Many critics argue that American college students seem to earn grades that are too high, or too high at least for the actual effort they’re putting in. In 1991 the average college GPA was 2.93. In 2006 the average college GPA was 3.11.

Well, guess which students earn the highest grades? It’s future teachers. According to a new study by Cory Koedel published by the American Enterprise Institute:

Students who take education classes at universities receive significantly higher grades than students who take classes in every other academic discipline. The higher grades cannot be explained by observable differences in student quality between education majors and other students, nor can they be explained by the fact that education classes are typically smaller than classes in other academic departments.

This is despite the fact that education majors have the lowest high school grades and standardized test scores of all college students.

Now obviously there’s nothing we can do about this from a policy perspective. Grades are awarded by professors. If they think their students all deserve As and Bs (the average classroom-level grade GPA in American education departments is 3.8), well, that’s their prerogative.

But this is an important thing to keep in mind when discussing standards-based reform and rewarding and punishing teachers based on student achievement. Tough grading might be sort of a novel concept for many teachers.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer