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Grade (education)

A grade in education can mean either a teacher's evaluation of a student's work or a student's level of educational progress, usually one grade per year. This article is about evaluation of students' work.

In the United States and some other countries, a grading system of A, B, C, D, and F is used. Sometimes the system is expanded to add plus or minus to each letter. It should be noted that practice can vary from this general picture by several percentage points, sometimes from teacher to teacher within the same school.

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Teachers usually grade assignments on a percentage scale. For example, on an exam having ten questions, if a student answers eight questions correctly, the teacher will give a grade of B or 80%. At the end of the class term, the average of the percentages is calculated to determine a final grade for the class. Then the letter grades from each class are converted to points, and a grade point average or GPA is computed.

Grade Point Average

Grade point average is a number quantity representing a student's academic performance of a semester, trimester, or school year. The calculation of GPA varies from school to school, but most of the time it is some form of average of the course grades and course credits.

Most high schools and colleges in the United States have a GPA range between 0 and 4. The letter grade equivalents are:

Cumulative GPA is the average of the student's GPA since entering the school. For the purposes of university admissions, GPA is sometimes weighted. This typically involves giving additional point value to advanced courses.

Grade inflation

The practice of schools or teachers to give a greater number of students good grades than actually deserve those grades. Grade inflation is perceived by some to be problematic for schools because it is seen as a dilution of standards.

Many people harbor unquestioned notions about what traditional letter grades (US) mean in terms of student performance. For example, many people have heard of a 'C' average, but the term actually refers to a time in history, usually in a classical education setting when instructors used a strict mathematical average to determine student grades. This average used a strict bell-shaped curve. The top achieving student set the mark for the group. In that setting 7% of students would receive "A", 24% - "B", 39% - "C", 24% - "D" and 7% - "F." The spread in this system could be wide or narrow, but generally made for long examinations so a sufficient number of responses could allow instructors to divide students into the correct group. This system also fostered a large amount of competition among students as well as a strong incentive to cheat. Students who scored well on tests were generally not liked because they skewed the curve to the high end and drop outs were a problem because it left the lower scoring students fighting to stay out of the "F" group.

It would be rare in American public education, to find an instructor who still graded this way. Most teachers are left to their own devices to determine how grades will be assigned. Since teachers are a generous lot, for the most part, they'd like to see most students pass and in fact, do very well in school. It reflects on them as teachers as well as the school and the students. Therefore, the traditional grading system has gotten out of kilter and the bell-shaped curve has flattened on the high end. Some see this flattening as grade inflation (as in monetary inflation when the value of a currency goes down when there is too much script in circulation).

See also: Education by country