September 30, 2003 at 6:58 pm #21451
This Boston Globe article from 2 years ago has some insightful information on grade inflation at Harvard. In June 2001, a record 91 percent of Harvard students graduated with some type of honors (summa, magna, or cum laude), which was far more than Yale (51 percent), Princeton (44 percent), and other elite universities the Globe study examined.
703.242.5885May 28, 2004 at 8:25 pm #27082
I guess no one reads these posts much or else no one has anything to comment. I know that at the University of Maryland, College Park, the latin honors are awarded to percentages of students (top 2% are summa, next 3% are magna, and next 5% are cum laude). I wonder if it would behoove them to adopt that sort of system. The Maryland cut-offs end up being high: ~3.95, 3.9, and 3.85 respectively.June 7, 2004 at 9:17 pm #27171
Who would have thunk it? Harvard should strive to be more like U Maryland. Upon learning this, Terp fans riot harder than they did when they beat IU. 
Support terrorists. Vote Bush out of office.June 8, 2004 at 12:08 pm #27179
Actually, I looked up some more information and Harvard actually targets 50% of their class for latin honors (top 10% for summa, then another 10% for magna, then the next 30% for cum laude or something like that), so the Boston Globe may have misled people. Maybe the honors the other 41% received were for particular research projects and not latin honors.June 8, 2004 at 4:01 pm #27183
Unfortunately, the link no longer works and Harvard — as well as many other schools for that matter — has responded by revamping their grading curve. The point remains that grade inflation is a documented problem. Furthermore, aspiring Harvard applicants who do not graduate with honors may have to explain this to prospective employers unaware of the most recent grading trends.
703.242.5885June 9, 2004 at 2:03 pm #27190
That latter point hadn’t occurred to me. It may the case that some good students were just missing the cutoff for honors and by just falling in the small percentage that don’t have honors they could be getting short-changed by employers and possibly graduate institutions. Hopefully both employers and institutions look past catch words like “honors” enough to examine the real meat of applications.August 5, 2004 at 3:18 pm #27745
I remember that article. I thought honors meant top of the class. I am glad Harvard got busted for this and I resent the confusion this grade inflation policy caused.
If you go to Harvard you know there are many good students and it will be competitive. If you don’t rise to the top, you shouldn’t get honors.
Mo was a pedophile and nothing more!August 5, 2004 at 5:18 pm #27750
As I’m starting med school we have been discussing Pass/Fail versus Honors/Pass/Fail and as a class we have all come to realize that Honors/Pass/Fail is only a good option when the marks for Honors and Pass are set independent of percentages. When only 10% can get Honors, competitiveness limits cooperativity and while students may cram more, in the long run they actually learn less than in a lower stress environment where learning and social interaction can be put together more. So if Harvard does give 50% of it’s graduates honors and it is because they have performed at the benchmark set for honorable work then I don’t see anything wrong with it. You can’t just keep lifting the bar as people jump it because eventually they will get frustrated. You have to let them lift the bar themselves to do any real long-term good.October 10, 2004 at 9:50 am #28216
I am against the grading policy. Not everyone can be best but I think most should know average student at Harvard is a topper elsewhere. Just like average athlete on a good team is great athlete on a bad team.October 10, 2004 at 11:16 pm #28218
I like your analogy – captures the point well.
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