Editor-While your summer CrossTalk article "High Marks" raised a number of significant issues concerning both causes and effects of grade inflation, it failed to touch upon one key reason for better grades: better teaching and learning strategies. An increasing number of faculty are more interested in using graded exercises as ways to encourage learning rather than simple evaluative snapshots of a student's mastery of perhaps key (but certainly arbitrarily selected) course material.
In the classes I and most of my colleagues teach, we tell students what we think is important for them to learn, cover that material in detail, and grade over tests, quizzes, papers and other measures of their mastery. The focus is on what the student has learned, not what the professor has taught. While that may seem to be a subtle distinction, it is a very real one.
Are the grades I issue higher than those of 30 or 40 years ago? I should hope so. Have my students learned as much as students did 30 or 40 years ago? More, I should think. The current controversy sparked by Rosovsky's report assumes some kind of constant, universal value and meaning for grades in all disciplines. As academics, we of all people should understand how hugely oversimplified such an assumption is.
Richard D. Fulton, Dean for Instruction
Whatcom Community College