Pierce programs puzzle with ever-changing grade policies

The puzzling look behind grading policies.

Shelly Beraza


A few courses at Pierce College have different grading policies compared to the traditional classes.

When taking a traditional class at either the Puyallup or Fort Steilacoom campus, a student is required to earn at least a 1.0, equivalent to a D letter grade, to pass a class. According to the district grading policy, if a student didn’t do passing work in the course, didn’t attend during the quarter or didn’t officially withdraw then they would receive an F or 0.0.

That’s not the case with the nursing, digital design and the dental hygiene programs.

Each of these programs are unique in their own way. The associate degree in nursing takes six quarters and the lowest passing grade is a 2.7, or 80 percent.

“Our grading system holds students to a higher standard because they are working with vulnerable populations,” program director Becky Piper said. “We must think of patient safety in every class we teach.”

Pierce’s nursing program isn’t doing anything out of the ordinary.

“If you examine programs around the state or the U.S., nursing programs consistently grade in this manner,” Piper said. “Maybe not exactly as ours, but the 80 percent pass rate is standard for every course, clinicals, labs and classroom. If they don’t pass with an 80 percent or better they are dropped from the program.”

The dental hygiene program offered at the Fort Steilacoom campus, which lasts seven consecutive quarters, has similar grading standards with the lowest passing grade being a 75 percent, equivalent to a 2.0.

“To practice as a licensed, registered dental hygienist, the person must successfully graduate from an accredited, by the Commission on Dental Accreditation, dental hygiene program and pass seven separate licensing board examinations” said Monica Hospenthal, director of the dental hygiene department. “CODA requires our graduates to meet autonomous, safe, entry-level competence in each skill area. Being unable to show competence in 30-40 percent of the intricate skills and/or in the complex knowledge needed for safe and effective patient care is not entry-level, minimum safe competence. Thus, we set the minimum competence level at 75 percent since dental hygienists perform several procedures/skills that could cause harm to a patient if done incorrectly.”

The digital design program offered at the Fort Steilacoom campus lasts eight quarters.

The digital design program requires a 70-72 percent, 1.7, or higher to pass the courses.

“Since we’re a vocational training program and preparing students for the world of work, if they are not at least at the competent level, they’re not prepared,” said Brian Martin, a digital design instructor and adviser. “Passing someone at just the emerging level of abilities doesn’t do them any good for getting into the workforce.”

While only three programs are listed that hold students to a higher level of accountability and responsibility, a student should always strive to be above average in educational endeavors.

The Puyallup Post is the award-winning news media of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2018. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube @thepuyalluppost

Pierce programs puzzle with ever-changing grade policies

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