Accounting for pluses and minuses in GPA beneficial

February 12, 2019 — by Sofia Jones and Amanda Zhu

Most students have experienced receiving a grade that they were not happy with, despite putting consistent effort into the class throughout the semester. Many have felt the disappointment of a borderline grade that they could not bring up, forced to live with a letter grade that was so close to being better.

But due to the removal of pluses and minuses in GPAs starting with the Class of 2020, an 89.5 percent grade that a teacher refuses to round up might as well be a flat 80 percent B-. This seems unfair to many students who struggle in the beginning of the semester but start improving as the semester goes on.

Teachers have vastly different approaches to every aspect of their classes, such as homework policies, best ways to study for tests and different grade weightings. Students usually need time in the beginning of the year to adjust, and because of this, they may perform poorly at first, despite putting in effort. As students understand their teachers’ policies and methods, their performance improves.

And if gradual improvement is visible, through pluses and minuses, students will have more motivation to make steady progress throughout the semester. Currently, though students may move up a percentage or two, the grade and GPA change is not as noticeable, resulting in decreased motivation in some cases.

Although the GPA policy is helpful for students with grades on the lower end of a letter grade, it does not provide an incentive to work harder for all. Administrators may have thought that no pluses or minuses would help to alleviate stress from students, but it also keeps students content with a grade that is not as high as it could be with a bit more effort. Students who put in significantly different levels of effort end up with similar grades as a result of this rule.

Having gradations within grades is beneficial, as it creates intermediate levels of achievement. This would force indolent students to work harder and improve their grades from a minus to a plus. Students may settle for a minus under the current system because they know that it will show up as a flat letter grade on their transcript anyway, and neglect class material they otherwise would have processed more thoroughly.

Perhaps most important of all, including pluses and minuses in grades better reflects students’ abilities. It rewards hard-working students with the grades that they truly earned and motivates others to work harder. Pluses and minuses should be integrated into students’ grades again, so that the next time a student ends the semester with an 89.5 percent, their transcript will show their hard earned B+ rather than a flat B.

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