A+ makes room at the top

By Ina Sidhu

“Would you want to go to a university that only gave ‘A’s?” asks University of Calgary Economics professor Curtis Eaton.

Historically, grades given in any university were much lower than those now, according to Eaton who studies grade inflation. To him, the consequence is that grades convey less information than they used to.

“[In the past,] 10-15 per cent got ‘A’s, and there were a lot more ‘D’s and ‘F’s,” he said.

Over the years, grade inflation has pushed B and B+ students into the A category.

Eaton feels that with such inflation we need to make some room at the top.

“[I am] very strongly in favour of adding the A+,” he said. “It gives us the incentive to learn.

“The extreme of grade inflation destroys incentives for students, and there is no way of demonstrating what they achieved.”

Eaton sees no way of recognizing exceptional students in our current grading system. One way to measure achievements is to add another grade, the A+.

It doesn’t make a difference to him that the A and A+ both equal a 4.0 GPA, as long as it is used consistently.

Externally, it makes a difference with employers and other universities,” he claims. “A transcript gives the GPA and also a scale, so I don’t think that’s a big issue.”

Eaton recognizes that the issue is difficult to address as different departments have different grading schemes, and some professors have higher standards than others. Other universities may also implement the A+ system differently.

“[There are] other ways of aggregating information. I think we should report an additional number, additional to the GPA,” he said.

Eaton is currently conducting research to continue investigating the A+ implementation, and will be available for further comment later this semester.

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