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Nearly Half of Harvard Grades Are A or A-Minus, Study Finds

November 23, 2001|From Associated Press

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Nearly half of all grades at Harvard University last year were A or A-minus, a steep increase from just 10 years earlier, according to a university study that follows reports of grade inflation at the Ivy League school.

The report charted grades for the last 15 years and found that A's and A-minuses grew from 33.2% of all grades in 1985 to 48.5% last year. Failing grades, Ds and Cs accounted for less than 6%.

"With such a narrow range of grades available, faculty find it difficult to distinguish adequately between work of differing quality; they may also be unable to make such distinctions clear to students," wrote Susan Pedersen, dean of undergraduate education.

The dean has no official power in the issue but can push for change.

The highest rate of A's was in small humanities classes, making up almost two-thirds of all grades given. Social science classes with 75 students or more were the toughest, with a third of all students receiving A's or A-minuses.

Some of the factors driving professors' generosity with grades were pressure to grade similarly to colleagues, fear of becoming known as a "tough grader" and pressure from students accustomed to higher grades, the study said.

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