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MU grades examined show majority in 2007 were A’s and B’s

Monday, May 12, 2008 | 5:57 p.m. CDT; updated 12:49 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

COLUMBIA — It’s the end of another semester, and college students are focused on one thing: grades. They might take comfort in the following statistics from MU.

A Missourian analysis of data from the Registrar’s Web site shows that in 2007, more than three-quarters of all grades received by MU students were A’s and B’s.

Records show that last year, 41 percent of the grades were A’s and 35 percent were B’s. It was the largest percentage of A’s in 10 years.

Still, the grading pattern from 1998 to 2007 has been relatively steady.

An average of 39 percent A’s and 36 percent B’s have been awarded in the past 10 years. The number of D’s and F’s holds at just below 8 percent of total grades.

The data set includes both graduate and undergraduate students.

The findings are far from a bell-curve distribution where almost 70 percent of students would receive C’s.

According to the bell-curve method, C’s should be the majority of grades, but MU data indicates that A’s were the majority in the past 10 years.

The MU Faculty Council decides grading policies. The faculty controls how many points a student needs to receive an A and what assessments will be used to determine the grades in their class, said Jim Spain, MU vice provost for undergraduate studies.

The current system for undergraduates is a plus/minus system. Definitions for each grade can be found on the MU Faculty Council Web site facultycouncil.missouri.edu.

An A is awarded for a performance of outstanding quality; a B for superior but less than outstanding performance; a C for adequate performance; a D for performance that marginally meets minimum standards; and an F indicates a level of performance that is unacceptable.

While these definitions cannot be strictly and universally applied, they are intended to provide a standard for judgment, according to the Web site.

Applying those definitions to the grade data from 2007 suggests that three out of four MU students delivered superior or outstanding performance in their classes.

Spain said he didn’t think the high percentage of A’s could be attributed to a decrease in academic rigor on campus. He pointed to a number of possible contributing factors: Recruitment of students with higher academic ability; more participation in freshmen interest groups and learning communities; and high expectation from teachers.

MU senior Ingrid Hettick, a nursing major with a cumulative GPA of 3.65, said two of her hardest classes were human physiology and pharmacology. She made an A in both courses, but said she studied until she knew the material, which meant about 15 hours per test.

“I actually read and outlined the entire pharmacology book and taught the material to myself,” Hettick said. “This is one of the few books I’ve read entirely in college.”

An analysis of the summer semesters from 1998 to 2007 shows that MU students received 10 percent more A’s in the summer than during the winter or fall semesters.

The higher percentage of A’s in the summer semesters may be explained by both fewer hours and distractions for students, Spain said.

“The smaller class load and increased student attention leads to improved academic success rates,” he said.

MU sophomore Julie Hutton, an early childhood and elementary education major with a cumulative GPA of 3.95, has never made less than an A minus.

“I go to class, I pay attention, and I study,” Hutton said.

She took two summer courses in 2007 and said the additional time to socialize made her lose focus; she had to make herself study.

“I probably spent an hour or two a day studying depending on the assignments,” Hutton said.

“That’s more than other semesters. In the summer, we had stuff assigned every single day as opposed to weekly assignments.”

During fall and winter semesters, Hutton said she hardly does any schoolwork during the beginning of the week due to other activities, but she uses Thursday night and Friday as her main study times.

She said she also studies throughout the week depending on how much time she has available.

When asked about future trends, Spain said MU continues to improve programs to improve student success.

“I can’t predict it, but I can tell you the campus is working hard to support teaching and learning and provide opportunities for students to be successful if they work hard,” he said.


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