Technically, my philosophy is that to receive an A-plus on an essay or in a class, you’ve got to just blow me away. I asked my department about this once, and one professor said ze had given maybe three A-pluses in 17 years, and that’s kind of how I feel about A-plus. It should be a rare occurrence reserved for the extraordinary.
But I’m starting to wonder. My institution counts an A+ as 4.3 in GPA calculations. I demand a lot from my students. I have good students in small classes, who could likely earn an A+ by standing out among the crowd in larger courses. By not giving A-pluses, am I penalizing my students for embracing a challenge?
I’m holding the bar on not giving A+ on essays. Sorry, there’s just no student writing and analysis I can’t critique down to at least an A. But I’m considering giving A+ final grades. If I have a student whose work was consistently at solid A or above, and who stood out in some way, then maybe they deserve an A+. (Last term I didn’t find anyone, but now I’m open to the idea that I ought to look for someone to get an A+ rather than wait to be knocked out my socks.)
I preferred the approach of my grad institution—-professors could give A+, and the A+ showed up on a transcript, but A and A+ both contributed 4.0 to the GPA (while A- was 3.7, etc, and so forth). Thus A+ could act as an “honor” grade, and embody the symbolism that an A+ is something truly exceptional, while not penalizing the excellent student who did solid A work.