Legislature proposes bills to include class median grade on transcripts

Eleanor Dearman

Bills proposed in the state House and Senate would require a class’s median or average grade be posted alongside a student’s individual score. 

Rep. Scott Turner (R-Frisco), the main proponent of HB 1196 — or what he calls the “Open Transcript Bill” — said in an email the bill would reveal grade inflation on college transcripts at Texas public universities and colleges. The policy would not be applicable to classes with 10 or fewer students. 

Sen. Konni Burton (R-Colleyville) filed an identical bill to Turner’s, SB 499. Her staff declined to comment.  

Turner said his bill would increase transparency in higher-education grading.

“Grade inflation is a serious problem among post-secondary universities, making it increasingly difficult for employers to evaluate potential candidates and nearly impossible for parents and students to determine the true value of their college investment,” Turner said in an email.

Some students, such as Edwin Qian, management information systems and economic senior, agree that posting the median or average grades on transcripts would work to prevent grade inflation at universities.

Qian said that while there are situations in which having the average or median grade could be detrimental, such as  receiving an ‘A’ when an ‘A’ was the average grade, having the class score present could be beneficial.  

“For students in programs such as computer science and engineering, where the courses are a little more challenging and difficult, they might want that on their transcript because it would show that the average of the course is actually a ‘C,’ but, guess what, I got the ‘A,’” Qian said.

Santiago Sanchez, Plan II and biochemistry junior, said he does not support the idea of showing average or median grades on transcripts. He said in some difficult classes in which the average grade is an ‘A,’ displaying the average would mislead others into thinking the class is easy.

“I just don’t think it would be helpful, and it could hurt people if that context gets misread or misunderstood,” Sanchez said.

UT astronomy professor Derek Wills said it would not be difficult for professors to include the class’ composite grade, even in large lecture classes. However, Shelby Stanfield, vice provost and registrar at the Office of the Registrar, said posting median grade averages to transcripts is not quite that simple on the administrative side.

According to Stanfield, to accommodate the legislation, many details would have to be worked out, including combined class grades across the  University.

Stanfield said some of these changes include rewriting the registrar software to determine the scores. He said they would also have to look at courses with multiple unique numbers within one course, such as a lecture course with labs.

“It gets real complicated because the way our curriculum is set, not simply every class is its own stand-alone entity,” Stanfield said.

Stanfield said it is unclear how the median grade would be interpreted in other states that don’t require the class scores on a transcript.

“We would want to make sure that in doing this we do it for the intents and purposes behind the legislation and not have any unintended consequences that would actually work to our students’ detriment,” Stanfield said.