Grade inflation

Frederick Hess

America’s high schools have just endured a decade of dramatic grade inflation, according to a new study from ACT. This coincided with a decade of declining academic achievement, raising hard questions for those concerned about instructional rigor, inflated graduation rates, and the integrity of selective college admissions.

Between 2010 and 2022, there was evidence of steady grade inflation among high schoolers. During that period, even as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (the “Nation’s Report Card”) recorded steady declines in reading, math, and U.S. history achievement, student GPAs climbed steadily higher. The average adjusted GPA increased from 3.17 to 3.39 in English; from 3.02 to 3.32 in math; from 3.28 to 3.46 in social studies; and from 3.12 to 3.36 in science. In 2022, more than 89% of high schoolers received an A or a B in math, English, social studies, and science.