Reader comments

On A or A-minus? KU students want a straight answer


WilburM 5 years ago

Great example to demonstrate the inconsistency here. I think the plus/minus system works well, and allows for differentiation. But the idea of one student earning a higher score and receiving a lower grade in (allegedly) the same course reflects both the appearance of injustice and, in all probability, a real injustice.

Bob Forer 5 years ago

Children going to bed hungry in a country of plenty is a real injustice. An innocent driver being killed by a drunk is a real injustice. The example above is hardly an injustice.

Over the course of a four year degree, and assuming she received straight As otherwise, the difference between an A and an A- in one three hour course is 4.00 vs. 3.99. Either one of those two GPAs from a second rate school like KU will not get her into a top law school unless she has very good LSAT scores, and if she does score well on her LSATs, the one hundred of a percentage point will have absolutely no bearing on her acceptance. Same thing for second tier law schools. In other words, in the larger scheme of things it means absolutely NOTHING.

There is a subjective element to all grading. The MCAT, LSAT, GRE, etc , on the other hand, are completely objective and allow comparisons between students. Simply put, it all evens out in the wash.

The issue raised is really a non-issue, and simply demonstrates that today's students are more concerned about grades than they are about learning.

mom_of_three 5 years ago

I think the students make perfect sense. If the same course is going to be taught by different instructors, the grading system should be the same across the board.
And grades can make a big difference when it comes to jobs and graduate schools, event 1/100th of a point.

Leslie Swearingen 5 years ago

The article says that they studied quite a bit. I got the impression that the students do value learning. They simply want consistency in grading the tests that show what they have learned. It makes sense. The girl with the lower grade got a higher score because of the section she was in. That doesn't make sense.

patkindle 5 years ago

this is a great way for the student to learn that life is not always fair , and it doenst get any better

Leslie Swearingen 5 years ago

There is so such thing as "life". People make decisions that affect other people. Those decisions can be changed.

SnakeFist 5 years ago

Instructors who teach different sections of the same course should have enough professionalism to coordinate these sorts of things. Academic freedom is important, but so is consistency, and this sort of arbitrary inconsistency undermines people's respect for the entire system. After all, if grades and GPAs are so arbitrarily determined from one section or instructor to another, then, people will ask, how important can they really be?

SnakeFist 5 years ago

I also think there's an equal protection problem. A professor at a public school is an agent of the government. Can you imagine what things would be like if every public employee could create their own evaluation scheme? For example, we would never allow employees of the Social Security Administration to set different qualifying standards for receiving benefits.

Obviously, academic freedom is important and means something, I just don't think it means different standards for otherwise identically situated people - that's the definition of a violation of the right to equal treatment.

jhawkinsf 5 years ago

And that is the very definition of making a mountain out of a molehill.

SnakeFist 5 years ago

You clearly haven't taken classes at a university lately. Tuition is ridiculously high, and grades mean more now than ever before - as discussed in the article, students' futures are literally at stake. At the very least, students should expect consistency and fairness, not arbitrary variation depending on which instructor they have or which section they're in.

jhawkinsf 5 years ago

No matter how high tuition is, no matter if futures are at stake, raising this to the level of a federal case, a Constitutional case based on equal protection, is indeed making a mountain out of a molehill. But if you don't believe me, run that argument by a judge. I just hope that while he laughs your case out the door, he also assesses you court costs.

SnakeFist 5 years ago

If you think that the low significance (in your opinion) of a case will get it tossed, then you clearly either haven't been to law school or have never been in court. Parties determine significance, not courts - and low significance cases are usually settled, not thrown out.

Bob Forer 5 years ago

I agree with one on this one 100% jhawkinsf.

Bob Forer 5 years ago

No equal protection problem at all, as there is not evidence of discriminatory intent.

Further, the two are not "identically situated people." Each student had a different instructor.

My guess is that you either received a C or C- in Constitutional Law, depending on who your instructor was.

SnakeFist 5 years ago

My guess is that you didn't go to law school at all. Perhaps taking the wrong sections from the wrong instructors left you with a GPA too low to get in.

First, the fact that each had a different instructor is completely irrelevent. That's like saying different clerks at the DMV can have different standards for issuing licenses - and its okay because they're different clerks.

Second, I have no idea what their intent is, but I do know that arbitrarily differential outcomes is indicative (though, admittedly, not dispositive) of an equal protection violation. I also know that that there is no rational basis for treating students in different sections of the same class differently.

Bob Forer 5 years ago

Matter of fact, I am a law school graduate, and was in fact, in the top ten percent of my class and a member of Law Review/ I don't find it productive to argue the finer points of constitutional law with a neophyte. .

Have a good day.

BorderRat 5 years ago

I thought that assigning letter grades was considered taboo. Just give them all a bag of orange slices, a juice box and a participation trophy.

May Soo 5 years ago

I used to have an instructor in high school who gives C for an A, that really messed up my GPA.

parrothead8 5 years ago

All of my professors used to give out a syllabus detailing if they would use the plus/minus system. Either they aren't doing that anymore, or students aren't reading them.

mom_of_three 5 years ago

Did students EVER read a syllabus? And even if she did, it still doesn't dismiss the fact that different sections of the same course are graded differently.

voevoda 5 years ago

Oatman earned a grade of A-. So did her roommate. However, her roommate's grade got recorded as an A because the instructor bunched A+, A, and A- together. Just like Oatman's instructor bunched 92, 90, and 91 together to make an A-.

Oatman is whining as though her grade was arbitrarily lowered. It wasn't. Her roommate's grade was arbitrarily raised.

Maybe Oatman just wants to get an A for A- work?

Topple 5 years ago

Maybe Oatman doesn't want her friend who performed worse than her to receive a higher grade?

bearded_gnome 5 years ago

The first step, he said, would be to determine what’s happening in each of the College’s departments. Right now it has no record of which ones might be using both systems and which ones have voted to pick one to use uniformly.

---I'd certainly say so!

Shardwurm 5 years ago

To get them prepared for post-Education life we should follow the old analogy:

Her A- would be 'taxed' 30 percent and she would get a C for the course. The person with the 'F' would receive the benefit of 20 percent of that and get a 'D' and pass. The other 10 percent would be distributed amongst the 'D' students.

Sounds fair to me.

bearded_gnome 5 years ago

is it really too much to ask that within one department (psych) that the same system be used consistently? c'mon! this isn't really academic freedom, not really telling profs what to teach or research!

gatekeeper 5 years ago

I wasn't in the course, so just speculation here. Teachers will use the +/- system to increase or decrease the grade depending on how much a student participates in class, shows up to class, etc... Maybe this girl always showed up, took her tests, but rarely participated in any discussions and maybe essay questions could have been answered in a little more detail. There are reasons why teachers can use plus minus grades.

This girl should get used to the fact that life is indeed, not fair. Have watched less qualified get hired for more and keep jobs because of who they are. Many that work hard don't get rewarded when others do. College isn't just for learning facts in classes, it's partly to toughen you up to the real world.

If her GPA was so important, then maybe just getting a 92 (which in my classes at KU was an A-), then maybe she should have worked harder to get a 94-95 and guarantee that A.

Ahhh, first world problems.

Betty Bartholomew 5 years ago

I don't think it's unreasonable to ask for uniform grading systems, not just within one school, but across all schools. When you look at a total GPA, a +/- system in CLAS and non-+/- system in a business school course are going to create the same sort of issue. I don't know why the University allows two different scales to be used to start with.

Personally, I think letter grades and GPAs should be done away with entirely. How hard it is to see and interpret that the student made 100%, 97%, or 50% of the total grade? Even if one wanted to stick with GPAs, scaling 4.0 to 100%, 3.0 to 75%, 2.0 to 50%, 1.0 to 25%, and 0 to 0 doesn't seem that difficult.

That whole curved-grade thing shouldn't be allowed, either. Just grade people for the work they've done, quit comparing them to each other - their grades will speak for themselves.

Bob Forer 5 years ago

The is a major structural problem with your suggestion. Only tests are graded on a percentage basis, based on the number of correct answers. Instructors and professors grade papers on the letter system. There are some classes that have just tests, some with just papers, and some with both papers and tests. Correlation between letters and numbers are impossible because of the either/or and hybrid methods of evaluation.

SnakeFist 5 years ago

Really, Sycho, now you claim to know how all instructors grade their tests and papers? Essay exams and papers can both be qualitatively or quantitatively graded. The only thing required to assign a quantitative grade to an essay exam or paper is a point-based rubric. There is no insurmountable "structural problem" with bethlang1998's suggestion.

bevy 5 years ago

This was the part of the story that really caught my eye: " Faculty value their academic freedom, and a top-down edict would not go over well. "

Yeah, I really hate it when my boss tells me what to do, too! Sheesh...

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