ArtSci grades lag behind

Average marks not a plus for Faculty of Arts and Science

ArtSci students receive the most Fs and fewest A-pluses.
ArtSci students receive the most Fs and fewest A-pluses.
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The 2012-13 grade report shows that Arts and Science students receive significantly fewer A-plus grades and more failing grades on average than other faculties.

The report, released on April 11, breaks down grades by department, considering a variety of different factors such as average grade, average GPA and number of students in each department. The report is the first of its kind under the new letter grade system, implemented in 2011.

Developed by the Faculty of Arts and Science, the report aims to keep departments accountable to high academic standards, according to faculty board regulations. The regulations stipulate that grading standards should be presented to the board annually, following the introduction of the letter grade system.

The report’s primary purpose is to show the broad evolution of grading across the faculty, the regulations state further. This year’s report compares letter grades given in 2013 to the percentage-based grading system in 2008 and 2009, the last two years the system was used.

Classics gives out the highest percentage of A-pluses, with 21.6 per cent of full-time students receiving the grade. Political Studies sees the fewest, at 1.4 per cent.

Computing students have the highest percentage of Fs — 7.4 per cent. Fine Arts students have the fewest at 0.7 per cent.

According to the report, the median grade given at the Bader International Study Centre (BISC) is the same as the median on-campus, a B-plus. The greatest differences between grades are seen in online Continuing and Distance Studies courses, where students receive the highest percentage of Fs, 8.5 per cent. The percentage on campus was 3.2 per cent and at the BISC it was 1 per cent.

ASUS President Adam Grotsky, who has been working alongside faculty and students to get feedback on the report, said further analysis is needed to definitively determine any issues with the current grade distribution system. Regardless, some figures raise a few question marks, he said.

“We are concerned at the possibility that grades could be linked to the number of students taking courses in the department,” Grotsky said.

“With one exception, all departments that have an A-minus median grade [the highest in the report] have less than 2,500 students.”

He said that this has become more of an issue because of Senate’s decision to accept an additional 350 students to the Faculty of Arts and Science for 2015-16.

“We must question whether this increase will lead to lower quality of education and lower grades,” he said.

Grotsky said he plans to compile a response report through consultations at town halls and online discussions with faculty members and students. The response will include input from all stakeholders, including students, professors and any other party involved in the report.

“We are ultimately going to make some recommendations to the faculty, whether or not that means stricter grade policies or perhaps including class averages on transcripts, so that way you see what your grade is compared to others in the class,” Grotsky said.

Isabelle Duchaine, a recent political studies graduate, is interested in the differences in grades shown in the report.

“Something that many students find frustrating is the discrepancies between departments when it comes to marks. To me, that’s the most interesting component of the material released by the Faculty of Arts and Science,” Duchaine, ArtSci ’14, said.

For students applying to post-grad programs in medicine or law, she added, there can be a temptation to stream into a major or minor that looks like it gives out a lot of As.

“Hopefully students recognize that grades are only one indicator of the quality of a department,” Duchaine said.

This story has been changed to reflect the following correction: the report reflects grades from the 2012-13 academic year.

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