Average High School GPAs Increased since 1990

Average high school GPAs have increased since 1990.

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Male and female high school graduates are scoring higher grades, according to the U.S. Department of Education. The mean grade point average for female high school graduates was 3.10 in 2009, .33 higher than the average GPA for young women in 1990. The average GPA for male high school graduates over the same period rose .31 points to 2.90. Some say this means American high schools are churning out smarter, harder-working students. But others suggest GPAs have been boosted by "grade inflation," the idea that teachers are simply giving higher grades for the same level of academic achievement. Studies from ACT and College Board, the companies that run the two preeminent college-entrance exams, show GPAs increased while scores on the standardized ACT and SAT did not, a phenomenon they say likely indicates inflation. ACT estimates the average GPA inflation was about .25 on a scale of 4.0 between 1991 and 2003, though the 2005 study’s authors believe even that number understates the actual amount of grade inflation. Whether from hard work or grade inflation, GPAs grew the most for students with lower standardized test scores, and the least for those with higher scores on the SAT or ACT. The chart below tracks the rise of high school GPAs for male and female graduates.