Get an A+

By Вen Li

A year after it was approved by the General Faculties Council, the new A+ grade made its first appearance on course outlines this week.

"The A+ grade is part of a province-wide initiative to have a common grading scale amongst post-secondary institutions," said University of Calgary Registrar David Johnston. "I know that the University of Alberta will be adopting the A+ grade next September and [the University of] Lethbridge is already using it."

Originally gfc planned to implement the honorific A+ grade, which converts on transcripts to a 4.0 grade point like a regular A, in September 2003. The change this year caught some instructors and students by surprise. For example, most syllabi from the Department of Political Science described the A+ grade while the syllabi from the Department of Economics contained no mention of the new grade. According to Undergraduate co-ordinator for the Department of Economics Dr. Jim Gaisford, instructors in Economics informed students of the A+ grading system verbally on the first day of classes.

"I think it’s probably true to say that the A+ grades were not very well publicized among faculty in this department," said Gaisford. "Notification for the A+ grade was given to us after the May deadline for course outline submissions."

According to U of C Associate Vice-President Academic Dr. Peggy Patterson, the U of C was able to adopt the A+ grade earlier than some other universities because the U of C’s systems required comparatively minor changes.

"We were already making system changes as a result of Direct Entry which required rejigging of some of the systems," said Patterson. "We saved time because incorporating A+ required so few additional changes."

Students’ Union Vice-President Academic Rosie Nagra has some reservations about the implementation of the new system.

"We will be lobbying to have the implementation of the A+ system pushed back, as communication has not been clear both with faculty and students," said Nagra. "We would like to see if this initiative could be re-addressed to improve clarity and communication."

Nagra believes that students were not sufficiently informed of the change, described in the 2002–2003 Calendar, and will address the issues in consultation with the Academic Program Committee.

"What is required to receive an honorific grade must be more clearly addressed," she said. "Upon discussion of this item with [the Students’ Academic Assembly], it was discovered even within departments, the actual implementation of the A+ grade differs… Furthermore, saa was concerned that what a student must do to receive an A+ was not very clear, or in some cases fair."

Nagra also had concerns regarding the appearance of the A+ grade on transcripts when applying for scholarships. Patterson stated that appropriate documentation will appear on all transcripts explaining the availability of the A+ grade. She also said that students would benefit from the availability of A+ grades when transferring to other institutions with different grading systems.

"Some of our students were disadvantaged in the past. Lethbridge had an A+, U of C didn’t," said Patterson. "An A+ translates higher on the U of A scale than an A."

Johnston expects there will be a time of transition as faculty adjust to the new grade.