New grading scale to be implemented

The Provost Council and the Faculty Senate have announced a change in Gannon University’s undergraduate grading scale that will be implemented in the 2012 fall semester.

The new scale adds minuses to the A, B and C grades, meaning the GPA score for each minus grade will dip three-tenths of a point lower than the current scale, which only distinguished between B-and C-pluses.

The change to the grading scale was put forward to a faculty vote in the end of February, according to Linda Fleming, Ph.D., interim provost and vice president of academic affairs. Seventy-eight percent of voting faculty members voted to support the change.

Fleming said the topic of changing the grading scale has been in and out of conversation for the past several years. Last spring Fleming said she brought up the grading scale change again, but the proposal finally got some steam when she was named to the interim provost position.

Faculty members feel the new grading scale has a number of benefits, including balancing the grades issued to undergraduate and graduate students. Fleming said the old scale presented issues for professors who taught both undergraduates and graduates in the same class.

“If I gave a graduate student a B-plus,” Fleming said, “it would have different quality points than if I gave an undergraduate a B-plus. There was an inconsistency in our grading scales across levels.”

The only way in which the graduate scale differs from the new undergraduate one is there is no C-minus or D on the graduate scale, but Fleming said that no graduate programs give those grades in the first place.

Sheila Gross, a second-year graduate student in the English program, said she doesn’t like that the new undergraduate scale is aimed to equate the grading of undergraduate and graduate students.

“I understand it more for graduate students because you’re in a more challenging part of your education,” Gross said. “The grading scale should reflect the higher challenge of taking a graduate course load.

“When the undergraduate years become just as challenging as the graduate years, then there’s no increase of difficulty when you get to graduate school.”

According to Fleming, another factor that went into the decision to change the grading scale was the inconsistency of the transcripts of transfer students. She said the biggest discrepancy with the former scale arose because Gannon only accepted transfer credits at the C but not the C-minus.

“Yet when our students would transfer to other universities – because we don’t have a C-minus – it would have wrapped into the C and those credits would transfer,” Fleming said. “There was an inconsistency between what we would accept and what would be accepted by other institutions our students were transferring to.”

Fleming said faculty members supported the change because it gave them more flexibility to grade fairly. The plus-only system created a gap the size of 0.5 GPA points for an 88 or 89 percent grade while spreading a 3.0 from 80 to 87.

“If you look at that grading scale, 80-87 is a B, yet somehow 88 and 89 are uniquely different and then 90 and above is an A,” Fleming said. “So part of the concern is that you’ve got this kind of unusual for the 78 to 79 or 88 to 89 that gives it a fairly substantial boost of 0.5 GPA points.”

“So when I took the proposal forward, my concern was they’re all inconsistent but the scale is out of balance; there are pluses without minuses.”

English professor Phil Kelly, D.A., said that he missed the vote for the grading scale change but that he agrees with it. He said that this new scale does a better job of accurately reporting the grade that a student has achieved, and that it reflects what he does in his classroom.

“What I do for assessing final grades is I look at points accumulated and the percentage of points earned determines the grade that the student deserves,” Kelly said.

Kelly admitted that he understands why students might be upset at the change.

“Maybe the point is there isn’t any perfect grading system,” Kelly said. “But I’m happy to grade with whatever scale the university wants to use.”

Sophomore physician assistant major Lyndsey Walker said she didn’t approve of the change to the grading scale and warned that now students might not want to take difficult courses that might detract points from their GPA.

“Gannon’s class options are going to suffer,” Walker said, “because students won’t want to risk taking a more difficult class just to come away with a lower GPA.”

Fleming said she hopes that the new grading scale will not affect what classes students elect to take.

“I would hope they would make decisions about courses based on their majors, interests and their desires to learn specific content,” she said.

Lexie Mastro, a sophomore physician assistant major and vice president of academic affairs for the Student Government Association, said although she and other student representatives were in correspondence with the Provost Council and Faculty Senate, SGA opposed the change in the grading scale.

“We voted no; I don’t think that anyone would say this is a good thing for students,” Mastro said. “Especially for anyone in a pre-professional program where you have to maintain a certain GPA, it’s going to be much harder to maintain a 3.0 and stay in your program.”

Mastro said she suggested to the administration that the new grading scale be introduced only to incoming freshman while current Gannon students would keep to the current scale.

“I made a grandfather clause suggestion,” Mastro said. “But this isn’t possible because of the possibility of having freshmen and seniors in the same class.

Gross said she feels that economic downturn and the difficulty of finding successful careers have pressed the motion to change the grading scale.

“Any time you get an A it should be a 4.0,” Gross said. “Ninety percent isn’t enough to get a 4.0 now, just like getting a bachelor’s degree isn’t enough to get a good job these days. Now you need to have a master’s to get a decent job.”

Junior political science major Brett Rowland said he supports the change, both in respect to its effect on Gannon students and in principle of bettering education in the United States.

“We’re trending toward mediocrity as a country,” Rowland said. “You can breeze through and still get an A or a 4.0.

“Not everyone is cut out to be an A student and this change kind of serves as a reality check. The new grading scale challenges us to improve our academic standing with other countries.”

Fleming said that students have asked her how scholarships will be affected by the change, and she said she assured them the policy would remain the same as it is now.

“We don’t award scholarships with the purpose of taking them away,” Fleming said. “The intent is to work with students to keep their scholarships.”

Despite all of the uproar the change to the grading scale has caused, Fleming said she expects students to adapt and embrace the change’s long-term benefits.

“Most institutions out there use some kind of a plus or minus system,” Fleming said. “It’s going to be a period of adjustment for all of us.

“It wasn’t designed to hurt or punish people. That’s certainly not the intent. It was made to make the university stronger and make the grades more accurate.”

 

DAN KUBACKI

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