#42 Will grade inflation hurt your teen? Transcript


Brian Eufinger  0:00  

The moms like so given that we want to apply to schools X, Y, and Z, why well, what’s the GPA? Pause? What’s the GPA? Like how many APs? Are we taking a mom like he’s on track to take no APS, he has a 2.9 30. And so I can’t take your money like 30 is beyond amazing for any school that will ever be reasonable. And so that’s the whole most heartbreaking conversations. You know, it’s not about sales, you know, had they only found out in eighth grade like we started talking about the beginning like mom in that and that’s not a made up story like that happens like your stereotypical like, I’m the robotics boy Tinker, who like played maybe too much Xbox and got the 2.9 and I was apparently smart enough to get a cold 30 on a mock had mom only know she could have nudged and it’s such a different outcome could have been achieved.


Lisa Marker Robbins  0:46  

This week, we are diving into the hot topic of great inflation, which has become rampant since COVID. It often catches families off guard when it becomes problematic for getting admitted to college. My guest, Bryan Brian Eufinger has data that might just shock you, as well as advice on how to best navigate GPA, and course rigor which are the number one factors for getting into college. I’m Lisa marker Robbins and I want to welcome you to College and Career Clarity, eight flourish coaching production. Let’s dive right in to a great conversation. It is my pleasure to welcome Brian youth injure to the podcast. He is a AC T FET test prep provider and all things tutoring, and the Greater Atlanta area serving the entire South East region and helping students get better test scores. However, what he’s coming on to share with us today is really about the effects of the reality of great inflation, because by the time students get to the point of doing test prep, the GPA is pretty well solidified. So he’s on a mission to get the word out about how parents, your GPA and your students GPA now are apples to oranges. And he’s got some great talking points, evidence and insights to help your student as early as possible have the grades that make a difference in getting into college because, like it or not grades are the number one factor on getting in. Ryan, welcome to the podcast.


Brian Eufinger  2:34  

Thanks for having me. Appreciate it. Yeah,


Lisa Marker Robbins  2:36  

absolutely. So let’s start with this whole idea that we as parents are just think of GPA, right? And parents reflect back and they’re like, oh, gosh, you know, I had a, I’m not gonna say what my high school GPA was, but I had a whatever GPA, and they’re comparing that maybe to their student, and you’re like, that’s probably the first mistake we’re making. Right?


Brian Eufinger  3:00  

For sure. So you know, I didn’t I graduated this millennium, I’m not that old. And mathematically, there just weren’t enough AP classes even being taken that you could even get a 4.25 of my, it was a suburban high school in St. Louis, Missouri. And now there’s people 4.7 4.8 There’s lots more AP classes, there’s lots of rounding up. There’s lots of credit recovery, there’s no zero policies, there’s all kinds of ways that kids are getting their grades up, even if they don’t get it right the first time. And so if mom and dad are a two income family, they’re busy with their careers, and in their head, they see a 3.5 and they are thinking what a 3.5% and 9092. It’s just not the case anymore. One stat I use on on phone calls with parents all the time is the average GPA force people who were rejected by Auburn last year was a 3.79. And it blows their mind, you know,


Lisa Marker Robbins  3:52  

let’s, let’s repeat that. The average rejected GPA of students who applied to Auburn University was what?


Brian Eufinger  4:03  

3.79? Wow. Yeah, so and as great as it would be for my wallet. If these standardized tests were all that mattered, like ethically and Catholic guilt, I turned down tons of money each year from a student who comes to me has a cold 30 on a mock test that has the 2.9 It’s like, I can get you a 37 on the AC it doesn’t matter like the game’s over, because they’ve made enough mistakes GPA wise. So it’s not salesmanship. As you know, there’s people who just don’t realize, like, it’s not even ninth grade. It’s really eighth grade as you’re picking course selection and making sure that you get on the right math track to make sure you’re able to take the kinds of hard math classes the colleges want to see. So at a minimum at the beginning of ninth grade, parents need to be on it to make sure no GPA shenanigans are occurring, but it might occur earlier with some of the eighth grade math tracking, at least


Lisa Marker Robbins  4:49  

like where we are in the Greater Cincinnati area. I was just looking at a senior student that I’m working with his transcript. And it wasn’t just math that was being taken in eighth grade for high school credit and appearing on the high school transcript. It was also a physical science class. And Spanish one, it was foreign language. And I mean, there was also stuff in there they had taken their financial literacy, their health class and a gym class less impactful on that core course GPA. So for families that are listening, that have a younger student that’s going to take courses for high school credit in the eighth grade, like the trains left the station, and that high school GPA is being built. Can you talk a little bit like I heard you mentioned things like, no zero policies, and redos and makeups? Like I’m assuming these are the things that are leading to great inflation, GPA inflation. Can you tell us a little bit about the pressure that’s put on teachers and what you’re seeing in the classroom that’s leading to this? Because it’s this it didn’t just magically happen? What is the cause of it?


Brian Eufinger  6:01  

I mean, there’s, there’s 100, smaller, more common cases. And then there’s even rare dramatic cases where if you Google knows, zeros policies, it can be an Iowa it can be in Fairfax, Virginia, there’s hundreds of districts now, where you’re not allowed to give a student under 50%, even if they don’t turn the assignment in. So mathematically, like you don’t turn it in, you tell the teacher sorry, I don’t care, they have to give you a 50 which is totally emasculating and just neuter the teachers entire authority. My friends who are hated both feet are the event privately to me, because they can’t get in trouble administration because administration’s like, sorry. And so how do you get a kid to be motivated when they know that they have a high enough grade in the class that nothing they do with getting zeros or 50s, the rest of the semester, they still keep their A and so they won’t care, they’ll participate. And it really inflates the floor becomes 50. And some schools, some districts have to use some don’t have days, but like, you could almost just try for the first two weeks of the semester and pass in some situations. And then there’s people can drop quizzes, or you can do extra credit or credit recovery, where you can redo a test and gain back up to x percent of the points you missed. And if a student takes advantage of all those opportunities, it’s really hard to get a bad GPA and a lot of situations. Well, you know,


Lisa Marker Robbins  7:13  

it’s interesting, I had a friend of ours, Brooke Hanson on the podcast when we talked about AC T and LSAT test optional policies and a lot of great data that she had there. But you know, she’s like, What are we teaching our kids, right? Mindset wise work ethic wise, when we say oh, just take the test optional route. And don’t worry about it, like quit when the trying gets hard. Same thing with this no zero policies for grades. I mean, it’s not just about the transcript and the getting in, but what what are we teaching our future? What does that impact what I have, which I could talk about that forever? So we’re gonna stick with great information right now. But yeah, it’s unbelievable. So I know that you talked about be cognizant of, we’re building that GPA early on eighth grade, ninth grade, the trains left the station, and the gamification of GPA starts quite early as well. My students talk a little bit I see students chasing all the time AP courses and being trying to be strategic to be at that top of the class. And you I know have some insights around AP courses and how this compounds the issues with GPAs. What are your insights there?


Brian Eufinger  8:30  

So we track data a lot, a popular UGA website that we maintain, because it’s a important school for a lot of our clients. And there’s been a steady march forward, pretty much every year, somebody started the company, where kids are taking like, point 3.4 more AP classes than the prior year. So the middle 50% of kids that get into UGA took seven to 12 AP classes by graduation. Now, to be clear, that doesn’t mean they took seven to 12 exams far from it. For the metro areas around 10 is probably 1010 point something is probably the average. And so parents don’t realize that taking the AP class is the main use, sadly, for an AP class is it gets you the GPA bump because in my professional opinion, we tutor about 400 kids a year who get into UGA we have a good sample of those 400 My personal estimate, they probably take around nine or 10 APS by graduation, they might only sit for three or four exams. And they might only have a four or five on maybe one. And so AP I wish that I mean, if I were in charge, I would make it so you don’t even get the AP bonus your GPA unless you at least sit for the exam or vault if we want the balls you’re actually get a three or higher but that I will be tarred and feathered for demanding.


Lisa Marker Robbins  9:43  

I will say in the Greater Cincinnati area. There are schools that you are not going to be in that AP course unless you pay for your AP exam. And I mean you can’t hold a gun to somebody’s head and make them go on test day right but at the beginning of the school Year, I have seen policies from some school districts and I applaud this where it’s like, Hey, Matt is built into your school fees, that AP exam in the fall, it has to be paid when school is starting. And you’re basically given that directive that you will pay for the test now and you will sit for the test in May, I haven’t seen it taken as far as you are. I want to interject real quick, because we have listeners all over the United States and Canada. And those are the clients I serve inside my college major and career course are everywhere. So UGA University of Georgia, I know that you know that but just making sure everybody knows. And can you kind of give us the stats. I mean, you gave us a lot of information about what’s going on at the high schools with students who are applying to the University of Georgia, your state flagship for Georgia, where you live. But what are the stats for students who are getting into University of Georgia,


Brian Eufinger  10:57  

UGA Mr. Graves runs this great admissions blog, he’s very responsive. And when he scrutiny, he tweeted this one thing, I knew it already, just because of the students we work with, I screenshotted it so hard. He published the 92% of the total semester, grades earned by those who got in early action to University of Georgia last year, were A’s and about 7%, B’s and zero point whatever rounding error CDF combined, which, when you have the running back, and other things like it pretty much I mean, if you’re fairly competitive school, public, private, north, south, east, west, but if you don’t have a special hook, then pretty much you were getting around 11 A’s for every one beat, you know, about three points something B’s total, by the time you applied early action. So the half of symmetric straight A’s have a semesters one B was the technical average. Now I’m not from here Originally, I’m from I’m from Missouri. And so when we got here, the Hope Scholarship, which we have here in Georgia, for a lot of money, I’m jealous, they did not have that in Missouri. And so over the years as people have, wow, free, you know, how many colleges are, are worth $300,000 for the UGA, not zero, but not a million. And so right. His kids don’t realize how competitive a lot of the flagships of all states have been really getting


Lisa Marker Robbins  12:08  

much more. So yeah, I mean, I was in high school in the mid 80s. And it’s astronomical since then. I’m like you I was not graduating in this millennial. But that’s a whole nother story. So Brian, I mean, we’re talking a lot about what happens on the top end of this GPA. Students chasing a piece for grade inflation not sitting for the test grades are higher. But it makes me really curious, are we seeing a change in the middle or the bottom part of this as well?


Brian Eufinger  12:43  

Yeah, we actually are seeing, interestingly, not even more of an impact at the bottom of the top, because there’s always been the guy who’s the girl who’s getting 100 100,000,000%. I admire the small percent of schools that are very transparent, no public, no login is needed, where they publish their profile documents on their website, because well, meaning parents sometimes don’t find out till their second child in school, what the GPA distribution really was or never. And so this is a high school not very far from our office, I admire their transparency. Everyone’s eyes are drawn to the tip top, I want to look at two things grade compression. And then the bottom. People talk grade inflation, you can Google it millions of results. grade compression is you look at that middle 7% Right there. 94.81 87.64. So 50% of the entire student body falls into just around 7%. Now, Junior year is a cruel joke, because you’re taking more APs than ever. And you might have a boyfriend or girlfriend for the first time and make varsity sports for the first time and have SCT AC T prep on your plate. There’s a lot going on. So someone who not being super lazy, but just life happens. They fall air quotes only 4% on their cumulative Oh my God, in 40% of your friends just jumped over you and you just dramatically change your entire college list. I would prefer the school stretch it out. Because the most dramatic and understated number for those who aren’t doing this day in day out like you and I look at the bottom right corner that orange arrow. Does this mean? Is this hilarious? are sad are both? Does this mean that a single child for any reason the entire student body has lower than a 79? That makes me sad for America. Like that’s just it’s ridiculous. And imagine if you’re a parent who was unaware, I had a 79 and I still got into XYZ and like, it’s horrifying. And so you need to be honest with parents is this kind of data should be shared with the eighth graders in the Welcome to high school next year auditorium a little presentation because parents just have gaping mouths the entire auditorium.


Lisa Marker Robbins  14:41  

Right? I mean, what that does, so it creates I guess this false sense. And parents there’s hope that Oh, my kid’s gonna get in school x y z. And that when you see the compression here and where that bottom Ms. A, nobody’s getting grades below a B. That’s shocking, absolutely shocking.


Brian Eufinger  15:07  

My friend who’s a former college admissions officer at a top 25 University, he’s now an independent college consultant. He basically said that his least favorite part of his job at that top 25 School is he is really nerdy phrasing for parents. The operative range of the unweighted GPA spectrum at his school was about point one, two. What that means in English is, once you’re below a 3.88, unweighted, unless you had a running back or something special going on in your resume, like that’s, that’s psycho, 77. unweighted is for everyone v is the bare minimum to even be part of the operative range or get your app read or considered.


Lisa Marker Robbins  15:43  

You know, I’m thinking about how like, at least where I live, so few schools put class rank on any longer. And class rank. When I started 25 years ago, almost doing the job of being an independent educational consultant. class rank was regularly used. And that might be nice to bring back because it would show Oh, that kid with the B average is actually at the bottom of the class.


Brian Eufinger  16:13  

So there’s actually a slide that I’d like to praise the school one of the most transparent schools in Atlanta, the Walton High School publishes data on their website, if there were a national standard, I would love it if like NASDAQ or ICA, or both came out endorse, like, let’s, if we’re not gonna have class rank, because it creates stress with that granular level. Okay, fine. Agreed. But can we at least agree that a that a good high school profile should at least show this level of quintiles deciles, whatever. Because if you have a parent looks at this chart, whether they’re mathematically inclined or not, you can sort of see where my where my student lies. Now, this is a school where there happens to be a bit of great inflation, where parents realize, Wait, a 4.38 is not even top 10%. But at least this is transparent. And parents can see that. If you aren’t the 50th percentile at this high school. It’s a 3.65.


Lisa Marker Robbins  16:59  

Wow, first of all, bravo to that school. Love the transparency, I wish it was mandated that all schools needed to do that. Because what it does is it manages the expectations of the student, and the parents on building a healthy college list, which a huge part of that is just Can I get in that academic fit? So you’re a test provider? For South East US? What does this do to what you’re trying to do? Like you’re trying to help these families? What is the impact that you’re seeing now as speak as a test prep provider, not just somebody who’s kind of analyzing the data from a college admissions, independent educational consultant view.


Brian Eufinger  17:46  

So it’s a sliding scale, if you’re the secret salutatory and of your high school, you can probably get away with lower test scores. Or if you need to make up for some GPA oopss you might want to overshoot on the testing. But ethically, what breaks my heart is sometimes parents come to us they take a mock test get a cold, you know, 30 and the moms like so given we want to apply to schools X, Y and Z, right? Well, what’s the GPA? Pause? What’s the GPA? Like how many APs are you taking a month, like he’s on track to take no APS, he has a 2.9 30. And so I can’t take your money, like 30 is beyond amazing for any school that will ever be reasonable. And so that’s the whole most heartbreaking conversations. You know, it’s not about sales, you know, had they only found out in eighth grade, like we started talking about the beginning, like mom in that and that’s not a made up story like that happens, like your stereotypical, like, I’m the robotics boy Tinker, who like played maybe too much Xbox and got the 2.9. And I was apparently smart enough to get a cold 30 on a mock had mom only know she could have nudged and like such a different outcome could have been achieved. Yeah, well, we’re happy to help people with whatever their goal is, it could be getting higher scores to get into better schools. Or it could be I need three points to get the Zell Miller HOPE Scholarship and save mom a bunch of money, either one of those good, but the earlier we find that information that you can turn the either GPA or test score Titanic around,


Lisa Marker Robbins  19:03  

well, with test prep, there is a point where the return on the investments just not going to be there. So if you have the kid, who is if we actually were class ranking students, and that student we knew even though they had a 3.0, to your point on your other, the slide that you showed me that that’s in the bottom 25th percentile for that class, and we saw that it’s like, well, we might be able to get you up to whatever AC t score. However, there’s not going to be the return on the investment because that GPA as compared to your peers. Now you’re delivering the bad news is your GPA sound as good as you thought it was? And you’re not going to be able to get in.


Brian Eufinger  19:50  

I do want to say one thing that I always find it ironic because it’s one thing if somebody is inaccurate, is another thing and it’s literally 180 degrees. The wrong take when people refer to these standardized tests as stressful, like anyone can google how to delete an AC t score, and there’s plenty of links to tell you just how to do it. You can retake the test as many times as you need to what’s causing stress, not that you can take the test. My wife, I still take the LSAT, like they’ll happily take your money, even though we’re old. But the GPA, you can’t go back and undo and fix that c minus in Biology from freshman year, like, the stressful part is, is parents who want they realize, oh, no, I can’t go back and change those grades. They matter right now. Like, we can always take the AC t when we’re tired, we have to. So the fact that it’s always branded as the exact opposite tests are stressful school is just school, in my opinion, is the exact opposite of reality.


Lisa Marker Robbins  20:39  

I totally agree with you. I actually had a really interesting conversation with John Reiss. He works in admissions at the University of San Francisco. And I’ll link to this previous podcast if anybody it was about nursing admissions is what it was. But he made the point, you know, with nursing admissions, he said, to apply test optional to a nursing program is not in your best interest. Because nursing is heavily it’s a heavily tested major, you have to pass an exam to become a licensed nurse. And I think this also goes back to what Brooke and I were talking about that that mindset of like, oh, it’s hard. Right now, a lot of schools are test optional. So just opt out. But you know, and I know that there’s a lot of schools that say their test optional, but the data represents that they’re admitting students are


Brian Eufinger  21:32  

optional, in the same way that taking AP classes is optional. It means we won’t reject you automatically on site. But it’s, it sure helps a lot. And to your point, about test prep, we have families who may be applying to a third or fourth tier business school, and they might probably only going to score is going to let make them apply tests anyways. And their parents like oh, no, I realized this looks weird. I’m still doing it because he wants to be a CPA, he’s gonna be doing lots of nerdy math exams. And imagine if he doesn’t do this foundation building with you because he cheated his way through cyber school in the last three semesters during COVID. And he doesn’t know percentages, you know, the algebra one and algebra two fully virtual. And we’re going to build this foundation even if we’re not enough Semitic scores, because otherwise, when he goes to try to get into the business school, where you apply after the first two years to get in, like he will not be getting in probably. So it’s not just about the scores, it’s about that phone, the foundational skills, which, you know, COVID is not anyone’s fault. It’s a lot of kids lacked the foundation more than they ever had. This has always been true, but even more so now, a lot of kids had their most important classes that underlie because all the algebra and all the math you do in high school, it underlies econ physics, and every other business engineering architecture. Yeah, other than art history, like almost every major like you’re going to be using these high school math things that kids unfortunately got hit with


Lisa Marker Robbins  22:50  

during COVID. Gotta be able to test I always want to do with a college major and career course, I was like, no, if the career that you’re pursuing requires passing of exams to get licensed or earn important certifications, you know, actuarial science, nursing teaching, you’ve got to be able to test I think it’s interesting and, and I just saw this at the time that we’re recording, which is not the time that this was going to drop. But this week, AC T came out and showed that the average AC T has dropped rather significantly, for the first time in some time. And that test you and I both know is not changed. It’s not different. But both AC T and FA T are showing a lower average score now. And I have to go back to what you just said, the COVID impact of cheating or too many second chances, or this new zeros policy. And our students still need to know the material.


Brian Eufinger  23:54  

The journalists are not as steeped in this stuff as we are. So it’s not their fault. But the article said that the average AC T dropped below 20 For the first time in a long, long time. 19.8 that is with 30% fewer test takers. Think who’s opting out, not the high scoring paper. And so if everyone were taking the test, can you imagine how much worse it would have been 19.1? It would have been probably three times the drop because you’re exercising almost surgically. The worst test takers most likely. And so yeah, I mean, the COVID learning loss is real. I will say one thing during early COVID We had kids who tried to pretend and lie to us. Like I can read your face. You’re fibbing. They’re owning it now is like first we have to start from place of honesty and then let’s work path to where they will just deadpan to me in sessions when they’re getting a really easy math question wrong. I’m not gonna lie. I played X Box during every minute of algebra one and Algebra Two. I don’t even know. I had a person call it colon a to Dottie. I’m not too that’s that’s a word. I mean, I’ve had one person or two people not knowing trapezoid is, but a two Dottie for a colon


Lisa Marker Robbins  25:03  

to Daddy. Oh, wow, I think that’s a perfect note to end on. As a two daddy, who knew what was once I learned something every day. Thank you for expanding my mind on that Brian. So Brian, this was so insightful This is crucial information for not only families to have it can guide conversations with their teen on their grades and the importance of grades but I hope that we have a lot of school partners and friends listen to it as well. Thanks Brian for making time


Brian Eufinger  25:35  

happy to help.


Lisa Marker Robbins  25:39  

Not a pleasant topic right?  however, as a guide to your family’s college bound journey. It’s my job to give accurate advice not popular advice that always leaves you feeling good. My college bound challenge for your family this week is take some time to examine your student’s grades and GPA. I suggest your conversation includes discussing the value of taking AP test when also taking AP courses and figuring out your students unweighted core course GPA, which means removing the fluffy stuff that’s often health art classes PE and others. If your school publishes class rank, find out where your team stands in relation to the rest of their graduating class. You want to enter making a college list and later applying to college with eyes wide open in order to best position your student per successful outcome. If today’s episode was helpful to you, please share it with a friend who needs this too. You might even want to share it with those that work at your school to find out how they’re handling grade inflation they’re sharing following the podcast rating and reviewing helps us resource more students to launch into a successful future. Thank you for listening to the College and Career Clarity podcast where I help your family move from overwhelmed, confused to motivated, clear and confident about your team’s future.