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Are good grades hiding the truth? How B-flation could be failing students

By Jake Beardslee · November 15, 2023

In brief…

  • 79% of parents say their kids get mostly Bs or better, contradicting dismal standardized test scores
  • Parents urged to look beyond grades for fuller picture and better support kids
  • One mother now focused on getting reading help for her daughter after initially being misled by report cards
A new report suggests that grade inflation may be preventing many students from getting the academic interventions they require.  Nyamsinc/Wikimedia

A new report suggests that parents’ overreliance on inflated grades and report cards may be preventing children from getting the academic support they truly need. The study by Gallup and the nonprofit Learning Heroes found a concerning disconnect between parents’ perceptions of their children’s reading and math proficiency and the stark reality painted by dismal national standardized test scores.

The phenomenon of grade inflation provides many parents with an inaccurate feeling that their child is performing well academically. For example, Shareeda Jones believed her daughter Cristyonna was succeeding in the third grade, receiving high marks of mostly As and Bs at her elementary school in northeast Washington D.C. Cristyonna’s lowest grade was a C in art class. However, when Cristyonna transferred schools in fourth grade, a new evaluation revealed she was in fact three grade levels behind in reading comprehension. “I thought my daughter was on the Honor Roll,” Jones told CNN. “She had no Ds or Fs on her report card. Not one.”

The Gallup survey of nearly 2,000 parents found 79% say their child is earning mostly Bs or better. Even among parents who admit their child is below grade level, over a third still report seeing As and Bs on report cards. However, on standardized tests, only about a third of fourth and eighth graders are considered “proficient” in reading and math.

Learning Heroes recommends parents look beyond grades to benchmarks and teacher feedback. When armed with a fuller picture, parents can better advocate for interventions to help their child succeed. Parent Shareeda Jones learned this lesson firsthand. She’s now working diligently to ensure her daughter Cristyonna, who still struggles with reading, gets the support she needs before starting middle school.