Disconnect Between ACT Scores & GPAs Indicate We Are Failing Our Children One “A” At a Time

act vs gpa scores
Chris Moncus, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

The pandemic opened this nation’s eyes to the dilapidated state of the education system; it is one of the few silver linings of that awful time. The last National Report Card proved that our worst fears were true.

Not only did our children suffer emotionally and socially from the pandemic, but they had taken a sharp nosedive academically. The blame game was in full force after that report card was released.

Who was to blame for the dumbing down of America’s children? It would be easy to place all the blame on the shoulders of people like teachers union chief Randi Weingarten or the COVID pandemic itself, but that would be taking the easy way out. 

Something doesn’t add up

Data is the mother of truth, so let’s look at some numbers to see what picture they paint. The recent National Assessment of Educational Progress report card showed record decreases for fourth and eighth graders in reading, math, history, and civics. 

Recent ACT (American College Test) scores for the class of 2023 were the worst they have been in three decades. Out of the class of 2023, 43% of high schoolers who took the ACT didn’t meet any of the subject matter benchmarks for English, reading, math, and science.

These scores tell us that most of America’s high school graduates would be unable to earn Bs or Cs in entry-level college coursework in the core classes. However, our kids’ grade point averages (GPAs) have been steadily increasing.

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Between the years of 2010 and 2022, GPAs increased in the below courses:

  • English from 3.17 to 3.39
  • Math from 3.02 to 3.32
  • Social Studies from 3.28 to 3.46
  • Science from 3.12 to 3.36

Essentially, 89% of high school students received an A or B in math, English, social studies, and science last year. So how do the same kids getting primarily As and Bs in high school struggle to meet basic knowledge markers on a standardized test to measure their progress throughout their educational lifecycle?

Participation grades

When I was a freshman in high school, I got an A on my first actual English paper. When I brought it home to show my mom, she was less than thrilled. 

I barely followed any grammar rules and sometimes didn’t even have complete sentences. So, my mother went to the school and told my high school English teacher to change my grade from an A to one that adequately measured my writing ability.

He was shocked; he said that I got an A because of my effort and it was the best-written paper in the class. My mother got her way as usual, and my grade was changed.

This parent-teacher engagement wasn’t standard back then and certainly isn’t now. Four out of five educators say they’ve changed grades to As due to outside pressure – 33% of which they say is from parents. 

Add to that some teachers don’t want to give honest grades. High school teacher Tim Donahue admitted in his guest essay for The New York Times on grade inflation:

“I’ll confess that in my nearly 30 years as a high school English teacher, my conceptions of grading have either softened or evolved, depending on how you see it.”

He discussed the human aspect of liking the students and understanding that these grades matter more for their future than they did in the past due to the lack of emphasis on standardized tests for college admission. This brings me to the dreaded teachers unions.

RELATED: The Department of Education Just Celebrated It’s 44th Birthday. It Doesn’t Need a 45th

Testing and grades are racist!

Big Education has been railing against standardized testing, discipline, and honest grading for years, but COVID allowed them the window of opportunity they needed to push through some of their most controversial and harmful proposals. Due to the shuttering of schools during the pandemic, many colleges scrapped the requirement for standardized tests in admissions, and many are planning to continue this misguided practice.

Union bosses celebrated this move, claiming that standardized tests were a:

“racist relic of the past.”

Adding onto the racist train, many school districts adopted the Big Education concept of “grading equity.” Grading equity claims that giving students zeros or F’s is inherently racist or classist. 

This brought about the new trend of allowing students to turn in assignments whenever they wish and retake tests as often as they want until they get the grade they desire or demand. These concepts of ditching standardized testing, equitable grading, and repeated do-overs were sold to help students, particularly minority students and those from low-income families.

But all these moves were merely meant to mask the truth about Big Education, which is that they don’t care about educational success; they only care about political influence. The repercussions of parents and teachers surrendering education to this bureaucracy will ripple throughout generations.

RELATED: Chicago Teachers Union Boss Says School Choice Is for ‘Racists’ But Sends Son to Private School

Out of the frying pan…

A You Science poll found that 75% of high school graduates feel unprepared to make college or career decisions. This poll, while interesting, is probably reasonably accurate for every generation.

When I was graduating high school, I wasn’t entirely sure my decision to join the Air Force was the right move. Hell, as a 40-year-old, I’m not sure it was the right decision.

Still, I knew I couldn’t stay at home and loaf around, I knew I couldn’t afford college, and I knew I didn’t want to work a minimum wage job the rest of my life – so I rolled the dice and executed my first grown-up action – I made a decision. What is missing with today’s young Americans is the ability to make grown-up choices without knowing they will be okay.

Social media is riddled with Gen Z’rs weeping into their camera phones about having to work 8-hour days, cope with salaries less than six figures, and have to do things like…commute. A survey done this year by Intelligent.com found that 40% of business leaders believe recent college graduates are ill-prepared to enter the workforce. 

Of those business leaders, 94% admitted that they purposely avoid hiring recent college graduates. The business leaders polled said the following were their reasons:

  •  70% said poor work ethic and communication skills
  • 51% said an overwhelming “sense of entitlement” and lack of “technological skills”

Inflated grades, decreased focus on standardized testing, helicopter parents, grading equity, restorative justice, safe spaces, and degradation of universal values and truths are all interconnected and have played critical roles in what these business leaders are seeing. Is there any hope to right this ship?

The state of education wasn’t the best 30 years ago when I was in school, so it’s not looking good. This homeschool maven chooses to keep her child’s education in her hands, and I am one harsh grader. 

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USAF Retired, Bronze Star recipient, outspoken veteran advocate. Hot mess mom to two monsters and wife to equal parts... More about Kathleen J. Anderson

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