Tennessee State President Defends School Administrators Over Grading Controversy

Following news reports that Tennessee State University faculty members and administrators have clashed over whether administrators authorized improper grade changes for more than 100 students in introductory math courses this past year, the school’s president has denied the allegations.

In The Tennessean, university president Portia Holmes Shields responded to “allegations made by one or a few TSU faculty members who suggested the TSU administration ordered or directly changed the grades of students, presumably for unauthorized reasons.”

“Let me be crystal clear: The TSU administration did not change or seek to change any students’ grades in mathematics courses involved or any other courses,” Holmes Shields wrote in a commentary in The Tennessean.

The Tennessean in Nashville previously reported that more than 100 Tennessee State University students originally given incompletes in two fall math courses saw their marks changed to letter grades.

The two courses, Contemporary Mathematics and College Algebra, are pilot courses established as part of a statewide plan, which has barred Tennessee Board of Regents-affiliated schools from providing remedial education classes. The new math courses have replaced remedial classes and require that students master college-level subject matter as well as supplemental coursework to enable them to catch up in proficiency.

School officials had contended they had the authority to change the grades, after having cleared up a miscommunication about course requirements. However, a number of professors charged administrators with altering the grades without the instructors’ permission.

The university last week released a signed statement from three of the 11 professors who taught the two courses. The instructors confirmed that they had made the changes after acknowledging errors and changed the student grades, according to The Tennessean.

In her response that ran in The Tennessean on Saturday, Shields discussed how her school has coped with the elimination of remedial classes.

“I am proud that mathematics faculty designed a course allowing students who needed learning support and more time or instruction to have it in a number of ways: a four-day instead of a regular three-day schedule, a variety of computer-assisted instructional supports, the videotaping of classes, and university tutoring 24/7. Such was TSU’s response to the elimination of remedial classes at four-year institutions in Tennessee.”

To read the entire commentary by Shields, click here.