Campus, News

CSULB fails to approve plus, minus grading policy

After a year of discussion surrounding whether Long Beach State will implementing plus and minus grading, the Curriculum and Educational Policies Council ultimately voted 16-7 against the policy Wednesday.

Though the council struck the policy, Sen. Danny Paskin immediately revised its language describing the plus and minus point system as he felt it was outdated and unclear.

“One thing that I noticed as I was doing research to discuss the policy is that our policy is one of the very, very few anywhere, period. And not just talking about CSU, I’m talking about everywhere, where we never actually state in the policy itself what GPA in A, B, C, D or F means,” Paskin said.

CSULB currently operates under a 4.0-point scale, though one wouldn’t be able to tell just by looking at the 2020-21 catalog. If implemented, the policy would have added a plus or minus to letter grades A, B, C and D to distinguish higher or lower performance rates, which could have impacted students’ overall GPA.

“This is not changing anything and what we currently do. It’s just making the policy explicit on what we do right now,” Paskin said.

The proposal’s failure to pass reflects CSULB’s long history, spanning over a decade, of unimpressed student reception and resounding rejection, which was echoed during the comments portion of the meeting.

Among the concerns conveyed from students was an increase in stress from micromanaging grades, demotivation from the pressure to maintain and grade inflation.

“I think that we have enough stressors in our lives that I feel like implementing this would simply add another one,” Associated Students, Inc. Chief Justice Greg Figueroa said.

During the meeting, Sen. Jeff Bentley discussed his research studies on the matter, in which he found that “a lot of the analyses at course level GPA found no difference in course level GPA after switching to plus-minus.”

In fact, one of the studies highlighted a slight decline in GPA after implementing the plus-minus grade scale and slowly increased or remained stagnant in subsequent years.

Bentley added that he sent out a survey to faculty for the college of business to gauge the appetite for the proposal and found that a majority were in favor, stating that it would increase precision in grades.

“Since a student who performed at 81%, some faculty felt should not get the same grade as someone performing at 89%,” Bentley said.

Two surveys were conducted, one by ASI and another by associate professors from the college of education Kelli Sanderson and Laura Forrest, which both found that a majority of students were not in favor of the proposal.

According to ASI Academic Affairs Officer Isaac Julian, one of the surveys conducted showed that 95% out of 10,435 students were against the change.

Another survey conducted by Sanderson and Forrest found that 85% of 322 responses also voted against making changes.

Another concern raised was that the policy may lead students to feel less motivated in their coursework, which was emphasized by University Student Union Board of Trustees, trustee at-large Mitali Jain.

“Students are not lazy,” Jain said. “If I get an 88%, I would go for that 90% and work my ass off for that.”

However, according to a study conducted by Ball State University following the implementation of a plus-minus point system, students show little to no difference in motivation depending on the grading scale.

CSULB alumna Kirsten Hernandez expressed explicit disapproval for the policy and stated that she felt it would negatively impact students during their time at the Beach. She added that some students on the CSULB subreddit page have also said they are not in support of plus or minus grading.

“I am very against this measure, I think that number one is completely unnecessary,” Hernandez said. “I’m not even sure why it’s something that’s proposed, and on a practical level, this is going to lead to more burnout which we see heavily, especially right now with Zoom classes.”

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