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Grades and Scores

Are teachers inflating grades? The latest evidence comes from the College Board, which administers the SAT exams.

The board sees average scores on its exam trending down while the average grades of graduating high school seniors are going up. One conclusion: More A's mean devalued A's.

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But other factors could be at work than over-generous teachers. Advanced placement high school courses are more numerous, and they often bring higher grades for students able to complete the work. And perhaps reforms and tougher curricula are starting to take hold in some districts, improving student performance.

Still, the grades-SAT gap raises genuine concerns, particularly in the "verbal" area. There, SAT scores are disturbingly low. Critics of the US education system blame flabby English instruction that shortchanges vocabulary-building and rules of grammar.

An even more likely culprit is the flood of poor language usage on the electronic media, which absorb so much of kids' time. Hours spent with books, and dictionaries, remain indispensable preparation for a decent SAT score - or for college learning.

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