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The Daily Tar Heel

Faculty To Watch Grading

The resolution passed by the Faculty Council aims to bring grading discrepancies to the attention of faculty.

The resolution, passed during Friday's Faculty Council meeting, was recommended by the Task Force on Grading Standards and stipulates that each educational unit of the University review its grading standards in a formal meeting each year.

Faculty Council Chairwoman Sue Estroff said the legislation will not actively reform the grading policies of academic departments but will bring any grading discrepancies within each department to the attention of the faculty.

"This says we need to keep an eye on the grading patterns developing on campus," Estroff said. "If we see significant growth or decline, we'll have a discussion about it."

The resolution is a response to recent concerns among faculty members about an inflation in the grade point average of University students. Between 1987 and 1999, the average GPA of the student body rose from 2.7 to 3.0.

An amendment to the resolution, proposed by economics Professor Boone Turchi and approved by the council, requires each department to report the results from each meeting on grading standards to the Faculty Council.

Estroff said she hopes the amendment will help to ensure consistency in grading standards across academic departments. But she acknowledged that different disciplines sometimes require variations in grading. "We do not want to see different colors in grading standards," she said. "But different shades are OK."

But Turchi said a vast divide already exists in the GPA of students taking classes in different departments. He cited as evidence statistics from a 2000 report on grade inflation by UNC's Educational Policy Committee.

"There is a clear differential between departments, and some of them are all over the map," he said. "The average GPA in the math department was 2.3 and it's as high as 3.6 for other departments."

Warren Wogen, chairman of the Department of Mathematics, acknowledged this discrepancy in GPAs, attributing the divide to grading standards he said have been fairly uniform over the years. "I think (the resolution) will have minimal effect on the math department," he said.

Turchi said the math department's ability to stay constant regarding GPA differs from a trend of inflating grades in other departments. Turchi said he hopes the resolution will curb the inflation simply by bringing the issue to the attention of the faculty.

"The faculty don't understand what has happened to grades," he said. "This will take away the surprise factor and people won't be acting in isolation."

But William Andrews, chairman of the Department of English, said holding annual meetings for each department is not the best method to deal with grade inflation. "This matter must be addressed on an individual basis," he said. "I don't see much that departmental meetings will accomplish."

Estroff said that even if no action is taken in the near future to reform grading standards, the resolution will still help ensure that a significant shift in GPA does not occur without notice. "It's like being caught in an undertow," Estroff said of rising grades. "If you don't check your position every few seconds you could eventually find yourself hundreds of feet from the shore."

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