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Grades Rise After Low Year

After dropping for two years, more grades were A’s in 2002-2003

By Laura L. Krug, Crimson Staff Writer

Despite widespread controversy over grade inflation more than two years ago, the number of A-range grades given at the College actually increased last year, according to a report sent by Dean of the College Benedict H. Gross ’71 to Faculty members yesterday.

In the 2001-2002 year, 22 percent of all grades were A’s. The following school year, in 2002-2003, A’s increased to 22.4 percent of grades. A-minus grades rose even more, increasing from 24.4 to 25.4 percent—the highest percentage in at least 18 years—over the same period.

This data indicates that Harvard students garnered nearly 200 more A’s and over 500 more A-minuses in the 2002-2003 academic year than they had the year before. The mean grade point average rose slightly, from 3.39 to 3.41.

In a letter that accompanied the report, Gross wrote that grade levels “suggest that grade compression continues to be a concern.”

“I appreciate the careful attention that faculty colleagues have given, and will continue to give, to their grading practices,” he wrote.

Kenan Professor of Government Harvey C. Mansfield ’53, a vocal supporter of tougher grading practices, said he was glad Gross had published the information. He was less happy, however, about the revelation that students were getting more A’s in the 2002-2003 school year.

“I’m not very pleased that grade inflation continued ... to go up last year,” said Mansfield. “The main difference in the situation is that we now have an administration that’s concerned about it. So far it’s only persuasion being attempted and there’s no compulsion [to reduce grades].”

University President Lawrence H. Summers said action needed to be taken to respond to the preponderance of A’s given last year.

“I wish it weren’t so,” he said in response to the increase. “We need to think about what to do about this.”

In late 2001, national attention to undergraduate transcripts sparked discussion about grade inflation among faculty and students at the College and some questioned whether Harvard students deserved their top-notch grades.

Grades reflected this scrutiny as A’s dipped from 23.4 percent of total marks in the 2000-2001 academic year to 22.0 percent in 2001-2002. The percentage of A-minuses given dropped as well.

In counterpoint, B-range grades rose from 13 percent to 14 percent during the 2001-2002 school year.

The report released yesterday included a breakdown of undergraduate grades from the 1985-1986 academic year to the 2002-2003 year.

—Staff writer can be reached as krug@fas.harvard.edu.

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