Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The mercy A- 

Remember when we mentioned Princeton's experiment in setting a quota for A's? Well, the first year results are in, and the percentage of A's awarded are down five percent. As you'd expect, the economists were exemplary.
In Economics, for example, the department agreed on specific target percentages for A grades, depending on the type, category, and level of course. At the beginning of each semester, the chair reminded the faculty of the departmental agreement, adding that "any instructor who feels that there is a special reason to exceed the ordinary maximum may do so, but his or her grade sheet must be accompanied by a memo addressed to the chair explaining the circumstances."

In English, to take another example, the approach was to use the new grading expectations to enhance rather than abridge the ability of the faculty to employ their own expertise and experience to make informed grading decisions. The chair suggested to the faculty "that we view the policy as a tool to help us call grades as we see them and to resist the impulse to award high and higher grades for work we know is undeserving.
In an article in The Chronicle of Higher Ed (subscribers only), we get this from the English department.
Diana Fuss, acting chair of the English department, believes that professors have become more judicious with A's because of the policy. "The mercy A- has disappeared," Ms. Fuss said.
The mercy A-???