Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Another source of grade inflation 

Fellow L&P co-blogger Charles Nuckolls points out the widespread use of NC -- "no credit" -- grading in Alabama, which allows students to retake English and Math courses until they receive a grade of at least 'C'. The university's justification is at least interesting, if still unpersuasive:
Several defenses have been put forward to justify NC. Some administrators and faculty have asserted that introductory English and Math are unique subjects because they test �skills� rather than �mastery of a body of knowledge� (as in history classes). Others have justified NC as necessary to removes the �punitive aspects� of grading thus encouraging students to keep trying.

We are not persuaded by the claim that writing is a skill (presumably like typing) and thus fundamentally different than history. Both subjects in our view are equally necessary for a well-round liberal arts education. As in History 100 level courses, it is simply impossible to teach college-level English Composition and entry-level Math in isolation from reading, analysis and criticism.

The NC system is also based on contradiction. Under its rules, a student can take an advanced history (which usually requires considerable writing) but still only receive NC in their entry-level writing course.
When I first came to SCSU, students could retake classes to improve their grades and only the highest grade appeared on the transcript. Now, at least, if a student retakes a course the lower grade remains on the transcript. But like Alabama, it does not count in the student's GPA. Since students need a 2.0 to graduate, it is not altogether unusual to find students with a 1.9x retaking a course in which they already had a 'C' to try to buy up to a better grade to bring their GPA up to the standard. Or is that 'standard'?

I do not know if, like Alabama, a retaken course that erases a student's previous grade also boosts the department's GPA. If any SCSU readers know the answer to this, drop us a comment please.