Now You Know

Old grading scale causes new debate
Tuesday, November 30, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 8:46 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

A 7-year-old rule is causing confusion among some MU professors.

In December 1997, the MU faculty adopted a mandatory plus/minus grading scale, but the change was not recorded in the Faculty Handbook, according to Bill Lamberson, chairman of the MU Faculty Council Academic Affairs Committee.

Some faculty members don’t realize the grading scale is a requirement or think they still have the autonomy to decide their own scale, Faculty Council member Bruce Cutter said. This means some teachers opt for a straight-grade scale, and there is concern among faculty and students that this makes grading unfair.

“Plus/minus grading made a difference in having a 3.52 (grade point average) and a 3.67 last fall,” said MU senior James Peppers, who received an A-minus instead of an A and a B-plus instead of an A-minus.

Jill Raitt, who teaches in the Center for Religion, the Professions and the Public at MU, said that she understands student concerns but that plus/minus grading can give students the benefit of the doubt.

“It is difficult to justify a B for a student who just misses being an A-minus,” she said. “B-plus will reward that student for points earned.”

Cutter said grade inflation was an initial concern with the plus/minus scale. Raitt said the scale minimizes inflation.

“I know that A-minus students would rather receive straight A’s, but that would be to give such students higher grades than they earned,” she said.

The issue isn’t up for debate, Lamberson and Cutter said. The problem is simply in getting the message across to faculty. Most departments have stressed the necessity of using a plus/minus scale this semester.

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