Faculty Discusses Grade Inflation

Disparities Between Departmental Grading Policies Targeted

The Faculty Council yesterday discussed grading policies and potential solutions to grade inflation, but did not make any concrete decisions or recommendations.

"I think the outcome of the meeting was that the dean for undergraduate education would be more apt to talk to course heads and departments whose grading practices may be out of line," Baird Professor of Science Gary J. Feldman, a council member, said after the meeting.

According to several council members, the group discussed whether or not grade inflation really is a serious problem at Harvard. Apparently, there is not a consensus.

"I gather the possibility is there that the student pool has just become a lot smarter, and therefore the grades have risen," said Professor of Chinese History Peter K. Bol. "But there is also the possibility that that is not true."

The council is facing several issues involving grades--grade inflation, grading disparity and the grade point scale.


"The discussion was on the two major grading problems," Feldman said.

Feldman suggested that the first problem, grade inflation itself, was not as much a concern at among the council members as grade inequity--the disparity of grades between different departments.

"There was a greater concern on the difference of grading practices in the different departments and the influence it has on students," Feldman said.

A Proposal

The Committee on Undergraduate Education (CUE) has recommended to the council that Harvard's grading system become "linearized," closing the gap between an A- and a B+ grade. Currently, an A- is worth 14 points, and a B+ is worth 12 points.

But that proposal was not extensively discussed, according to Feldman. Rather, the meeting was an "open discussion" on future grading practices.

Feldman said the council postponed the discussion on the CUE's recommendation, and focused more on the problem of grade inflation. In interviews, Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles has characterized the CUE's proposal and grade inflation as separate issues