In Response to: About-Face on Grading? [6]

My wife and I both read “About-Face on Grading?” (On the Campus, Sept. 17) with concern about the faculty committee’s finding that there was no evidence the grading policy has harmed graduates in seeking a job or applying to graduate school. My wife is an attorney at a Fortune 500 company who previously had worked at a large U.S. law firm, and I am an associate professor of surgery at UCLA. In our experiences, it’s been absolutely clear that grade deflation hurts applicants. Whether it’s law firms hiring attorneys or faculty ranking medical students for residency positions, grades matter. Sure, we and everyone else think those reviewing résumés or transcripts should look at each institution’s grade distribution and weigh accordingly. But, in practice, this doesn’t happen. Applicants with higher GPAs tend to rank higher. A 3.7 GPA simply looks better than a 3.3 GPA when reading through hundreds of prospects’ files. This has been confirmed in a recent article by researchers from UC Berkeley and Harvard Business School.

Like it or not, a school that deflates grades using “grading targets,” another name for curves, hurts its students’ chances. And anyone who ever has taken a class with a curve knows that a curve also fosters negative competition for the top marks. While everyone would like to see a uniform grading standard among different institutions, it simply isn’t going to happen. Do Princeton students the favor: Dump the curve, and let the professors give out the marks they think the students deserve.