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Plus - Minus Grades at Drake - A Discussion: Home

Resources and discussion pieces as Drake considers Plus - Minus grades

University Leadership Council Study

This document was published early in 2012 by the University Leadership Council.  It is an organization with which Drake is affiliated that does best practices research.

What do Other Institutions Do?

The following table, compiled by Bill Boal of Economics, shows what many of Drake's peers and other midwestern institutions do in terms of plus/minus grades.  It also lists those that have slightly different grading systems (A, AB, BC, etc.)  NOTE: This file was updated in late May, 2012.

Note from Fac. Senate President Summerville

Note sent  on 15 March 2013:

Members of the Drake Community--

At the Faculty Senate meeting this past Wednesday (March 13), a motion to allow faculty the option of using a plus and minus grading system in Fall 2016 was approved by a 12-6 vote (67% - 33%). Thus, the motion was passed. The Senate vote mirrored exactly the all faculty vote conducted in early March.

While the majority of faculty may be pleased with this outcome, I fully respect the dissenting views expressed by students and faculty colleagues. Faculty Senate endeavored to make the process that culminated in this vote as transparent and inclusive as possible. As we move forward with plans for implementing the +/- system, we need to be mindful that differences in grading preferences remain, and we need to strive to implement the new grading system as smoothly as possible.

Ultimately, it is incumbent upon us to move to the +/- system in Fall 2016 with minimal confusion. Thus, Senate Exec will begin working with administration to initiate plans for communicating the change in grading system to next year's incoming class (they will likely be seniors when this change occurs). I have complete confidence that next year's Senate will place significant emphasis on ensuring that that the lines of communication are active and that future Senates are engaged with the implementation process.

Best wishes for a relaxing and safe spring break!

Keith S. Summerville

Results of Faculty Vote - Feb 2013

The all faculty (non-law) vote on allowing the option for +/- grading in Fall 2016 was completed on the evening of 20 Feb. 2013.

The results are as follows:

  • A total of 232 votes were cast out of a possible 260. This is an 89% response rate.
  • A total of 155 faculty voted "yes" - 67%
  • A total of 77 faculty voted "no" - 33%

The March Faculty Senate meeting (March 13th) is expected to include a motion concerning the use of +/- grades. 

-  Faculty President Keith S. Summerville

What this page is

The Faculty Senate of Drake University is exploring the possibility of adding plus/minus grades as an option for instructors.  This page is designed to facilitate that exploration; please feel free to comment below or contact bruce.gilbert@drake.edu , regardless of your stance on the issue.

Latest Faculty Senate Update

The Faculty Senate of Drake University passed the following motion at its December 2012 meeting:

Move that Faculty Senate brings the following policy change to an all faculty of instruction vote (excluding Law Faculty) in March 2013:


That Drake University extends to all instructors the ability to assign plus/minus grade modifiers in undergraduate, graduate and professional programs beginning with the Fall 2016 semester.  (Note that this proposal will not affect the Law School, whose faculty already have the ability to assign plus/minus modifiers).

Once that faculty of instruction vote is complete, the 2012-2013 Faculty Senate will vote on changing or not to plus/minus grading.

Faculty Forum

There was an open Faculty Forum concerning the plus/minus grading topic, sponsored by Drake's Faculty Senate, on Wednesday, February 6, 2013 in Cowles Library

Faculty are asked to review this website.  If you are unable to attend the forum, feel free to click on the "Comments" option and leave your thoughts.

Other links of interest

If you wish to gain more background on this topic, there is a good summary of the history of plus/minus grades at academic institutions of higher learning, as well as the overall implications, in the middle of the following document compiled at Georgia State: http://www2.gsu.edu/~wwwphl/adandst/plusmin.html

If you wish greater depth, there are a number of research papers that have explored the various implications of plus/minus grades; some of them are available here (link assumes you are a Drake student or employee): http://bit.ly/AcZjpU

Note that Drake's Law School already allows plus/minus grades.  For details, ee: http://www.law.drake.edu/academics/docs/franceCourseFac-grading.pdf

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

The following are pointers to info on issues of common concern (if you have additional questions, please comment!)

  • Q: What is the typical effect of changing to Plus/Minus on students' Grade Point Averages?
  • A:  Although hard to say definitively, most studies suggest little impact on overall GPAs (see, for example, p.8 of the "University Leadership" document (above left))  It would seem logical, though, that those with 4.0 (or nearly 4.0) cumulative GPAs may have more difficulty maintaining them.
  • Q:  What is the impact of Plus/Minus grades on graduate school admissions?
  • A:  "Some administrators believe that the straight grading system creates a competitive disadvantage for the institution’s best performing students and that grade
    modifiers would improve student profiles and academic rigor." ("University Leadership" document, p.7).  Also note Point 4 under "Rationale" in the first part of the GSU document (above)

Results of Survey of Drake faculty

The Faculty Senate conducted a survey of full-time Drake Faculty during March/April of this year.  About 70% of  Drake faculty responded (Law Faculty did not participate, as they already have plus/minuses; see link to the left).  Detailed results follow.

Results of Survey of Drake students

The Faculty Senate conducted a survey of Drake students during October.  About 32% of  Drake students responded (Law students did not participate, as Law already have plus/minuses; see link to the left).  Detailed results follow.

CPHS apps: Grade re-calculation

Renae Chesnut of CPHS used data from applicants: "I took a number of college transcripts and recalculated the plus/minus grades to see what the impact would have been had they been calculated on a standard grading scale."