KSU to implement plus/minus system this fall

Rachel Abbey

Students returning to Kent State next fall will notice a change in the way their grades are determined. The university is switching to a plus/minus system.

The plus/minus system will allow more accuracy in the way grades are translated from percentages to letter grades, said Roberta Sikula-Schwalm, university registrar and systems coordinator. Many professors already use plusses and minuses for individual assignment and exam grades, and the new system will make it simpler for those grades to be translated into final averages, Sikula-Schwalm said.

“It’s an easy transition,” she said.

A plus/minus grading scale is also helpful for academic records, such as those used for graduate school applications, because the precise grading more clearly depicts the student’s performance, Sikula-Schwalm said.

“People who look at your transcript can get a better idea of how you’ve done,” said Andie Ho, French translation graduate student.

This new policy will affect all students, from the incoming freshman to the senior in his or her last semester, to ensure fairness. Instead of grading according to catalog years, Sikula-Schwalm said, all students in a particular class will be graded on the same standards.

Dezi Marlow, senior business management major, said he dislikes the new system but can see its positives. With the current system, a student who earns a low A receives the same grade as someone with an almost perfect percentage, Marlow said, and that is not fair to the student with the higher average.

This issue first arose in 2003, through a faculty petition to the Provost’s office, Sikula-Schwalm said. A subcommittee of the Educational Policies Committee then spent a year reviewing the issue. The Faculty Senate approved the issue last year, and this school year is examining how it would affect degrees and other types of grade point average-based requirements.

This policy will not change grade point average requirements for majors, scholarships, financial aid and the President’s and Deans’ lists, Sikula-Schwalm said. However, one issue arose while reviewing the current curriculum. In classes with minimum grade requirements, the university needed to decide if the minus version of that grade would be acceptable. In those such cases, the university decided the lower grade was out of acceptable range, Sikula-Schwalm said.

“It’s kind of making us jump through more hoops than necessary,” said freshman exploratory major Bobby Makar.

Makar said he disagrees with the plus/minus system because he does not think it is fair to assign lower denominations of the same grade.

“An A is an A,” he said.

Issues like this concern some students that their grades will be negatively affected. However, Sikula-Schwalm said in all of the committee’s research, they did not find a significant change in grades at schools that implemented the plus/minus system.

Actually, Sikula-Schwalm said this system will motivate students because there is more chance for improvement than with the present grading scale. It is easier for a student to improve a B to a B+ than to an A, she said.

“They will continue to stay engaged with academic activities at a higher level,” Sikula-Schwalm said.

However, what may motivate some students may also cause stress.

Vickie Ellison, assistant professor of modern and classical language studies, said she is neutral to the plus/minus system but thinks it may cause a lot of stress on students to get the highest possible grade. The current system is simpler, she said.

Some students agree.

“I think its a more accurate measure of how you’re doing, but it’s going to put more pressure on students, especially during tests and finals week,” said Heather Miller, senior Spanish major.

Contact academics reporter Rachel Abbey at [email protected].