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Whose fault is it? Assigning blame for grade inflation in higher education

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  • R. Todd Jewell
  • Michael A. McPherson
  • Margie A. Tieslau

Abstract

This study attempts to isolate the potential sources of grade inflation and to measure their relative importance. We incorporate existing models of grade inflation into a model of grade inflation at the department level. Our data comprise 1683 separate courses taught in 28 different academic departments by 3176 distinct instructors at a large public university over two decades. Our results suggest that incentives to inflate grades vary according to characteristics of academic departments. However, the vast majority (over 90%) of grade inflation observed in our data is estimated to be a result of either university-level factors or instructor-specific characteristics.

Suggested Citation

  • R. Todd Jewell & Michael A. McPherson & Margie A. Tieslau, 2013. "Whose fault is it? Assigning blame for grade inflation in higher education," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 45(9), pages 1185-1200, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:applec:45:y:2013:i:9:p:1185-1200
    DOI: 10.1080/00036846.2011.621884
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Hamermesh, Daniel S. & Parker, Amy, 2005. "Beauty in the classroom: instructors' pulchritude and putative pedagogical productivity," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 24(4), pages 369-376, August.
    2. Michael A. McPherson & R. Todd Jewell, 2007. "Leveling the Playing Field: Should Student Evaluation Scores be Adjusted?," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 88(3), pages 868-881, September.
    3. Michael A. McPherson, 2006. "Determinants of How Students Evaluate Teachers," The Journal of Economic Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 37(1), pages 3-20, January.
    4. Perron, Pierre, 1989. "The Great Crash, the Oil Price Shock, and the Unit Root Hypothesis," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(6), pages 1361-1401, November.
    5. Im, Kyung So & Pesaran, M. Hashem & Shin, Yongcheol, 2003. "Testing for unit roots in heterogeneous panels," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 115(1), pages 53-74, July.
    6. Kwang Soo Cheong, 2000. "Grade Inflation at the University of Hawaii-Manoa," Working Papers 200002, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Department of Economics.
    7. Michael A McPherson & R Todd Jewell & Myungsup Kim, 2009. "What Determines Student Evaluation Scores? A Random Effects Analysis of Undergraduate Economics Classes," Eastern Economic Journal, Palgrave Macmillan;Eastern Economic Association, vol. 35(1), pages 37-51.
    8. Paul Isely & Harinder Singh, 2005. "Do Higher Grades Lead to Favorable Student Evaluations?," The Journal of Economic Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 36(1), pages 29-42, January.
    9. Kyung‐So Im & Junsoo Lee & Margie Tieslau, 2005. "Panel LM Unit‐root Tests with Level Shifts," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 67(3), pages 393-419, June.
    10. Wayne A. Grove & Tim Wasserman, 2004. "The Life-Cycle Pattern of Collegiate GPA: Longitudinal Cohort Analysis and Grade Inflation," The Journal of Economic Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 35(2), pages 162-174, April.
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    Cited by:

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    2. Clifton-Sprigg, Joanna, 2014. "Educational spillovers and parental migration," 2007 Annual Meeting, July 29-August 1, 2007, Portland, Oregon TN 2015-46, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
    3. Claudia Keser & Maximilian Späth, 2020. "The Value of Bad Ratings: An Experiment on the Impact of Distortions in Reputation Systems," CIRANO Working Papers 2020s-22, CIRANO.
    4. Andresen, Martin Eckhoff & Løkken, Sturla Andreas, 2020. "The Final straw: High school dropout for marginal students," MPRA Paper 106265, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Pearce, John A., 2017. "How employers can stanch the hemorrhaging of collegiate GPA credibility," Business Horizons, Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 35-43.
    6. Martin Eckhoff Andresen & Sturla A. Løkken, 2019. "High school dropout for marginal students. Evidence from randomized exam form," Discussion Papers 894, Statistics Norway, Research Department.
    7. Geraint Johnes & Kwok Tong Soo, 2017. "Grades across Universities over Time," Manchester School, University of Manchester, vol. 85(1), pages 106-131, January.
    8. Keser, Claudia & Späth, Maximilian, 2020. "The value of bad ratings: An experiment on the impact of distortions in reputation systems," Center for European, Governance and Economic Development Research Discussion Papers 389, University of Goettingen, Department of Economics.
    9. Mohammad Alauddin & Temesgen Kifle, 2014. "Does the student evaluation of teaching instrument really measure instructorsù teaching effectiveness? An econometric analysis of studentsù perceptions in economics courses," Economic Analysis and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 44(2), pages 156-168.
    10. Palali, Ali & van Elk, Roel & Bolhaar, Jonneke & Rud, Iryna, 2018. "Are good researchers also good teachers? The relationship between research quality and teaching quality," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 40-49.
    11. Berezvai, Zombor & Lukáts, Gergely Dániel & Molontay, Roland, 2019. "A pénzügyi ösztönzők hatása az egyetemi oktatók osztályozási gyakorlatára [How financially rewarding student evaluation may affect grading behaviour. Evidence from a natural experiment]," Közgazdasági Szemle (Economic Review - monthly of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences), Közgazdasági Szemle Alapítvány (Economic Review Foundation), vol. 0(7), pages 733-750.
    12. Gabriele Lombardi & Giulio Ghellini, 2019. "Linking University Harshness and Students’ Choices: Sociodemographic Differences based on Italian Universities’ Characteristics," Department of Economics University of Siena 805, Department of Economics, University of Siena.

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