At this time next year -- in 2017 -- Genesee Community College will formerly introduce the "plus-minus" grading system replacing the old structure that has relied solely on A, B, C, D and F, the College's Board of Trustees learned at its monthly meeting on Monday night.
The broader grading range will include A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, C-, D+, D, D- and F, and "will provide a more accurate reflection of student achievement," according to GCC President James M. Sunser.
The process to convert the grading structure has been a multi-year effort that began in 2015. In her report to the Trustees, Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Kathleen M. Schiefen explained that GCC is now among the very few educational institutions nationwide that uses the five-letter grading scale. In May 2015, the College's Academic Senate approved the proposal to add the plus and minus letter grades to the College's student evaluation system, and began the multiyear process to change the grading structure.
Expanding the grading system reinforces the College's number one priority which is student success and completion. Next fall, the grading system will break down into the following letter grade to grade point averages: A = 4.0; A- = 3.67; B+ = 3.33; B = 3.0; B- = 2.67; C+ = 2.33; C = 2.0; C- = 1.67; D+ = 1.33; D = 1.0; D- = .67; F = failure.
"Using the plus–minus grading scale encourages students to do better by giving an added incentive to keep working," Dr. Schiefen explained. As an example, a student with a 70 average and another student with a 79 average will both receive a C. However, as students realize that by working a little harder they might receive a C+ they will be inspired to work hard through to the final assignments or examinations.
Plus-minus grading also helps the admissions selection process distinguish between the various levels of student achievement. Programs such as nursing that have strict admission criteria can better determine the students who are most apt to succeed in the more rigorous academic settings.
But introducing the new grading system is a rigorous task in itself and warranted a careful, two-year plan to ensure all departments change over their systems appropriately. From each academic division to the Records and Business Offices, all full-time and adjunct faculty members, as well as every page of the College's website, the Student and Faculty Handbook, College Catalog, the Banner database system and each and every course syllabus are being carefully culled to ensure a comprehensive conversion to the plus-minus structure.
In other business, the Board of Trustees:
• Heard Richard Ensman, executive director of the Genesee Community College Foundation report on College Village, which has owned and operated the student residential community adjacent to the College's Batavia Campus for 16 years. With occupancy at more than 80 percent this semester, College Village continues to expand and improve the facility by increasing and improving its scope of services. College Village has introduced the "coaching model" through a combination of active engagement and proactive programming to increase student retention and graduation rate. Five college courses, as well as seminars, tutoring and referrals are available at College Village, many in the new "Root" which is located in the basement level of the Hemlock Building. In addition, College Village has expanded public transportation opportunities into the City of Batavia to further engage the student residents in the life of the local community with service now running on Friday nights from College Village to various points in the City.
• Heard Garth Swanson, GCC professor of History, report GCC's Academic Senate, where he has recently assumed the role of president. As a governing body with broad, college-wide representation, the Senate is the primary voice for faculty and staff and operates under four standing committees: Curriculum, Academic Innovation, Academic Standards and Student Success and Retention. The fifth ad hoc committee Emerging Initiatives, addresses the many issues facing community colleges overall, and could likely become a permanent part of the organization under Swanson's leadership. Among the Senate's 2016-2017 priorities are strengthening campus-wide communication; creating an integrated strategy for rapid responses to the changing academic environment; broadening the faculty's role in academic innovation; and supporting GCC's accreditation process with Middle States Commission for Higher Education. The Senate meets every fourth Tuesday of the month, and Senate committees meet every second Tuesday of the month, both at 12:45 p.m. Prof. Swanson welcomed the Board of Trustees to attend.
• Heard Virginia Taylor, Ph.D., vice president for Student and Enrollment Services, report that 133 international students are enrolled at GCC this year representing Japan (58), Netherland Antilles / Carousel Islands (24); United Kingdom (14); Korea (five); Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Nigeria (all four each); Bangladesh (three); China, Timor Leste, Ukraine (each two), and one student is enrolled at GCC from each of the following countries: France, Ivory Coast, Jamica, Malaysia, Russian Federation, Spain, Turkmenistan and Vietnam.
• Approved the following donations: Bridal gowns and social occasion dresses of assorted sizes valued at more than $12,000 to be used and potentially repurposed by the College's Fashion Program; and a pulmonary function testing machine valued at $6,000 for the College's Respiratory Care Program.
• Welcomed Jenna Curcio as the 2016-2017 student trustee. Curcio, from Rochester, is a pursuing a Fashion Business degree with aspirations of transferring to Fashion Institute of Technology.
• Heard of the appointment of Eric Edwards as a new temporary, grant-funded student support services technical specialist. Coming from Hilbert College with eight years of experience as an admissions counselor, she has extensive knowledge in the transfer process, financial aid, career counseling and academic advising. She is a GCC alumna with a Human Services, AS; and also earned a BS from Hilbert and an MS from St. Bonaventure.
• Welcomed the following new GCC employees who attended the post-meeting reception: Shelitha Williams, Ph.D., associate vice president for Student Success; Dr. Laurel Sanger, director of Nursing; Jennifer Wakefield, program director of The BEST Center; and Maureen Spindler, visual communication specialist in the Marketing Communications Office.