Studies have shown that in many school systems, inflated grades are the norm. Both high schools and colleges have seen an overall rise in the GPAs of their students–not because of increased intelligence, but because of a shift in the way teachers and professors are encouraged to deal with children. Several factors are at play in grade inflation–and helicopter parents are certainly on the list.

Increasing Self-Esteem

It’s no secret that many academic programs are being shifted in order to deal with students’ low self-esteem issues. From participation certificates and awards days where everyone receives an award to sports and clubs that must include everyone, regardless of capability, students’ self-esteem has been put on a higher pedestal than their academic or athletic capability by many systems. A “D” or an “F” in a class is often perceived as carrying the same negative weight, making a student feel bad about him- or herself because of the inability to achieve a high score.

On the other hand, that dedication to increasing self-esteem often carries negative consequences for students down the road that can beeven more detrimental to their self-esteem as adults–as many former helicopter parents are finding out to their chagrin as their students enter college or move into the professional field. So-called high-performing students whose grades were inflated by schools that don’t give low grades, where a “C” is as low as many teachers are willing to go, are sending out students who are ill-prepared for the challenges they will actually face when they leave school and enter their chosen professions.

Improving College Odds

Once students enter high school, every grade counts–and helicopter parents are just as aware of it as their students! As they obsessively check every grade as it’s posted, these parents often apply pressure to teachers as soon as they see a low grade. One C, and they’re firing off emails: what can their student do to improve that grade? Can they do extra credit? Why did they get such a bad score? While interested, invested parents increase students’ academic success, helicopter parents take it to a different level. They want their child to get into the best college in the best way possible, and they’ll often intimidate teachers into giving their child the grade they want, not the grade they deserve. This leads to artificially inflated grades across the board as teachers try to be fair to all of their students.

Normalized Expectations

Letter grades are intended to give a broad measure of how a student is performing in comparison to the teacher’s expectations and in comparison to their peers. Ideally, an “A” should reflect excellence, a “B” a great job, a “C” average performance, and a “D” an assignment or class that needs additional work. Unfortunately, society now accepts a “B” grade as average work–and it’s fast becoming accepted that an “A” simply reflects a student who has done what they’re told and met the teacher’s expectations fully.

Helicopter parents react swiftly to any implication that their student hasn’t met the expectations. Didn’t they do everything on the assignment sheet? Haven’t they turned in all of their assignments? Then where’s that “A” grade? Unfortunately, this only increases the inflation of student grades across the nation, making it difficult for truly exceptional students–either in terms of intelligence or in terms of effort–to stand out from the crowd.

Pressure from All Sides

The pressure to succeed weighs heavily on many students–and on their teachers and professors. In many cases, students may be given higher grades in an effort to prevent them from missing out on opportunities, from the ability to play on a sports team to that scholarship that they simply have to have. When students fear that their college acceptance can hinge on a single project, they’re driven to beg for the grades they want–even if they aren’t necessarily the grades they’ve earned.

Entirely apart from students, teachers experience their own pressure regarding grades. They don’t want to give out too many poor grades, because then they’re perceived as being a poor teacher–even if students aren’t putting in the necessary effort to pass the class. Teachers who give out too many high grades, on the other hand, are often perceived as being “too easy” or not offering enough of a challenge to their students. Then there’s the knowledge that students’ futures may ride on the grades they receive: is it worth inflating a grade a few points if it will help a student get into college? That “B” might have been all the student deserved, but a teacher doesn’t want to be the reason they don’t get a much-needed scholarship! The pressure is on from all sides, and some teachers do give in under the pressure.

There are many factors that have contributed to grade inflation. Helicopter parents who obsess over every score their students bring home certainly add to the problem, but they aren’t the only factor. Stopping grade inflation won’t be easy–and it’s not a process that will happen quickly.

If you want a quality school where your child will be graded based on the effort they put forth, contact us. We want every student to beable to succeed based on their own merits and the effort they’ve put forth, not based on artificially inflated grades.