Committee evaluates plus-minus grading

by Amy Olson

Concerned professors and students can breathe a sigh of relief: The campus grade point averages for each of the University’s four campuses has changed little since the University adopted its plus-minus grading policy in fall 1997.
That conclusion is based on a December investigation by the University Senate’s Committee on Educational Policy. The committee examined grades from all four campuses — Twin Cities, Crookston, Duluth and Morris — during the 1997-98 school year and found little change after the new policy was adopted.
Overall, the campus grade point average dropped slightly at the Twin Cities, Morris and Duluth campuses between the 1996-97 and 1997-98 school years. At Crookston, the campus grade point average rose slightly during the same period.
“It’s not surprising,” said Craig Swan, vice provost for undergraduate education and an economics professor. “People were concerned, but there’s really been little change.”
The slight changes — both up and down — could be caused by any number of factors, said Laura Koch, an associate director in the Office of Planning and Analysis and former chairwoman of the University Senate’s Educational Policy committee.
The impetus for adopting the policy was the lack of uniformity between the University’s campuses and even between colleges at the Twin Cities campus, Koch said. That raised questions for administrators when students transferred from Duluth to the Twin Cities campus, for example, or from the College of Liberal Arts to the Carlson School of Management.
Both the Carlson school and the Duluth campus used plus-minus grading prior to its University-wide adoption. After studying data from the Carlson school, the committee decided to adopt the plus-minus system, said committee chairwoman Judith Martin.
Swan said a separate subcommittee will release its report on grade trends at the University around the beginning of February.