Monday, May 3, 2010

Grade inflation in the NYT crossword

In tomorrow’s New York Times crossword:

11-Down: “Pretty good grade.” The answer: AMINUS. In my gradebook, that’s more than “pretty good.”

[No spoilers here. Highlight the empty space to see the answer.]

comments: 5

Elaine said...

Grade inflation is all around. A few years back I had occasion to peruse my college transcripts, and I was surprised to find that there were quite a few B's. I recall being a lot better than that! LOL

(All of that History! Physical Geography! Cultural Anthropology! ugh, ugh, ugh. But at least in taking a BS I was able to avoid a foreign language--distinctly not my gift.)

fortyquestions said...

N.B. A is actually the most common grade in college today. It's handed out over 20 percent of the time. A- is the second most common grade. It is, in fact, a "pretty good grade" by today's standards.

At Yale, an A- isn't even a good grade; it will hurt your prospects for getting any sort of honors (you need a GPA of over 3.76 to end up in the upper 30 percent of your class).

That all said, another way to look at this clue, independent of grade inflation, is not the actual grade "A-minus", but simply "a minus," a notch below any solid letter grade.

Michael Leddy said...

Elaine, I feel your pain. But in my case: Astronomy, Human Biology, Mathematics, Modern American History.

Fortyquestions, your observations suggest why GPAs are often regarded as less than meaningful. Inflation has all sorts of odd effects: if an A- is pretty good, what is an A?

About the crossword: I hadn’t thought of your reading of the answer, which is very clever and crosswordy. But my solving makes me think that AMINUS means A-. A D-, for instance, is a minus grade that wouldn’t count as a “pretty good grade.”

fortyquestions said...

I do a fair number of crosswords. But really, I think that clue does point to "A-." And I'm probably responsible for that clue being there. A little while back there was the same clue in another crossword and the answer was C+. I wrote to them and said this is not 1955. C+ hasn't been a pretty good grade since Dobie Gillis went off the air.

"A" means excellent in some classes. It means I showed up in others. But overall, nationwide today it means about 83-100 on the old 0 to 100 scale. So an old B is now an A-. Some things get better with age.

Elaine said...

When I went to HS (early Sixties), 70% or less was an F. This gave you room to hit rock bottom and continue digging. The junior honors English teacher designated five 'Fatal Errors' (comma splice, subj-verb number disagreement, etc.) and if you committed one of those, your grade started at the F. (A legendary student managed to commit two in a single sentence...)

I finally got a good math teacher in Soph year of college, and the light bulb came on. If you took extra math and social sciences (moan) you did not have to take a language. Hallelujah. But having spent much of my life wandering, lost, in the jungle of mathematics, I understand!