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Tests and the Rest: College Admissions Industry Podcast

Dec 3, 2019

Grade inflation often seems like a trivial offense, a somewhat victimless crime. However, evidence suggests the exact opposite, that the practice undermines students, corrodes institutions, and perpetuates privilege. Amy and Mike invited researcher and professor Seth Gershenson Ph.D to enumerate the many reasons why grade inflation is harmful.

 What are five things you will learn in this episode?

  1. What are the three different types of grade inflation and how do they manifest?
  2. How does grade inflation hurt students?
  3. How does grade inflation hurt institutions?
  4. How does grade inflation impede equity?
  5. What policies might address or improve this situation?


Seth Gershenson is Associate Professor of Public Policy in the School of Public Affairs (SPA) at American University. He is also Research Fellow at the Institute of Labor Economics (IZA), Senior Technical Advisor to Institute for Education Policy at Johns Hopkins, and Coordinator of SPA’s Analytics and Management Institute. Professor Gershenson works broadly in the economics of education and education policy, with specific interests in teacher labor markets, summer learning loss, student absences, community-wide shocks, teacher expectations and implicit bias, and the causes and consequences of the underrepresentation of teachers of color. 

Seth’s research has been funded by the Spencer Foundation, the American Educational Research Association, W.E. Upjohn Institute, Association for Institutional Research, and Google; published in leading education-policy academic journals; and featured in media outlets such as USA Today, The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, NPR, The Washington Post, Huffington Post, Vox, NBC News, and The Atlantic. Professor Gershenson received his Ph.D. in Economics from Michigan State University in 2011. You can learn more about Professor Gershenson’s research here.

Find Seth at


Grade Inflation in High Schools (2005–2016)

The Reality of Grade Inflation

High School Grades: Higher and Higher

Elite Prep Schools in L.A. and Across the U.S. Are Brazenly Inflating Grades


Tests and the Rest is THE college admissions industry podcast. Explore all of our episodes on the show page.