Current Grading Scheme Lets Students Focus on Learning
The emotional impact of proposed changes in the grading policy have already been discussed. I'd like to point out some other issues in this letter.
Do professors and teaching assistants want the change? Many classes have already established some sort of grading scheme for the sole letter grades we have right now. Changing the system means all professors have to invest the time to redesign their grade distributions. Furthermore, now professors have to entertain questions from students who are concerned about getting an A- rather than an A, or a B rather than a B+. So, the answer is, probably not.
Is the purpose of this institution providing an environment for students to learn, or rewarding and punishing students according to their effort and intelligence by using a grading system with high resolution? I think the students obtain their rewards or punishment already by learning the materials for which they pay such an enormous tuition.
In addition, we know for a fact that different classes and professors have different grade distributions. By providing more distinction in our grading system, we are encouraging the students to spend their time researching for the classes and professors that can optimize their GPAs, rather than finding classes that they most need and would learn from.
With sole letter grades, we are blurring out the differences in the distributions of various classes and letting students concentrate on what they learn, rather than what grade they get.
There's always the old saying, "if it ain't broke, why fix it?" I don't see many people complaining about the current grading system. A better thing for the Committee on Academic Performance to do is probably to change the 5-point system to 4-point - not because the 4-point scale is better, but because everyone else uses the 4-point scale.
Gilbert Leung '95