Plus/Minus grading

Feb 082004
Authors: Leigh Pogue

Over the years faculty and students have had varying opinions of

the grading system used at CSU.

According to junior Dustin Zvonek, a political science major who

is the director of academics for the Associated Students of CSU, in

1997 the faculty wanted to change from a traditional grading system

of only A, B, C, D and F to a plus/minus grading system. At that

time the students were against it.

In 1999, students decided they wanted to have plus/minus grading

and the current policy was instated.

CSU allows plus/minus grading for faculty who want to use it,

but it is not mandatory.

Plus/minus grading was made optional because there were

different opinions at the time and it was a compromise between it

being mandatory and not having it at all, said C.W. Miller, chair

of the Faculty Council and interim department head of biomedical


Miller said teachers who use plus/minus grading are in the


For John Waldren, an anatomy and physiology professor, having

plus/minus grading as an option is ideal for him.

“I like it in the sense that I would not like to have plus/minus

grading imposed on me,” Waldren said.

In the case of Waldren’s class, where the grading scale changes

from class to class depending on the mean grade of the class, a

cutoff line has to be made for every grade.

“Plus/minus grading increases the number of painful times I have

to make those cuts,” Waldren said. “There’s a winner and a loser

every time.”

Jill Lysengen, a junior technical journalism major, is in favor

of plus/minus grading.

“If you work hard enough to get a plus grade you should have a

higher GPA,” Lysengen said.

Miller does not see many downsides to using the plus/minus


“It’s a better reflection of a person’s grade,” Miller said.

Students who dislike plus/minus grading point out the fact that

it is not possible to get an A-plus, but it is possible to get an

A-minus, which carries a GPA lower than a 4.0.

Also, two students can be taking the same course in different

sections and can get the same percentage in the class but a

different grade, depending on whether or not the teacher gives out

pluses and minuses, Zvonek said. This in turn can change their GPA,

possibly lowering it.

“I think that it needs to be standard throughout the whole

university,” Lysengen said.

To help solve this problem ASCSU put out a resolution to all the

departments to recommend making the grading scale consistent within

each department.

Miller thinks that having uniformity within departments is a

“great idea.”

Zvonek said it is not realistic to make the grading scale the

same throughout the university.

In doing research to compare CSU’s grading with other

universities, the University of Georgia is the only school with a

grading scale where the percentages for each letter grade are the

same across the board, Zvonek said.

“Our system was consistent with other universities,” he


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