Dec 122004
Authors: Megan Schulz

As the fall semester comes to a close and final grades are decided, the fate of many students' GPAs could be altered because of the plus/minus grading system.

The plus/minus grading system, utilized by many CSU professors, depicts a student's GPA more precisely by assigning a grade based on percentage instead of just using the letter grade.

Without the plus/minus system, two students could both receive 4.0 grade points for the same class, even if one student earned a 92 percent and the other earned a 98 percent. With plus/minus grading, the student with the lower grade would receive an A-, which gives students only 3.667 grade points.

Courtney Cage, director of academics for the Associated Students of CSU, said a positive aspect of the plus/minus grading system is that it offers a more precise display of grades on college transcripts.

"I think it's good in the fact that it allows for a better depiction of student performance," said Cage, a senior biological sciences major.

Karen Raines, a biology professor who uses plus/minus grading, agreed.

"I think (plus/minus grading is) a good idea because (without it) if a student has an 80 percent and another student has an 89 percent, they both get a B," Raines said. "This doesn't truly reflect the effort the students put into the class."

There is no university-wide standard for plus/minus grading. It is up to the professors whether they choose to use plus/minus grading.

"Different professors for the same class with the same exams and syllabi may have different grading styles, and two students who earned the exact same grades could end up with different GPAs," Cage said.

In March 2003, CSU's Committee of Teaching and Learning proposed a memorandum requiring "either whole letter grades or plus/minus grading to be applied uniformly in all sections of a course taught in a semester." The Faculty Council turned down the memorandum.

"It's difficult to tell teachers what they can and cannot do," Cage said. "They want flexibility to feel how to do the best grading system for their classes. There is a lot of resistance by faculty to get plus/minus grading standardized."

Cage thinks it is impossible to standardize plus/minus grading on a university level.

If students feel a teacher's grading system is unfair, there are avenues they can take to make sure they receive fair grades.

On the course syllabus, teachers must specify what type of grading system they are going to use for the class. If they change it mid-semester, students can bring the issue up with the department head, Cage said.

Raines exercises her right to grade as she feels is appropriate for her classes but said students do not always like receiving minuses because they lowers their GPAs.

"I determine the (grading) scale before I start assigning grades," Raines said. "I typically give more pluses."

Some students believe the grading system needs to be standardized to be fair.

"I don't think anybody likes (plus/minus grading)," said Shane Haggard, a freshman open-option student. "I think it should be regulated instead of left up to the professors."

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