A very interesting question, especially in the light of decades of
accusations of ?grade inflation.?
There have been 3 broad studies of U.S. high school students done sine
1972. Each involved about 15,000 to 20,000 students on whom data was
collected during their whole high school experience. They are:
National Education Longitudinal Study (1972)
High School and Beyond (1982)
National Education Longitudinal Study (1992)
The data is extensive, including a large amount of demographic
information, and there are dozens of analyses of it. But there are
several frustrations in using it. First, some call the 1992 report on
high school seniors NELS: 88, referring to the year that it started.
Others call it NELS 1992, representing the year the study group
Second, the actual GPA data that you?re seeking doesn?t seem to be
clearly broken out in any of the Department of Education reports:
National Center for Education Statistics
?National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988?
However, we have a report from the Rand Corporation in 2002 did an
analysis of grade point averages from the 1982 and 1992 studies and
it has some very readable graphs. It?s only flaw: we have to estimate
percentages from the charts.
The Rand study is linked below, with the second link having the
detailed data that you?re seeking:
?Changes in High School Grading Standards in Mathematics, 1982-1992,?
(Koretz & Berends, 2002)
?Shifting Grades Over a Decade??
The grades are defined in the NELS database this way:
A, A+ = 4.0
A- = 3.7
B+ = 3.3
B = 3.0
B- = 2.7
C+ = 2.3
C = 2.0
C- = 1.7
D+ = 1.3
D = 1.0
D- = 0.7
F = 0.0
HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR GPA (1992)
A, A+ 6%
D and lower: less than 1%
The study notes the following that may be of interest in summarizing grades:
? mean GPA increased from 2.56 to 2.63 between 1982 and 1992
? the percentage of students with a GPA of 3.0 (B) or higher went from
42 percent to 46 percent
? those with a 3.3 (B+) went from 28% to 31%
? changes in GPA were insignificant between males and females, Rand reports
? GPAs increased slightly more for students with mothers who attended
at least some college courses, even as this group grew from 29% of the
population to 35% between 1982 and 1992.
The Rand report also breaks down GPAs in math, science and English
courses, should that be of interest to you at some point.
Google search strategy:
?grade inflation? U.S. ?high school?
?National Education Longitudinal Study?
NELS 1992 GPA