Promoting Thoughtful Faculty Conversations About Grade Distributions

Educational Policies Committee

Assigning grades to student work, both during the academic term and as a summation of a stu-dent's mastery of subject matter, is a longstanding practice in all levels of education, from kin-dergarten through graduate and professional studies. Recently, a variety of factors have brought the criteria for assigning, and the resulting distribution of letter grades under heightened scrutiny. From increased attention from accrediting agencies, through new online services that publicize grades, to newly revised Title 5 Regulations, these forces require thoughtful faculty reflection, and an informed and collegial discussion on the rationale for the grades faculty assign to their students' coursework. Such discussions might well reveal practices that could both enhance the integrity of the grading system and improve student success. One purpose of this paper is to ex-amine system data from the state Chancellor's Office about grade distributions within California community colleges; a second purpose is to identify some of the issues that need further explora-tion, and to encourage local faculty and senates to pursue such conversations. This paper does not propose specific criteria or practices to be used by faculty, though one of the recommenda-tions of this paper is that further work should be done to explore that topic in more detail.

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