Opinion

Too many ‘As’ can be a bad thing

The value of good grades diminishes if they are easy to achieve.

As a college student, you already know how much GPAs matter. Your grade point average determines whether or not you keep your scholarships. It affects your chances of getting into graduate school. It could be the tiebreaker when you’re competing for a job. But grades also matter because they are supposed to reflect what you know and can do.

While everyone wants good grades, it’s generally a bad sign when everyone gets them. If that’s happening, the bar for “excellence” is too low. Some people are getting high grades for doing less, cheapening the value of an “A” so that truly exceptional students don’t stand out.

A recent report, Easy A’s and What’s Behind Them, by the National Council on Teacher Quality, looks at more than 500 colleges (including Temple) and finds that, on average, about 30 percent of all students at these schools graduate with grade-based honors.

What’s troubling for NCTQ, a research organization that advocates for improving the instruction of K-12 students by improving the preparation of their teachers, is that Easy A’s also found that teacher candidates at the schools we reviewed are nearly 50 percent more likely than their peers across campus to graduate with honors.

At Temple, however, there is no worrisome discrepancy between the proportion of teacher candidates who earn honors and other majors. Specifically, insert 18.56 percent of soon-to-be teachers at Temple graduate with honors, which compares with 17.09 percent for all programs on Main Campus.

We hope to see more institutions follow this example. For teacher candidates and all other students, if virtually everyone has stellar grades, an easy “A” doesn’t really help you get a job, and it definitely won’t help you keep it.

*Kate Walsh is the president of the National Council on Teacher Quality.

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