The Academic Senate has formed an ad-hoc committee to explore whether the college should switch its grading scale from a full letter grading system to a plus/minus grading system.

The measure, proposed by committee co-chairs, history Instructor Susie Ling and biology Instructor Debra Folsom, is said to grade students on a more accurate scale as opposed to the current system.

“Bottom line: it helps the B+ and C+ students and hurts the A- and B- students,” Ling explained in an email.

In the current system, in a class that is graded on a 100-point scale, if one student receives 89 points and another receives only 83 points then both students would receive a B as their final grade, a 3.0 grade point average in the class.

“In disciplines where letter grades are often given to assignments in lieu of “points,” a diligent student who has earned a borderline C+/B- (2.5) is often given the higher, “B” grade, while another diligent student, who has earned a solid B+ (3.3) is bumped down to a B (3.0). There is a .8 (almost an entire grade point) difference between the quality level of the student work.” stated Diana Savas, a member of the ad-hoc committee on plus/minus grading, in an email.

In the proposed plus/minus system, the student with 89 points would receive a B+ grade, a 3.7 GPA, whereas the student with 83 points might receive a B- grade, a 2.7 GPA. However the proposal states that students receiving an A+ grade will not receive any additional points and earn a 4.0 GPA just like A students. State regulations also prohibit the use of a C- grade.

“The “whole grade” system does not recognize this large discrepancy in quality level, while the plus/minus system allows the professor to raise the C+/B- to a B- (2.7), while accurately reporting the much higher quality level of work done by the B+ (3.3) student. The .6 difference is significant–more than half a letter grade.

The scenario is the same, or even more critical, when we consider the student who earns a D+/C-, who will be bumped up to a “C” and the student with the solid C+ work, who is bumped down to the “C” grade.” Said Savas. “With the ”whole grade” system, the students with the borderline or weaker grades (including those who are a hair’s breathe away from failing) benefit, while the students with the better quality work get penalized. The plus/minus grading more accurately reflects the real quality-level of the student’s work.”

“I want to support the B+ student,” said Ling. “For years I felt that if you got a B+ and he got a B- you both get a B on the record, and that is not fair. I know the difference between 82 and 83, and to only give [an] A, B, or C, is just really unfair to the student.”

According to an informational email sent out to adjunct faculty regarding the measure, seven of the eight undergraduate UC schools and 21 of 23 CSUs use a plus/minus grading system. It is hoped that by adopting this new grading system that it will help make transferring students’ transition into these four-year universities easier.

The Academic Senate has sent out a survey to faculty asking whether or not they approve of the proposal. Should it receive a majority approval, the Senate will bring it up for a vote later in the semester. The Associated Students will discuss its position on the issue at their meeting on Jan. 23.

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