Progress on grading policy continues, data show no drawbacks for graduates

Efforts to establish a common grading standard across the University are continuing to make progress, according to a report issued by the Faculty Committee on Grading.

In addition, the committee announced that these efforts have not put Princeton students at a disadvantage when it comes to finding jobs or getting into graduate schools.

The committee presented its report on grading results for 2005-06 at the Sept. 18 faculty meeting. The grading policy, adopted by the faculty in 2004, sets an institution-wide expectation for the percentage of grades in the A range and provides clear guidelines on the meaning of letter grades.

The report included two-year averages, comparing 2004-06 -- the first two years under the new policy -- with 2002-04 -- the two years before the adoption of the policy. In 2004-06, grades in the A range (A+, A, A-) accounted for 41 percent of grades in undergraduate courses, down from 47 percent in 2002-04.

This progress puts Princeton closer to the institution-wide expectation of A's accounting for less than 35 percent of the grades for undergraduate courses.

"While there is clearly more work to be done," the committee said in its report, "we are heading in the right direction, and we are encouraged by the progress made thus far."

The committee also provided a two-year breakdown of percentage of A's by academic divisions: humanities -- 46.4 percent in 2004-06, down from 56.6 percent in 2002-04; social sciences -- 37.9 percent in 2004-06, down from 43.7 percent in 2002-04; natural sciences -- 35.8 percent in 2004-06, down from 36.3 percent in 2002-04; and engineering -- 42.7 percent in 2004-06, down from 50.1 percent in 2002-04.

The committee said it would be working closely with individual departments over the course of the fall semester to understand the factors that have contributed to success in implementing the new grading expectations and to gain information about the challenges that may be impeding further progress. The committee noted that the standard by which the grading record of each department or program normally will be evaluated is the percentage of A's given over the previous three years.

Using data from the Office of Career Services' annual survey of Princeton seniors on their post-graduation plans, the committee compared statistics for the class of 2004 -- the last class to graduate before the new grading standards went into effect -- with those for the classes of 2005 and 2006.

"We see no evidence of detrimental effects from the new grading policy on the fortunes of Princetonians in the various external marketplaces in which they compete for jobs and graduate and professional school admissions," the committee stated.

Noting that many other factors affect these data, such as the state of the economy, the committee reported that the percentage of students who had full-time jobs in May of their senior year has increased over the three years: 29.4 percent of the class of 2004; 32.5 percent of the class of 2005; and 35 percent of the class of 2006. Of those who intended to work, the percentage still seeking employment in May of their senior year has decreased: 23.4 percent of the class of 2004; 22.2 percent of the class of 2005; and 18.8 percent of the class of 2006.

The committee also analyzed data on admission to graduate schools, medical schools and law schools and found "no evidence of any harm to Princeton undergraduates' further schooling and future careers."

The Faculty Committee on Grading is charged by the faculty to assess the progress made in implementing the new grading expectations and to advise on ways of making further progress. It consists of six elected faculty members: Lynn Enquist, molecular biology; Michael Gordin, history; Martha Himmelfarb, religion; Jaswinder Pal Singh, computer science; Anne-Marie Slaughter, Woodrow Wilson School; and Kyle Vanderlick, chemical engineering. The dean of the faculty, the dean of the college and the registrar serve as ex officio members.