Plus/minus approval pending, professor says

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    The outcome of the plus/minus grading system could be determined soon, said a senator on the Faculty Senate Academic Excellence Committee.The proposal, which will allow professors to use a plus or a minus after a letter grade, must still pass before the University and Graduate councils later this month at a date and time still to be determined, said David Grant, a member of the Faculty Senate Academic Excellence Committee.

    Grant, professor and chairman of the religion department, and Bob Neilson, a chemistry professor, met with the Student Government Association Sept. 6 to hear students’ comments and concerns about the plus/minus system.

    Jace Thompson, SGA vice president and chairman for campus advancement, spoke at the meeting on behalf of his peers.

    “I feel that there will be too many inconsistencies in the plus/minus grading system, since not every teacher has to grade a certain way,” said Thompson, a junior management major.

    Students are concerned about the plus/minus grading system because it puts a stronger emphasis on grades, Thompson said, rather than allowing students to focus on the learning experience.

    SGA also asked Grant to provide the reasoning behind plus/minus grading.

    Grant said it is all about finding a better way to evaluate students’ academic performances.

    “This will give us a better tool in which to evaluate and better distinguish the exceptional students,” Grant said. The faculty wants to give students the credit they deserve, he said.

    With the current system, a student who receives a high B in a class is given the same mark as a student that makes a low B, he said.

    “That is not a positive direction,” Grant said. “We are not truly giving the credit due to some students, and some are getting more credit than they deserve.”

    Both Grant and Neilson said the faculty as a whole agrees with the plus/minus system and said they voted 4-1 in favor of the plus/minus system last March.

    “It is not because we are trying to compete with other schools,” Grant said. “It is because we as a school have decided that it is necessary to develop a better grading system tool when evaluating student performance.”

    Jason Ratigan, a senior history major and SGA representative, said he agrees the plus/minus system is something TCU should have.

    “It’s an excellent system, or at least far better than the one we have now,” he said. “It does exactly what professors want it to do, which is being able to better pinpoint student performance.”

    Neilson also gave the SGA some facts about schools and the plus/minus system.

    Out of 120 of the top universities in the nation, Neilson said, 83 percent are using the plus/minus system.

    Neilson added this will benefit TCU students because when they graduate they will be able to be compared with students from these top universities, whether or not a student is applying for a job or to a graduate school.

    Currently, Southern Methodist University and Baylor University use a plus/minus grading system.

    SMU has been using the plus/minus system for the past 20 years. John Hall, SMU registrar, said SMU faculty decided to use the plus/minus grading to have a more accurate way of grading students.

    “The faculty wanted to have a more precise measure when averaging and determining students’ grades,” he said.

    SMU stopped using the plus/minus system after students complained, he said.

    The university then waited two years until they brought back the plus/minus system because this allowed students to prepare for the change, Hall said.

    The Faculty Senate wants TCU to be using the plus/minus system by next fall, Grant said.

    Grant said the faculty, not the students, determines how the grading system will work and the faculty has chosen the plus/minus system. However, it is still not finalized and there is no specific time as to when the final say will be given, he said.