Grade Distribution History & Purpose
Bloomington Faculty Council Recommendations
In response to a resolution from the Bloomington Faculty Council (March 16, 1976), the Office of the Registrar began providing aggregate grade distribution data to the campus in 1976. The request for the data came after discussions concerning grade inflation, which focused primarily on grades issued to undergraduate students enrolled in undergraduate courses. For over twenty years, aggregate grade distribution reports have been mailed to school deans and department chairs (in the College of Arts and Sciences), who have then made the information available to their faculty. The reports were designed and released for university internal use only.
Two actions in the 1990's changed the release and use of the grade distribution information. First, issues surrounding grading practices and grade inflation again became a topic of discussion both in the university community and the public sector. In order to comply with the Indiana Access to Public Records law and the subsequent demand for information, the BFC passed a resolution in 1995 to make aggregate grade distribution data available to anyone upon request as long as the information did not reveal the identity of an individual student. For the second action the BFC passed of a resolution in 1994 to develop the expanded context record, which was implemented by the Office of the Registrar in 1998.
Along with providing expanded context transcripts and semester grade notifications, the Registrar was asked to report corresponding aggregate grade distribution information. In order to report grades in the expanded context record format, new data reporting files had to be designed which were separate from the original historical files. Unfortunately, the historical and new grade distribution reports yielded different counts in certain situations. In addition, the focus of the reporting switched from only undergraduates to all students enrolled in all courses. The Registrar first designed new detailed reports by course and section that were made available publicly on the web. Next, the Registrar developed summary reports for distribution to campus schools and departments. While the new grade distribution information was being released, the historical data reports were still being produced and distributed. In 1999, the Educational Policies Committee recommended that the Registrar gradually switch the release of all grade distribution information from the historical reports to the new reports which would incorporate context grade information. The BFC also felt that the new web detailed reports (by course and section) would fulfill the 1976 mandate to provide grade distribution information to the faculty. The summary reports at this web site provide data that has been aggregated to the department and school levels.
The purpose of the expanded context record is to provide a context/index for a student's grade in a given course section. The indices included in the record are:
- The number of students in the course section who received the same grade or higher.
- The number of students who receive any of the possible grades in the course section.
- The number of students who withdrew (WX or W) or who otherwise did not receive a grade.
- The percentage of students who are majors in the given course department.
- The average grade of all students in the course section.
- The average grade point average of all the students in the course section.
- The instructor of the course section.
To insure that no information will be publicly released that would hereby reveal the identity of individual students, grade and GPA information is suppressed for any section or course with fewer than five students, or if GPA grades were awarded and fewer than five students received GPA grades. The sections that are affected by this measure have grade distribution data available in a separate report that will not be available for public release.
Note: Schools, departments and others with a- legitimate educational purpose can request data for classes with fewer than five students by contacting the Office of the Registrar at firstname.lastname@example.org.