Students who receive “M” or “X” in place of a grade on their electronic transcripts are likely in for a surprise. Little information is available to students regarding what “M” and “X” actually mean.
In interviews with the Vanguard, four students were asked if they had ever heard of these marks. One out of the four had not. The others said that they only found out what they meant because they had received one and had to investigate the matter themselves. “I got one, but I had to call the professor to find out. Prior to receiving one, I had no idea what they were,” said Adam Zavala, a senior majoring in political science.
Similarly, Deliah Jones, a fourth-year general science major, said that prior to receiving an “M” mark she had no idea what it was.
“Another student told me. I guessed right but did not know until I received the grade,” Jones said.
According to the Office of Institutional Research and Planning at PSU, an “M” mark occurs when the instructor does not turn in a student’s grade for posting at the end of a term. An “X” mark, on the other hand, indicates that the instructor had no real basis for grading the student.
While when grades are being assembled and reported such logistical difficulties are bound to occur, the University of Oregon reports a highly different rate of these marks than PSU.
According to the UO Registrar, from 1998 to 2002 the combined average rates of the UO “X” and “M” equivalents is 1.4% of total given undergraduate marks. The Office of Institutional Research and Planning at PSU reports the combined average rate of “X” and “M” marks, during the same time period, is 6.8% percent of total undergraduate marks.
Apparently, PSU students aren’t the only ones in for a surprise when confronted with the issue of “X” and “M” marks.
“What’s a missing grade?” asked Interim Provost Michael Reardon responding to questions about these marks.
Reardon is concerned about the high rates of “X” and “M” marks but said he didn’t know what the difference in the rates means.
Reardon did suggest that one reason might be students registering for “dummy” courses. In these cases, students have registered for two sections of one course under the assumption that they would drop one at the beginning of a term. If the student forgot to drop one of the sections, one way to report the grade is as an “X.”
Reardon suggested that other urban universities are comparable to PSU in this regard, mentioning Purdue University specifically. A check of the Purdue web site produced no such data.
“Missing” seems to be the best way to describe specific information regarding the nature of “M” and “X” marks, as well as an account of the reasons for PSU’s rate of such marks given to undergraduate students in the last five years.