Results of new grading policy reported to faculty
Princeton NJ—An effort launched last year has already made significant progress in establishing a common grading standard across the University.
Dean of the College Nancy Malkiel announced the initial results of the implementation of Princeton’s new grading policy at the Sept. 19 faculty meeting. The policy sets an institution-wide expectation for the percentage of grades in the A range and provides clear guidelines on the meaning of letter grades.
In 2004-05, the first year under the new policy, A’s (A+, A, A-) accounted for 40.9 percent of grades in undergraduate courses, down from 46.0 percent in 2003-04 and 47.9 percent in 2002-03.
In a message issued following the meeting, members of the Faculty Committee on Grading said they were impressed with the faculty’s commitment to controlling grades and encouraged by the progress thus far. “Departments that were giving very high percentages of A grades are making real strides toward bringing their grades down; departments that were already grading according to the new expectations are continuing to hold the line,” they said.
If each division succeeds in making as much progress this coming year as it did last year, we will have achieved our goal...
“After so many years of steady grade inflation, we have actually been able to move the needle in the other direction, in a remarkably short period of time,” they added.
In humanities departments, A’s accounted for 45.5 percent of the grades in undergraduate courses in 2004-05, down from 56.2 percent in 2003-04. In the social sciences, there were 38.4 percent A grades in 2004-05, down from 42.5 percent in the previous year. The natural sciences, at 36.4 percent A’s, essentially held steady. In engineering, the figures were 43.2 percent A’s in 2004-05, down from 48.0 percent in the previous year.
“If each division succeeds in making as much progress this coming year as it did last year, we will have achieved our goal,” the committee members said.
For junior independent work, the percentage of A grades in all departments in 2004-05 was 57.9 percent, down from 59.5 percent in 2003-04 and 66.4 percent in 2002-03. For senior theses and independent work, the figures are 58.6 percent A grades in 2004-05, compared with 60.2 percent in 2003-04 and 63.0 percent in 2002-03.
The committee’s message, available online at www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S12/71/58E12, also describes efforts under way to share strategies for bringing grades under control between departments.
Under the new grading policy, adopted by the faculty in April 2004, A’s are to account for less than 35 percent of the grades for undergraduate courses and less than 55 percent of grades for junior and senior independent work. The standard by which the grading record of each department or program will be evaluated is the percentage of A’s given over the previous three years.
“Many departments are at or very close to the desired standards,” Malkiel said in the committee’s message. “In others, while there is more work to be done, the progress made in a very short time has been nothing short of remarkable. Culture change is hard to achieve, and we always imagined that it would take several years to implement the new grading expectations. We are clearly on our way.”