Although TCU’s plus/minus grading scale was implemented four years ago, it remains a topic of debate on campus.
The scale, recommended by TCU Faculty Senate in September 2005, was voted against by the Texas House of Student Representatives in 2006 but went into effect a year later, in August 2007. Undergraduate, graduate and transfer students entering TCU during or after fall 2007 are subject to the grading system, while those entering before are not.
According to the FAQs on the Plus/Minus Grading document released by the Faculty Senate in spring 2006, the grading system was adopted to “more accurately reflect differing levels of student performance,” with no A-plus “because the plus/minus system is still a 4.0 system, and an A is 4 points.”
The document stipulates that individual instructors reserve the right to decide whether or not to use plus/minus grading.
Prior to the implementation of the plus/minus scale, a student earning an 82 percent and one earning an 89 percent would both receive a “B.”
Once the scale was put into effect, the student with an 89 percent would make a B-plus and more grade points than the student with the 82 percent, who would receive a B-minus.
Most universities that use the plus/minus system require all faculty to use it.
TCU does not require the system, and those instructors who choose to use it set different benchmarks for plus and minus grades. As a result, some students have expressed concerns about grade discrepancies.
SGA Vice President of External Affairs Caroline Wiersgalla said students want the plus/minus system to be more fair.
“Students see it as a negative thing because there is no A-plus,” she said. “They want to either add an A-plus or get rid of the A-minus.”
Associate Professor of Professional Practice in Management and Faculty Senate Student Relations Chair Ted Legatski said whether students and faculty like the scale or not, it’s here to stay. If students want to change the system in any way, they must be the ones to initiate a review, he said.
Wiersgalla said she wanted to see a positive change in the plus/minus system. Many students, who are willing to work with the faculty and want to see things equalized, are willing to sign a petition to add A-plus to the scale, she said.
Legatski was not in favor of the scale in the beginning, but is still committed to working with it, he said.
“It’s in place, so I’m certainly going to support the policy,” he said.
The plus/minus scale helps students take the elements of grading seriously, he said. Instead of “blowing off” a final exam that might not have previously made a difference in a letter grade, students are more likely under the system to work harder for the difference between letter grades, he said.
Wiersgalla said at a competitive university like TCU, the plus/minus scale rewards students who put in more effort in their classes.
The system can hurt students as well, she said.
For students applying to graduate school who have had “the negative effects of the plus/minus system on their GPAs,” not being represented well by their grades can keep them from being accepted, Wiersgalla said.
Wiersgalla said she hoped SGA and the faculty senate could work together to reach an agreement about the grading scale.