UAlberta speaks out on grading dispute

Under no circumstances are grades changed 'arbitrarily,' says dean of science

University of Alberta dean of science Gregory Taylor recently issued a response to Gateway editor Jonn Kmech’s editorial on the grading dispute between the university and math professor Mikhail Kovalyov.

It should be recalled that Kovalyov was asked to resign after informing his students that their grades were lowered by administrators without his support. The changes made by administrators in the Department of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences resulted in the class average for the professor’s first year course to drop from 2.16 to 1.79, while the university’s grading policy suggests an average of 2.62 for courses at the same level.

In his editorial, Kmech argued that, “While it’s currently the department’s prerogative to approve the final grades, if they can lower the marks by bulk like this, there doesn’t seem much point to professors handing out grades at all.”

Science dean Taylor responds that Kmech’s editorial suggests that administrators change instructor’s grades at random to fit a grading curve, which Taylor argues, “is simply not the case.”

“There is no policy that requires a quota of As, Bs, Cs, and so on in a course or across sections of a course,” Taylor states.

However, as noted in our original story,  the explanation given by faculty services officer David McNeilly for altering the grades, was that Kovalyov awarded too many B grades and “failed to include any grades of C-, D+, or D,” which clearly suggests a grading curve.

The university’s grading policy posted on its website also outlines suggested distributions of grades for undergraduate courses. Although professors are not expected to follow the distribution “exactly,” guidelines suggest that in a first year class, six per cent of students will fail, nine per cent will receive a B and four per cent will be awarded an A+.

Judging by evidence presented in the Kovalyov case and the university’s grading policy itself, Taylor’s argument that a grading curve does not exist at the U of A is not a very strong one.

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