Minus the Grading Scale

Jennifer Welch, Staff Writer

   With the passing of the first semester of this school year, many students are frustrated by a grade that was just not quite high enough.  By a few percentage points, some are held back from advancing to the next GPA point.  One solution many approve of is the plus and minus grading system.  However, this also causes many problems.
   West High does not employ the plus and minus system for a number of reasons.  According to Mr. Egan, “A couple of years back there was a proposal to [begin using the system]…but there were several issues that came up.  People were concerned about benefit verses lack thereof and depending upon your status as a student.  It was a change that made people nervous.”  But why would students disapprove of a system that could possibly help some GPAs?  One answer is that the proposed system had no possible A+.  Thus, a student with a high A would earn the same grade as before, but another with a ninety percent in the class would have a lower GPA since an A- is worth less.  Contrary to the other letter grades, there is no A+ to offset an A-.  The reason that this system could not incorporate an A+ is that with the many honors and Advanced Placement (AP) classes offered in the Torrance Unified School District, the calculating of an A+ would be too difficult.
   Likewise students who barely earn a low B, C, or D in a class could also be hurt by this system.  The number of GPA points that the plus and minus system assign to each of these grades is lower than the current system, which would cause the GPA to drop.
   For these reasons, schools that employ this system often do not have the pluses and minuses affect the GPA, but are only included as a letter for college reference.  Nevertheless, this could still hurt a borderline grade when colleges compare potential students. 
    Furthermore, under the plus and minus grading system, students would have to work hard all semester to guarantee that the desired grade will in fact be possible.  While this may appeal to teachers, it also means that every assignment may count dearly towards a grade, and creates even more stress upon struggling students.
   While West may one day accept this system, the school board would have to make that decision.  Mr. Egan explained, “[Torrance has] district-wide transcripts that need to look similar so all four high schools would have to do the same thing.  And so it is a district proposal, and not just a West High School proposal, so we’re not going to get the opportunity to do it ourselves.” However, one day this choice may be made.  Mr. Egan continued by stating, “In theory [the proposal for the new system] could come from students to teachers to a school site to the district administration, and them a formal proposal for all schools would go to the school board and they’d be the ones to approve it or not.”