January 22, 2018

Plus And Minus Grading Scale on Transcripts

I get asked from time to time about putting pluses and minuses on a student’s grades.  I’ve never been a big fan of the plus/minus system mostly because to me it clutters up a transcript.  And, I just figured that the pluses usually outweigh the minuses, so it’s a wash.

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Lately, any time a parent has shown me a transcript with the plus/minus system, I’ve taken to recalculating it with the more simplified system just to see if it makes a difference.  The great majority of the time, a student’s cumulative GPA is the same or even lower when using the plus/minus system.  Every once in a while, however, we can gain a few hundredths of a point in the GPA, but probably not enough to make much of a difference.

Out of curiosity I went looking to see if there were any published studies on this and found one done by the Western Kentucky University in 2006. This 19-page report outlines a trial they conducted to examine the effect of signed grades.  While there were some limitations to the study, they found that on average, signed grading caused term GPAs to decrease approximately .025 points (page 9 of the report) and in their summary, they find that signed grading harms more students than it helps.  About 33% of all term GPAs would be lower as a result of signed grading, while about 13% would be higher. (pg 18)

One of the interesting things about the signed grading system is how to treat an A+.  Most signed systems give both an A and an A+ the same value of 4.00.  The WKU Study above did that. In fact, WKU had 36% of their 4.0 students lose that ranking when signed grades were used.

It’s really something that is a personal preference, but if you want to use this system, I would recommend that you check your calculations both with and without the signed grades just to be sure you’re not harming your students GPA.

For those of you interested in using the signed system, here are the numbers typically assigned in a 4.0 system:

A+

4.00

C+

2.33

A

4.00

C

2.00

A-

3.67

C-

1.67

B+

3.33

D+

1.33

B

3.00

D

1.00

B-

2.67

D-

0.67

~to your success!

Joanne

Image courtesy of Boians Cho Joo Young at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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