Arkansas Says 58 Schools ‘Inflated’ Math Grades

By Erik W. Robelen — January 20, 2010 1 min read
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Concern about grade inflation is nothing new, but I was struck by a recent story about how the Arkansas Department of Education publicly identifies schools it sees as being overly generous in handing out A’s and B’s.

How does it gauge this? The agency looks for a disconnect between students’ grades and their performance on statewide end-of-course exams. Makes me wonder if any other states do something like this. (Please post a comment, Dear Reader, if you know of any!) Something tells me not everyone will agree with this particular method.

A new report from the state agency lists 58 Arkansas high schools in which 20 percent or more of students who received an A or B in Algebra 1 or geometry failed to score “proficient” or “advanced” on the corresponding end-of-course exam. This is out of a total of more than 250 public high schools in the state. Another 46 Arkansas high schools showed no grade inflation whatsoever using these criteria.

The reports are mandated under a state law enacted in 2005, the education department says.

The agency notes that the results take on additional significance for Arkansas families this year because they now are part of the criteria for qualifying for the state’s new college-scholarship program, the Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarship. Students who graduate from a high school identified on the grade-inflation list who otherwise meet the criteria must either score a 19 or higher on the ACT or an equivalent test, or score proficient on all the state’s end-of-course exams.

Also, the education department says it is hiring staff who will provide technical assistance to those schools with grade inflation of 20 percent or higher.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.