Grading scale frustration: What makes a 4.0?

Amber Gilliland, Senior Reporter

The first day of the new quarter for most students means awkward introductions and discussing new syllabi. After discussing with peers and receiving new syllabi from different classes, it
became apparent how inconsistent grading scales are for the different classes on campus.

The lower end of the scales seem to be fairly similar, but grades differ greatly when it comes to what percentage makes up a 4.0. Some professors consider a 4.0 at 93
percent while others don’t give a 4.0 until 97 or 98 percent. There’s a standard grading scale at Pierce for turning a GPA into a letter grade, but professors have freedom to determine their own grading scale.

Grading is subjective and each professor will have a different idea of what a certain GPA should require. This means that the work that one professor considers a 4.0 may only be a 3.8 in another professor’s class.Determining a cohesive grading scale would be difficult, however.

“Because the types of assignments, quizzes, tests and other assessments of learning vary by course and instructor, there’s not a single grading scheme,” Matthew Campbell, vice president of
learning and student success, said.

This doesn’t mean that professors can just hand out grades without standards. Professors must have consistent grading within their classes and usually use tools like rubrics to portray their expectations. In addition to this, many faculty work together to create common expectations in their departments. Many professors on campus enjoy that they’re able to choose their own grading
scale.

“I think that’s part of academic freedom, the ability for a professor to set their own standards,” Tom McCollow, mathematics professor, said. “In fact, I think I may have a problem with the grading
scale being dictated by some outside entity. From the students’ perspective, I think I can understand how this might be an issue. Students may consider that there is a lack of consistency in grading.”

This lack of consistency among classes can leave students frustrated if they receive the same percentage grade in their classes but differing overall GPAs on their transcripts. This has been leaving students wondering about the fairness of grading and if the policy should be changed. While changing the policy may not be the solution, the best way to do it would be to come up with a scale that would still give professors some freedom in grading while making it consistent for students. One way to do this would be to have a standard scale that aligns percentages with GPAs, but still allows professors to determine what work should be considered that percentage.

For example, the college may determine that a 97 percent is a 4.0, but each professor still gets to choose what makes a 97 percent in their class. This would still give professors the right to grade according to their teaching style, but the corresponding GPAs would be consistent among the college.

While something like this may never happen at Pierce, students can always talk to their professors about their grading expectations in order to determine what they’ll need to do to be successful in class.

“We all will need to learn to adapt to varying expectations and contexts within our lives both professionally and personally,” McCollow said. “What students should expect from their professors are
fair and consistent standards in their grading policies.”

The Puyallup Post is the award-winning student news of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2017. Twitter/Instagram @puyalluppost

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Grading scale frustration: What makes a 4.0?

by Amber Gilliland time to read: 2 min
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