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Plus/Minus grading concerns at forefront for students


Drake University’s Faculty Senate is proposing a change to a plus/minus grading system. The topic has come up several times at Drake, but in the spring of 2012, the faculty began a serious investigation into the subject. Bruce Gilbert, director of library operations for Drake, was selected by the Faculty Senate Executive Committee to head this investigation.

According to a survey conducted by the Faculty Senate, 42 percent of Drake’s faculty is strongly in favor of the change while only 13 percent strongly oppose it. One of the reasons motivating the change is that it suggested that plus/minus grading will reduce grade inflation. However, according to the “Implementation and Evaluation of Grade and Modifier Systems” by the Education Advisory Board, grade modifiers do not reduce grade inflation once in effect.

The 2011-2012 Student Body President, Greg Larson, wrote a letter to the Faculty Senate in which he suggested a plus/minus grading system would be “harmful” to the general student body.

Junior Emily Gadient agrees with Larson.

“People with higher GPAs would be affected negatively rather than positively,” Gadient said.  She added it would hurt those doing well in school and reward those doing poorly. Larson and Gadient also agree that while plus/minus grading could possibly reduce grade inflation, grade inflation is not a pressing issue at Drake.

One of the surveyed schools in the “Implementation and Evaluation of Grade and Modifier Systems” suggests that a plus/minus grading system might motivate students to work harder for higher grades, because there would be smaller intervals for them to work toward.

First-year Logan White agrees with this because he’d “rather take ‘A-minus’ than a ‘B.’“

“The further down the grading scale you go, the better it looks,” White said. “If a student really wants an ‘A-plus,’ they will put forward the extra five percent.”

First-year AnaEliza Chelf, questions the need to fix a system that seems to be working.

Junior Arthur Wright agrees with this, saying that the change is simply “unnecessary.” Wright said college students should be able to look at the percentages themselves and don’t have a need for more specific grading levels.

The Academic Affairs Committee Chair Stephen Slade, opposes the change for several reasons. Most importantly, the majority of students also oppose the change. Slade feels that it brings up concerns regarding the way extracurricular activities will be affected if more emphasis is placed on grades. He says he fears, “  … it would deter academic risk-taking for students who want to stay on the safe side,” in more creatively focused majors.

“This could have huge impacts on students applying to graduate or professional programs with highly competitive GPA requirements,” Slade said

Senior Bryn Goldberg also opposes the change, even though it won’t affect her, she thinks, “A ‘B’ looks a lot better than a ‘B-minus.’”

First-year Henry Carlson agrees with this thought and feels the current system “benefits students more.” Many students including  first-year Michaela Oleson also concur.

“It allows for error and gives you a little extra room to show your potential,” Oleson said.

Student Senate has been talking to students during their outreach hours and has come to the general conclusion that the student body is against the change.

Student Senate held a town hall-style forum on Oct. 10, from 5-6 p.m. in the Cowles Library fishbowl to discuss the issue and bring together the opinions of faculty and students.

An article concerning the town hall meeting will be in the next edition  of the TD.


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