A Proposal to Increase the Information Content of Student Transcripts

Joseph A. Potenza and Gregory Herzog
Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology
Rutgers University, New Brunswick

We believe that the grades on a studentís transcript should provide concise and meaningful information about the studentís achievements. Discussions taking place over the last two years suggest that the current grading scheme is not completely satisfactory. To increase the durability of any agreed-upon grading scheme, and to improve the information content of student transcripts, we propose that, beginning with courses taken in the Fall 2005 semester, the Registrar be instructed to modify the transcript of every student as follows.

For each course in which a student receives a letter grade, the transcript will add to the information that is now presented, 1) the mean numerical grade of all students; and 2) the number of students who received letter grades. A typical entry on a transcript might then take the form
 
Index code Course title
Student grade
Course mean
Number of students
01:160:127 Impact of Chemistry
B+ (3.5)
3.1
73

In this example the transcript shows that the student received an above-average grade in a medium-sized class. The letter grade is shown because this is current practice. For ease of interpretation, we would prefer that numerical student grades be added as has been done parenthetically in our example. If the transcript were to be presented without the conversion, then a chart converting letters to numbers would be required. Standard deviations of the mean or a percentile corresponding to the studentís grade could also be given, but here we run the risk of overkill.

Our proposal would add substantive, useful information to the transcript at virtually no administrative cost. It would help Rutgers undergraduates by giving them more complete feedback regarding their performance, and by making it easier for external readers to recognize outstanding performance, particularly in courses or disciplines where average grades are low. Implementation of this proposal would be relatively easy because all the information required is already available electronically to the registrar.

Although aggregated grades have been stable at Rutgers, New Brunswick for some years (see attached table), we believe that our proposal would help mitigate any future grade inflation or deflation. As a final note, we believe that the proposed method for recording grades will express to the larger public Rutgersí commitment to fair and informative student assessment.
 
 

Aggregated Mean Undergraduate Student Grades at Rutgers, New Brunswick for the Fall 1993, 1998, and 2003 Semesters*.
Fall Year Course Level
Mean
N
Std. Deviation
1993 100 level
3.264
5,297
0.936987
200 level
3.133
7,111
0.937706
300 level
3.040
5,637
1.004200
Total
3.142
18,045
0.962675
1998 100 level
3.126
6,853
1.018335
200 level
3.184
7,021
0.976654
300 level
3.131
5,730
0.976115
Total
3.148
19,604
0.991576
2003 100 level
3.285
4,945
0.958908
200 level
3.166
6,623
1.000746
300 level
3.142
7,566
0.996955
Total
3.187
19,134
0.990278
Total 100 level
3.215
17,095
0.979242
200 level
3.161
20,755
0.971529
300 level
3.108
18,933
0.993815
Total
3.159
56,783
0.982227
*Data provided by the Office of Institutional Research.