Have you ever been frustrated by receiving a grade such as an AB, when you know you deserve an A grade? Frustrate no more. Keene State College will be changing to a more standard plus and minus grading system starting in the fall of 2019.
The proposal for switching grading systems was brought forward by a student senator of the Academic Standards Committee (ASC), a subcommittee of the College Senate. According to Academic Scheduler at KSC and Chair of the ASC Brendan Denehy, the responsibility of the ASC “is to review any standards, which are those things that impact courses or programs. We’ll review any policies that are related to grading or continuation standards for students.”
The student senator who submitted the proposal, Susanne Udall, said she was inspired to try to change the grading system because, “Many of my friends mentioned how they felt lucky to get an AB when they really earned a high B, and cheated to get an AB when they really earned a low A, etc. In my opinion, no college should use a system that cheats students or offers them luck. The grading system should simply reflect students earned grades,” Udall said. Udall also said that she believes KSC students have the right to have their grades reflected accurately.
History Professor at KSC Dr. Nicholas Germana said he thinks this will be a positive change for KSC students. “One of the most important things is that Keene State students will be on the exact same footing as Plymouth State and UNH students. We were the only school in the system that didn’t use a plus/minus system. It puts us on the same playing field as students everywhere else,” Germana said.
There are multiple perspectives on whether or not a plus and minus grading system will put students at an advantage or a disadvantage. Germana said, “It will effect some students in the sense that someone that has an 88 average from our current system benefits more than someone who has a 92 or 93 average, and that’s going to get switched now. Someone who has an 88 average will have the same grade-point-equivalent as a student at UNH, for example.”
Program Manager at KSC and Secretary of the College Senate Kim Schmidl-Gagne said, “It certainly benefits more students than it hurts in terms of grade point average. In terms of getting on the same page as other institutions, that benefits all students. It looks more like most other colleges.”
Denehy is on the opposing side of this grading system change. Denehy said, “I looked at the rationales that were given for it and it did not make sense to me. A lot of the rationales weren’t based on evidence, they were based on people saying, ‘Well I got an AB but I would’ve gotten an A-, the higher grade.’”
About four to five years ago, this idea of changing grading systems was actually first introduced, but it failed. Schmidl-Gagne said, “At that time, the student senators, interestingly enough, polled KSC students and the students were not interested in changing the grading system. So the Senate actually voted it down based on student recommendations… they liked what was in place.”
As for why the idea worked this time around, Schmidl-Gagne said, “The first time it kind of came through as a cold concept, there wasn’t a whole lot of research that had went into the decision-making. This time when they did it, they had a back story and figured out how it might work. The first time was more like, ‘Let’s just do this.’”
Denehy said it will take a great deal of work to get this grading system to begin. “We have to go in and every course has to be ended because every course is attached to the [former] grading system. One of the things that the Academic Standards Committee had to do this year was review every single course and program to make sure that there weren’t references to an AB or BC grade.”
Ultimately, how the grading system will work out and how it will affect students’ grades, Denehy said, is “the great unknown.”
Rachel Vitello can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org