Turns out, no one can handle the truth. What else could explain students getting better and better grades, even as their test results slide down the global competitiveness scale? NPR reported in December that American 15-year-olds continue to turn in flat results in a test that measures proficiency in reading, math and science worldwide, failing to crack the global top 20.
In mathematics, 29 nations and other jurisdictions outperformed the United States by a statistically significant margin, up from 23 three years ago, according to Education Week, based on results from 2012. In science, 22 education systems scored above the U.S. average, up from 18 in 2009. In reading, 19 countries scored higher than U.S. students — a jump from nine in 2009, when the last Program for International Student Assessment was performed, NPR reported.
The numbers are especially stark against a backdrop of cheating scandals (where educators help students cheat on standardized tests) and grade inflation in high schools and colleges.
Recently, a college professor writing on Slate.com, confessed why she is a “grade inflator.” Rebecca Schuman writes, “Of my current 33 students, 20 are getting either A’s or A-minuses. And I bet you anything the A-minuses are pissed.” Despite all sorts of metrics for grading, she admits: “The ugly truth is that to get below a B+ in my class, you have to be a total screw-up.” The reason: It’s just not worth it. Because students (and/or their parents) complain so much, and so stridently when they receive anything less than an “A”, they make life miserable for the professor via phone calls, emails and teacher evaluations.
Schuman notes: “But it doesn’t start in college. Thanks to American K-12’s relentless culture of assessment and testing, everything our students have done since the age of 5 has been graded — but almost all of those grades have been “exceptional,” so the exception is now the norm. Now we’ve got high schools with 34 co-valedictorians — hell, why not just make everyone valedictorian, just for being alive?—et voila, students enter college having never gotten anything but an A for their entire lives.”
What’s the result of all this exceptionalism? Well, according to a survey by the research organization YouGov, it means that 55 percent of Americans believe they are smarter than the average person. (Meaning that the average American thinks that they are smarter than the average American.) A third of the country (34 percent) say that they are about as smart as the average person, while only four percent say that they are less intelligent than average Americans.
Since average is now exceptional, it all adds up, right?