Senate should approve trial of grading system

These days, people like to try things out before they commit to them. Baskin Robbins customers can sample all 31 or so flavors before purchasing one scoop. Those who love surfing the Web can try out an Internet service for free before they have to pay a monthly fee. People try out credit cards at low interest rates before they go up.

Western will have the same opportunity to try it before they commit to it with the proposed plus/minus grading system. An ad hoc committee for academic quality has made a recommendation to the University Senate to approve a two-year trial of the plus/minus grading system. Pluses and minuses for grades between A-plus and C-minus would show up on students’ transcripts, but would not affect students’ grade point averages.

Committee chair Jim Berger said the trial would allow the committee to collect data over the two-year period and to study further how the grading system impacts student learning.

The committee has come up with a sensible idea. Those for and against the grading system have offered statistics and anecdotes on how a plus/minus grading system could affect the university and its students. However, every university is different. Statistics can only offer a general view of the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of a system. They cannot determine if plus/minus grading would definitely be successful for Western. Some Kentucky universities and colleges have had great success with the plus/minus grading system, while it has failed at others.

A trial of plus/minus grading might reveal its benefits for students. Perhaps the grading system will change the students’ attitudes about learning. Perhaps data could show that Western students will work harder if pluses or minuses show up on their permanent records.

But the trial might reveal flaws in the system. Maybe there will be technical problems with implementing the grading system. Perhaps the university’s data will prove that it doesn’t help improve academic quality.

In the last few months, students, faculty and administrators have discussed the pros and cons of implementing the system. This trial allows the university to base an educated decision to use the system permanently on data rather than on speculation.

This trial however, if approved by the senate, will only be successful if all parties keep an open mind. Everyone has already shown strong feelings one way or another. Everyone should not let their personal biases affect their ability to see the effectiveness, or the lack thereof, of plus/minus grading.

Regardless of the results of this trial, if students have nothing to lose, senate members should not hesitate to approve this measure and give plus/minus grading a chance.

This editorial represents the majority opinion of the Herald’s 9-member board of student editors.