elementary schools.  Using a Pearson product-moment correlation, third quarter math report card grades and Stanford Achievement Test (SAT9) Total Math scaled scores were analyzed for statistical significance and strength of relationship as denoted by effect size.  Sample data were drawn from the 1999-2000, 2000-2001, and 2001-2002 school year.

Analysis of the data indicated that there was a statistically significant relationship between report card grades and SAT9 scores.  Correlation coefficients indicated low to moderate effect sizes, indicating that a low to moderated percentage of the changes in standardized achievement test scores could be attributed to the grades on the report card.  However, schools using Saxon or Scott Foresman Math textbooks demonstrated moderate to strong correlational coefficients.  Therefore, a moderate to strong percentage of the changes in standardized achievement test scores could be attributed to the grades on the report cards for those schools using these textbooks.

Frequency distributions for students scoring above the first standard deviation on the SAT9 indicated that while a high percentage of students received A’s, a large percentage of the students also received B’s, C’s, and even D’s on their report card.  Conversely, students who scored below the first standard deviation still demonstrated a large percentage of A’s on the report card.  The data indicated that while a student may receive a high grade on their report card, it did not mean that they would get an “above average” score on the SAT9.  On the other hand, students who received an “above average” score on the SAT9 did not necessarily receive an “A” on their report card.

Conclusions suggest that the disparity in the relationship between report card grades and SAT9 scores may be attributed to grade inflation/deflation.  The strength of the magnitude of effect for certain textbook users indicated that curriculum alignment played an important role in the relationship between report card grades and SAT9 scores.  The data indicated that grades were not consistent predictors of how students would perform on the SAT9.

Recommendations included having principals and teachers evaluate grading procedures and practices.  It was also recommended that principals check the continuity between achievement test objectives and school curriculum or selected textbooks.  Schools should incorporate a module in their school improvement plan to monitor grades and achievement test scores.  Inferences should not be drawn from one set of scores, but should be drawn from trends in data.

For Dr. McCann's complete dissertation, click here to order (UMI Publication Number 3117815).

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