Oregon – Western Oregon University has decided to stop using failing grades, explaining that being too focused on GPA can hurt students. They shared in a news release this month that instead of giving “D-” and “F” grades, they will give “no credit.” This means students who don’t pass a class must take it again until they pass, but it won’t lower their GPA.
“The difference is that the grade of NC will not negatively impact student GPAs,” the press release noted.
Western Oregon University is changing its policy to help students
The university noticed a trend where 65% of first-year students who left the school had received at least one “F.” They aim to make sure students who meet the main goals and skills of their courses can graduate, giving every student a chance to succeed, said Jose Coll, the Vice President of Academic Affairs, in an email to The College Fix.
Coll mentioned that GPA will now better show a student’s success and understanding of their courses. He explained that failing grades won’t hide what students have actually learned. The university believes that students who get “no credit” will be more likely to keep going with their education. However, some people criticized the university for potentially making it easier to get better grades.
Coll disagreed with those criticisms and questioned the national focus on GPAs and test scores like the SAT and ACT.
“The GPA fixation we have as a country and the grading system that’s been in place for over 200 years has been used to determine who belongs and who is capable, although we know that similar to the SAT and ACT, many capable students have been prohibited from pursuing their post-secondary education due to these barriers,” he said.
Different approach for better results
Fox News Digital questioned Coll about what should be used instead of GPA, SAT, and ACT scores to assess students’ skills and abilities for getting into competitive educational programs. Coll mentioned that although schools require grades to assess learning and competencies, the main focus should be on recognizing each student’s strong points. This approach would help students develop and achieve success.Top of Form
“Our current models technically move the field goal each time a student fails a course, making it harder and harder to achieve their mission,” he told Fox News Digital. “As a Marine Corps Veteran – I recall many young Marines not qualifying on the rifle range and the outcome was increase training and support. When the Marine returned to the range to prequalify (target) remained at the same distance allowing the Marine the opportunity to demonstrate their skill without the range moving further because of their first fail.”
Coll mentioned that other universities in the U.S. have faced criticism for grade inflation too.
Recognizing students’ skills and abilities in the focus
He emphasized that the new policy aims to let students show their abilities based on what they are good at. If students don’t meet the required skills, they have to try again until they can show they’ve mastered them.
“Skill-based assessments are a common measure of competencies, and many majors such as nursing, firefighting, and counseling, to name three, require their students to demonstrate proficiency in certain skills, which are appropriate and needed as we prepare a workforce. Skill-based assessments have proven to be one mechanism to demonstrate learning proficiency,” Coll said.
Concerns about too many students getting high grades have also been raised at some Ivy League schools. For example, a report from December mentioned that 79% of students at Yale College got an A for the 2022-2023 school year, and Harvard University reported that 70% of grades were A’s for the 2020-2021 school year.Top of Form
“Mean grades on a four-point scale were 3.80 in the 2020-21 academic year, up from 3.41 in 2002-03,” the Harvard Crimson reported.