Plus/minus grading motivates students

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    TCU is making the grade with its new proposed system of evaluating student academics.The Academic Excellence Committee of the Faculty Senate is currently working to implement a new grading system as early as Fall 2007. Instead of the existing system consisting of simply A’s, B’s, C’s and so on, pluses and minuses will be thrown into the mix. Though the OK has not yet been given, this new method of grading has already been the catalyst of much controversy around campus.

    A popular sentiment is that this system will only be beneficial to “academically poor” students, while actually serving as a detriment to those who currently have higher GPAs. But, in actuality, the proposed plus/minus system will function as an incentive to all students, encouraging them to learn more and stay focused on their classes. Under the new system, professors won’t just give students grades – students will earn them.

    “I like the motivational aspect of it. I know that if I can get a B+, I’m going to go for it instead of settling for a B,” said senior speech-pathology major Mandy Velasquez. “The new system will also encourage students not to blow off their finals.”

    Grade inflation has been an issue around campus, Velasquez, who is a member of the SGA Academic Affairs Committee, said. She says there is a trend of more A’s being given to students as well as increased curves bumping up grades.

    “Those implementing the new plus/minus system are hoping it will help reduce grade inflation,” Velasquez said.

    Not only will the new grading system motivate students to put their best effort into their classes and possibly make strides toward reducing grade inflation, it will also more accurately indicate their achievements in their courses.

    “I’m for (the plus/minus system),” said freshman biology major Katie Kollar. “If someone gets an 82 in a class and someone else gets an 89, I don’t believe they should get the same grade. I think the new system will better reflect student effort.”

    The plus/minus system has been a success at other universities, where it has been able to win over faculty members as well as the student body.

    “I witnessed (the plus/minus system’s) usefulness at the three British universities I attended before coming to the U.S.,” said religion professor Darren Middleton. “And I know the students, as well as faculty, appreciated the system at the college where I began my teaching career.

    “Above all, though, TCU students should be aware that most of our country’s institutions of higher learning use the system,” he said. “If we want to see ourselves as ‘up there with the best of them,’ I suspect we will need to adopt the plus/minus system before too long.”

    It is beneficial for TCU to switch to the new system if it wants to remain competitive with other universities.

    “The whole point is to get us on par with schools that are similar to us,” Velasquez said.

    Some students agree with modifying the current system so much that they would even like to see it a step further.

    “(The plus/minus system) grants a professor more accuracy in evaluating a student,” said junior political science and psychology major Ben Dalton. “My own personal opinion is that TCU ought to be a leader by taking things a step further and implementing a one-hundred point system. A hundred-point system would allow greater representation and accuracy of a grade and is conceptually speaking, easier to comprehend.”

    The new grading policy may be difficult to get used to at first, but it will provide students with a greater motivation to succeed in their academic endeavors. It will encourage them to get the most out of their courses and more accurately portray their level of accomplishment.

    Jordan Cohen is a freshman English major from Lewisville, N.C.

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