How predictive are student grades?

October 29, 2018

Grade Inflation in High Schools (2005–2016)

Student grades have been one of the longest standing tools for measuring student performance and there is an inherent assumption by educators and parents that they are accurate reflections of how well their children are doing.  This study examines that assumption, asking the question:  how well do student grades correlate with test scores, school demographics, student performance on college entrance exams, and the historical difficulty for getting A’s (is it easier or harder to get A’s).  The study found that students who scored higher on end-of-course (EOC) examinations also had higher grades.  However having high grades did not correlate with doing well on the examination.  For example only 21% of “A” students and 3% of “B” students passed the highest standard on the EOC exam.  Over one third of students receiving B’s failed to score proficient on the exam. The overall conclusions were:  (1) having good grades is no guarantee that a student has learned the expected knowledge from a course, (2) in the case of math (the curriculum area studied), end of course scores are much more predictive of ACT scores than course grades, and (3) grade point averages (GPA’s) have grown steadily from 2005 to 2016, and that the most significant growth has been in more affluent schools.

Citation: Gershenson, S. (2018). Grade Inflation in High Schools (2005–2016).