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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Spanish and Portuguese department adopts unfair grading scale

    As I sit in my Spanish class, I anxiously wait for my professor to pass back my last exam. He hands my test to me and, lo and behold, a 90 percent! I am ecstatic, overjoyed and everything in between. I begin to rock the low key “I got an A” dance. I even consider ditching my clean-eating plans to indulge in a celebratory milkshake from Cellar Bistro.

    However, the reality is that while a 90 percent is close, it isn’t close enough. Unlike a standard academic department at the UA, the department of Spanish and Portuguese has adopted a slightly different grading scale. While the C, D and E grading scale remains the same, the A has been set at a scale of 92-100 percent and the B has been adjusted to a scale of 80-91 percent.

    Why was 92 selected as the lucky number? Was a 91 too close to a 90 and a 93 too drastic of a change? According to Eliud Chuffe, director of the Basic Language Program, the university’s lack of a plus and minus grading scale is the reason for the adjustment.

    “Because Spanish is the largest language department on campus, we want to ensure that those who have worked hard and earned an A receive it,” Chuffe said. Chuffe explained that on a plus and minus scale, a 90 or 91 would be an A- and a 92 would be an A. Because we have no plus or minus scale, a 92 remains an A and an A- becomes a B. Furthermore, the fall 2013 Spanish course statistics concluded that the vast majority of students earn an A or B, so naturally, this grading scale determines who are the top students and who are not.

    Of course, this assumes that a student who achieves an A- mark is a slacker who made significantly less effort than a student with a 92%. And that’s clearly ridiculous.

    This system is unfair and a futile attempt at weeding out the “good” from the “great.”

    During my time at the UA, I have encountered professors who are especially picky about the number of A’s they distribute, disregarding any particular grading scale. For these teachers, more emphasis is put on rewarding hardworking students rather than just those who manage to earn an A with luck and natural intelligence. If one teacher or department is so concerned that students are stealing their precious A’s, why not simply increase the rigor of the curriculum and keep the same grading scale that is upheld by the other academic departments? Grading scales are by their nature arbitrary. But at least by using the same arbitrary numbers as every other department on campus — and across the country — we can ensure that the numbers mean something. In statistical terms, the traditional scale may not be accurate, but at least it’s precise. An alternate scale, like the one used by the department of Spanish and Portuguese, is neither.

    Many students at the UA take pride in their school work and wish to do well. If an academic department wants to challenge students, it should create a more difficult curriculum rather than making the race longer for those who have already crossed the finish line, so to speak. Increasing an A to 92 percent is ridiculous for those who clearly worked hard to receive a 90 or 91 percent. Making the coursework more rigorous is an efficient way to not only challenge students, but to truly see which students are proficient in Spanish and which are not.

    Emilee Hoopes is a Molecular and Cellular Biology sophomore. Follow her on Twitter @h00pesthereitis

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