Grade Inflation: The Emoticons of Deception

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By: Dr. Rodney Johnson--

Grading is subjective. Many times, great students who make “A’s” on test and do very little else can earn a lower grade than a “C” student who gets by with fluff grades. Parents beware! The first marking period is quickly approaching. Traditionally, a child’s first report card is a reflection of inflated grades earned by your child bringing his or her “back-to-school” supplies for the first day, returned copies of class rules and other school documents, science lab safety rules, acceptable use policies … (personally signed by you to plug-in for missing or poor test or quiz grades), and very few class work and homework grades. Fluff grades now become emoticons of deception. Inflated grades do not reflect the rigor that you might expect from your child’s school. In this instance, grades become meaningless letters or numbers intended to convey course performance. What does earning an” A” on your report card really mean?


Receiving good report cards can trick parents into believing that their students are on a positive academic path. Parents should pay attention to the first report card and make sure their child shows proficient mastery of the subjects. They can sometimes be lulled into a false sense of security. Deceived by inflated grades, parents believe their students will continue to make good grades. When fluff grades litters the first report card, students are operating at a deficit. Not only are they responsible for prior learning…they are responsible for newer and more rigorous and challenging material. Each grading period becomes more difficult academically and future report cards seem to reflect a struggling student’s inability to make the grade.


Grades and Their Meaning


Early in your child’s education, it is very important to establish effective time management skills for studying. In the 9th grade, GPA (grade point average) begins to count toward class rank and high school graduation, their ability to successfully enter college, and transitioning to jobs and careers. An alarming number of students can’t pass any test, but they all have awesome grades and perfect report cards. In an article, Are Schools Inflating Grades, the answer was yes, schools are inflating grades. That way they can increase their graduation rates, and not be seen as one of the worst school districts to attend. These are also the same students that will be dropping out high school or their first semester at college. According to the Academic Excellence Indicator System (AEIS) located at TEA’s website, there are many Science and Math high school magnets whose TAKS math and TAKS science performance is far below state standards. And beginning in 2012, students will be responsible for the more rigorous State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness or STAAR. According to The Daily Texan, emphasizing STEM courses (science, technology, engineering and math) is a step in the right direction, however; increased funding for science fairs to foster adolescent interest in science won’t address teacher and student skills shortages. Neither will focus on the gender gap. An American College Testing report found that college entrance exam scores and cumulative high school GPA represent quantitative measures that are typically used by colleges to predict a student’s first-semester or first-year college GPA. Due to grade inflation and other subjective factors, postsecondary institutions cannot be certain that high school grades always accurately depict the abilities of their applicants and entering first-year students.



Dr. Johnson brings more than 30 years of educational experience to EducationWise. Ten years as a high school math teacher and over 20 years as an administrator in both the elementary and high school level. He served as a teacher in Richardson ISD and Dallas ISD before moving into administration in Dallas ISD. It was in these early years that informed Dr. Johnson’s philosophy relative to teaching and learning for all students, especially underrepresented groups. In 2003, he continued to serve public schools as a high school administrator in Alief ISD…a suburb of Houston Texas.

For the past three years, along with becoming a business person, Dr. Johnson has continued to sharpen his skills as an instructional leader and teaching and learning expert working with principals and teachers in low performing school districts. In addition to serving as Executive Coach and Pedagogy Facilitator for a major school turnaround company, Dr. Johnson also served as the Mentor Program Coordinator in2011 for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Houston.

For more information or to contact Dr. Johnson: and the website is

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