Tech considering plus, minus grading system

Tech’s grading scale is subject to change to the plus and minus system after considerations from faculty and staff.

A mass email sent Feb. 2 contained a survey asking faculty members and students their opinion on Tech’s grading scale.

A subcommittee of the University’s Curriculum Committee is considering revising the grading scale to allow plus and minus grades, or some variation. The SGA is not involved in the survey, Ilyssa Crouch, senator for the College of Arts and Sciences, said.

The current grading system is a 4.0 quality point scale. President Phil Oldham touched on the subject during his chat with students and faculty Feb. 22.

“I don’t have a strong position on that, [regarding the change to plus/minus] that’s a discussion that’s debated on campus from time to time. I didn’t feel the benefit warranted going to that,” Oldham said.

Plus and minus grading scales can vary among each university and professors. A common example of a plus/minus scale is:

A          4.0

A-        3.7

B+       3.3

B          3.0

B-        2.7

C+        2.3

C          2.0

C-         1.7

D         1.0

F          0.0

Truman University in Missouri found there to be greater fairness when using the plus and minus scale, students who do B+ quality work will get a better grade than those who do B- quality work. This system of grading, there is a greater range for error when recording grades.

“I found it a little unrealistic that most of us as faculty members have that much precision in our grade distribution to make that fine of a distinction,” Oldham said.

The University of Tennessee Knoxville uses the plus and minus system. UTK changed the weight of their letter grades in the fall of 2008.

“Its helped in some classes, the extra little points does count. The difference in gpa points from a C- to a C can make a difference. The only downside is that straight A students don’t get that 4.0 gpa,” John Hendricks a junior at UTK said, “I think the pros outweigh the cons.”

The system of plus and minus has been a positive impact to some students, while others think it has hurt their grade rather than help.

“I do not like the system. It’s easier to get a lower grade than a higher one with the plus and minus grading. Your gpa can fall a lot quicker and its harder to bring it back up,” Ramsey Parker, a freshman at UTK, said.

Research shows that the most common reason universities switch to a plus and minus grading scale is to motivate students to learn and work harder. Using the plus and minus system makes it easier for faculty to calculate student improvement among semesters.

Some TTU students do not agree with the grading change.

“The grading system seems like a bad idea because students will have to work harder but still not get the grade they think they deserve," Zach Ring, a senior majoring in marketing, said.

If the new grading scale were to be implemented, current students would not be affected according to the email containing the survey.