Members of the Board:
It was with some dismay that I left last Tuesday's meeting and headed home to consider the meeting, the debate on plus/minus grading, and the repercussions for students, faculty and the district.
Of greatest concern to Dan Mitchell and myself was the suggestion that faculty in the district were pushing forward an agenda that was characterized as lacking any regard whatsoever for the students in our district, that the faculty were determined to have plus/minus grading even if students were to suffer as a consequence. Let me assure you that nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, the students are and have been our primary focus in the many years plus/minus grading has been discussed in our district. But it should also be clear that faculty must and do think of all their students when making pedagogical decisions. Any faculty member who focused so narrowly on the top tier of students, those who earn only A grades, would be remiss in his/her duties.
I suppose this is why both Dan and myself found this narrowed focus so confusing. If we were to consider the straight A student to the exclusion of all other students, we would be ignoring the needs and accomplishments of the vast majority of students enrolled at Foothill and De Anza. How can we explain to the student who earns a C+ that he/she must accept a C so that the student who has earned an A- can be given an A? Is it only the straight A student who thinks about transferring or earning a degree? Do only straight A students think about their future careers?
Fairness is certainly a reasonable consideration when deciding and employing a grading system. But is it fair, then, to consider the concerns and fears of only those students striving towards or maintaining a 4.0 GPA? Would not members of the board be rightly indignant to learn that a faculty member had dedicated all of his/her instruction, feedback, and evaluation on the top performing students of his/her class? Would it not be a serious abdication of our responsibilities if faculty focused only on those students who earned or were likely to earn an A?
Faculty in the district take their professional obligations seriously and they have also taken this decision to switch to a plus/minus grading system seriously. It is not a decision we have made cavalierly and it is certainly not a decision we have made without careful consideration as to its impact on our students. We are asking only that you honor our professionalism and base your vote on the needs of every student we teach and will teach in the future.
President, Academic Senate
President, Academic Senate