Plus/minus grading not starting next semester

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Plus/minus grading will not be instituted starting next semester here at Skyline after the latest round of debates revolved around the student’s approval of the grading system.

This controversial grading system that includes + or – in the standard letter grades will not be applied at San Mateo Community College District schools. The reason for this being that this grading system is highly unpopular among the student body and faculty at Skyline. The chief concern is whether this system can hurt a student’s transfer prospects. Skyline voted against this system in a meeting among the three schools back in March.

“After much discussion, it was found that most faculty and students on campus tend to lean away from the plus/minus grades,” this coming from the formal statement of the Skyline College Academic Senate in regards to plus/minus grading. “Issues were cited such as jeopardizing transfer status, going out of alignment with other colleges since it increases the range of grade, being generally unpopular with the students, and having no real reason to move toward adoption of this change in policy.”

In a meeting between the senates of each of the three schools in San Mateo County earlier this year, Skyline “did not vote [in favor],” according to Leigh Anne Shaw, the Academic Senate president of Skyline. The vote was 2-1 in favor of plus/minus grading. “CSM and Cañada voted yes; I gave the dissenting vote,” she said. Even though the majority vote is in favor of plus/minus grading, the Academic Senate, in a meeting, said that the “Constitution says two of the colleges can’t impose will on the third. Should be a consensus, not imposed.”

Skyline has long been the roadblock toward establishing the plus/minus grading system in the San Mateo Community College County District, but it flip-flopped its stance in the past, although not in consensus with itself. In a meeting with all three senates back in April 2008, the Skyline Academic Senate actually favored it but it was met with opposition from its own student body and student government; The Associated Students of Skyline College did not believe in the system.

“They’ve switched a lot in the past,” said Shaw. “It’s like a pendulum, it swings one way and then another. Things change with different memberships in the committee.”

In the semesters between Fall 2009 and Spring 2011, Skyline, along with CSM and Cañada, conducted a pilot study on the plus/minus grading system to collect data to try to answer some of the questions surrounding the maligned grading system.

“Faculty were given the option to utilize ‘+’ and ‘-’ grades in a ‘shadow’ system, where the student’s actual grade was not affected. In doing so, the effects of a plus-minus grading system could be studied without any effect on students,” according to the plus/minus grading pilot fact sheet commissioned by the San Mateo Community College District Academic Senate.

After the pilot ended, “no action was taken to make it a policy,” said Shaw of Skyline, showing that it is still not in favor of it. “There was not a whole lot if advocacy about it.”

The last meeting in which the three school’s senates discussed plus/minus grading was in March 12, 2012. In that meeting, Skyline voted not in favor, the students were not in favor and the senate unanimously opposed. In CSM, the students were undecided and their senate voted 5-2 in favor of adopting and Canada did not address the matter. A formal, full-faculty vote is slated to be next and that will help determine the future of plus/minus grading