But in the increasingly frenzied world of college admissions, even Zalasky is nervous about his prospects. He doubts he’ll get in to the University of Wisconsin, a top choice. The reason: his grades.
It’s not that they’re bad. It’s that so many of his classmates’ are so good. Zalasky’s GPA is nearly an A minus, and yet he ranks only about in the middle of his senior class of 543 at Edina High School outside Minneapolis.
That means he will have to find other ways to stand out.
. . . The average high school GPA increased from 2.68 to 2.94 between 1990 and 2000, according to a federal study. Almost 23 percent of college freshmen in 2005 reported their average grade in high school was an A or better, according to a national survey by UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute. In 1975, the percentage was about half that.
GPAs reported by students on surveys when they take the SAT and ACT exams have also risen — and faster than their scores on those tests. That suggests their classroom grades aren’t rising just because students are getting smarter. Not surprisingly, the test-owners say grade inflation shows why testing should be kept: It gives all students an equal chance to shine.
More than 70 percent of schools and districts analyzed by an education audit company called SchoolMatch had average GPAs significantly higher than they should have been based on their standardized test scores — including the school systems in Chicago, Pittsburgh, Denver, San Bernardino, Calif., and Columbus, Ohio.