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Concerns grow over performing arts grading system

Credit/no credit could replace letter grades in music, drama classes

<p>The program is currently undergoing an evaluation, but no official decisions have been made.&nbsp;</p>

The program is currently undergoing an evaluation, but no official decisions have been made. 

Grading in performing arts classes is currently under internal assessment by the Music department, raising concerns among music and drama students about future grading policies.

Specifically, some students are upset by the prospect of being graded on a strictly credit/no credit basis instead of the current, lettered grading scale.

“All performance-based classes — they’ve been told it’s not an ‘if,’ it’s a ‘when,’” fourth-year College student Laura Tracy said.

College Dean Ian Baucom said the internal assessment will run through the end of next semester, and no changes to grading policy have been recommended yet.

“It’s too early to speculate about the results of the study, but I look forward to reading it and considering any recommendations the faculty might have,” Baucom said in an email statement.

However, both students and faculty are under the impression that grading changes, including a transition to credit/no credit, are inevitable, and many have expressed alarm.

Director of Bands William Pease said he was upset that his students could receive even less recognition for their hard work.

“I'm very disappointed in this change for our students who put in so many hours for this institution,” Pease said in an email statement. “The students in the arts at U.Va. are outstanding, the majority of which do the arts for very little recognition but the love of their craft and U.Va.”

A number of students said they felt like changing the classes to credit/no credit would delegitimize the work they do in the arts.

Performing arts take just as much, if not more, skill as other subject areas, fourth-year College student Gloryah Allen said.

“[It’s] like the effort that you put into music and the effort that you put into arts isn’t worth the effort you put into economics or the effort you put into biology,” she said.

One argument against changing the grading system is that both academic finals and performance finals reflect a student’s mastery of the knowledge presented in class, and should therefore receive the same weight in terms of grading.

“If you’re basing someone’s grade off of what they know, then you’re going to base band off of how much they know,” graduate Engineering student Gregory Lewis said. “You’re going to perform in front of 60,000 people in a football game — that’s a pretty valuable motivator to know the information, which happens to be music.”

Third-year College student Micah Watson said she did not find grade inflation to be an issue relevant to the performing arts.

“I know some people argue that people take arts classes for easy As, but in my experience, most of the people who are engaging in the arts classes are serious artists or want to be serious artists,” Watson said. “Not allowing us to have the opportunity to work towards something, to work towards an A or to work towards having a high grade, again, devalues what we’re doing.”

Nonetheless, the departmental assessment is ongoing, and Music Department Chair Matthew Burtner said there are no imminent grading changes.

“We are conducting an internal departmental assessment about grading in performance classes this year, as we continually assess various parts of our department in order to improve the quality of the education we offer,” Burtner said in an email statement.

Faculty and a select number of students will have the opportunity to meet and speak about grading changes during reading days, third-year College student Julianna Lee said.

“I have not been told exactly what will be discussed, but it will most likely be our thoughts on the proposed changes to the grading system,” she said in an email statement.

Tracy said the administration had attempted to change the grading scale a week before fall classes started, but failed due to resistance from faculty.

Baucom did not specifically comment on this allegation.

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