PTA Grading Policies

Student Progress

The Stanbridge University PTA Program bases its program goals and student expected competencies on the American Physical Therapy Association’s (APTA) document, Minimum Required Skills of Physical Therapist Assistant Graduates at Entry-Level and CAPTE’s Standards and Required Elements for Accreditation of Physical Therapist Assistant Education Programs.


Physical Therapist Assistant students must attain 75% in each theory course and 80% in each PTA lab course in order to graduate. If a theory course grade is below 75%, a laboratory course grade is below 80%, or clinical skills are not all successfully demonstrated, the PTA student will be placed on Academic Probation and the deficiencies must be successfully remediated. The deficiencies will have been successfully remediated if the student achieves a minimum score of 75% for theory courses or 80% for laboratory courses, or a successful demonstration of clinical skills.

Remediation Policy

Theory Course Remediation

The length of the Physical Therapist Assistant program renders retakes of an entire course for remediation purposes impossible if the student is to continue in the program.  Remediation actions for unsatisfactory academic progress are required to be allowed to continue in the program. The progression into the clinical education coursework involved in the program is an exception to the rule.  In general, the student may progress to clinical education experiences (PTA 2010, 2030, and 2040) if he/she has passed all PTA courses in the curriculum prior to any given clinical education course. This includes the demonstration of competency in performing the specific clinical skills that are appropriate for the level of coursework that has been completed up to the point of time in which the clinical education course is to occur. This policy operates in compliance with the current program guidelines on the “Clinical Skills Competency Checklist” found in the Clinical Education Handbook.

  1. For a student to be eligible to take the Clinical Practicum (PTA 2010), he/she must successfully complete all coursework in Terms 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. Any course or competency that is not successfully completed must be successfully remediated prior to beginning PTA 2010.
  2. For a student to be eligible to take Clinical Affiliation I (PTA 2030), he/she must successfully complete all coursework in Terms 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 and demonstrate competency in all clinical skills identified on the Clinical Skills Competency Checklist. Any course or competency that is not successfully completed must be successfully remediated prior to beginning PTA 2030.
  3. In order for a student to be eligible to take Clinical Affiliation II (PTA 2040), he/she must successfully complete all coursework in Terms 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 and demonstrate competency in all clinical skills identified on the Clinical Skills Competency Checklist. The student must also successfully complete PTA 2030 prior to beginning the clinical education coursework for PTA 2040.

In regard to theory courses a student will be expected to take an alternate exam on the material covered in the course that was failed. A student will be considered to have successfully remediated the course when he/she has achieved a passing score on the alternate exam. Regardless of the score achieved on the alternate exam, the maximum grade that will be entered into a student’s grade record for any remediated course will be 75%. Remediation of any failed course must be performed within twenty-one (21) days of the posting of the failing course grade or prior to the start of the next term, whichever is shorter. Students may not sit for the Term or Program Exit Examination until all courses in the respective Term are successfully remediated. Students may utilize up to three course remediation exams, if necessary, per failed theory course with a maximum of one every two days during the remediation period. If a course is not successfully remediated, the student’s failing grade will be recorded as the grade for the un-remediated course and the student will be dismissed. Exceptions to this policy include the Term 2 – 6 Exit Examination and the End of Program Examination for PTA Students. Term Exit Exams for terms 2 – 6 allow for two remediation exam attempts and the Program Exit Exam in Term 8 has one remediation attempt. Remediation of the Term Exit Exam must occur prior to the start of the next term. Students who fail to successfully remediate a failed Term Exit Exam or the Program Exit Exam will be dismissed from the Physical Therapist Assistant Program.

Students may not remediate more than four (4) courses in a program.  If the student fails a fifth (5) course, the student will be dismissed.   End-of-Term cumulative exams are not counted as courses for the purpose of calculating the number of failed courses.

Lab Course Remediation

In order to achieve passing grades for PTA Lab I, II, III and IV, students must complete the following skills checks:

  1. Lab Activity List: All of the activities listed in each of the respective sections must be signed off by an instructor, signifying that the student has performed each of the activities listed. The lab list must be completed by the end of the same lab day and turned in on the due date listed on the course schedule in order to earn full points, and before the student can qualify to participate in the subsequent lab practical exam.
  2. Clinical Skills Competency Checklist (CSCC): Students must be signed off by an instructor for all competencies listed in the respective section. The CSCC must be turned in at 8:00 A.M. PST on the specified due date to earn full points and before the student can qualify to take the next lab practical exam. Students are given the CSCC at least two weeks prior to the competency due date which delineates the expectations that must be met in order to successfully be signed off by an instructor as demonstrating competence. The student has 3 opportunities to pass a CSCC. If the student fails to pass the CSCC on the third attempt, the student fails the course. The student must successfully pass all competencies prior to being allowed to remediate the course at the end of the term. They will be allowed 2 additional attempts to pass each failed competency. If the student fails to pass upon the 2nd attempt, they will not be able to remediate the course, and will be dismissed from the program.
  3. Clinical Skills Practical Examinations: Students are given a set amount of time to participate in a five-section lab practical examination. In section one the student is given the examination scenario to review prior to performing the skills. In sections two, three and four, the students rotate between sections performing the skills outlined in the plan of care. In section five the students document the skills that they perform in a SOAP note format. Following completion of the SOAP note, the students are given immediate, individualized one-on-one feedback as to their performance by an instructor.

Students must achieve a score of 4/5 (80%) or greater on each of the three sections tested on the exam. Students who demonstrate safe and accurate performance, knowledge and communication skills will achieve a 4/5 for the respective sections. Students who do not achieve a score of ≥4/5 will be required to re-take and pass the section(s) that they failed.

If a student fails to perform a Critical Safety Element in section two, three or four, the student immediately fails the exam. Upon remediation, the student will need to demonstrate that he/she can perform the skills that they failed on the original exam in a safe and effective manner. Then the student will perform the section of the remediation exam correlated with the section they failed. In total, the student will have to pass the skills from the original exam (those in which they received a CSV) and an additional set of skills from the remediation correlating with that same section of the exam.

Students must remediate the failed exam or section(s) within five business days. The student may re-take a Practical Examination twice within this time period, if necessary. The highest grade possible on a remediation Practical is 80%. If a student does not successfully remediate a lab practical, they fail the lab course.  Failure of the lab course requires that the student take a comprehensive lab practical examination which is taken at the end of the term. Students must still participate in the remainder of the course. Students will have two opportunities to successfully remediate the failed lab course. Failure to successfully remediate the lab course results in dismissal from the PTA Program.

Any student who fails a practical exam has mandatory tutoring for the PTA Lab course until they successfully remediate the exam. Any student who fails the course is still eligible to continue in the program and has mandatory tutoring for the PTA Lab course through the remainder of the term.

Critical Safety Elements (CSE) are essential for successful completion of PTA Lab I, PTA Lab II and PTA Lab III. Competency with CSEs indicate that a student carries out the intervention per the plan of care in a manner that minimizes risks to the patient, self, and others. Examples of CSEs include, but are not limited to:

  • Ability to follow and appropriately carry out the plan of care (POC) established by the PT.
  • Safe implementation of the POC based upon patient diagnosis, status, and response to intervention without placing the patient in jeopardy of harm or injury.
  • Demonstration of knowledge regarding contraindications and precautions for specific patient diagnosis relative to the physical therapy interventions within the POC (e.g. following the total hip precautions when transferring a patient after total hip replacement; choosing an appropriate assistive device for the weight bearing status and abilities of the patient for gait).
  • Ability to correctly identify physiological measures (HR, BP, RR, blood glucose levels, etc.) outside of parameters that allow for safe therapeutic exercises/intervention and provide proper response and notification of the PT, physician, or nurse.
  • Ensures safety of self and others by washing hands correctly, following universal precautions, able to competently set up a sterile field, and don/doff PPE without contaminating materials, patient, or self to prevent the spread of infection.
  • Uses acceptable techniques for safe handling of patients with proper body mechanics, guarding, and level of assistance; employs standard safety precautions such as: always locking a wheelchair prior to transferring a patient, appropriate use of a gait belt with transfers and gait training, washing hands prior to and after each patient contact, recognizing environmental hazards to safe ambulation, transfers, or other therapeutic interventions.
  • Establishes and maintains safe working environment (e.g. monitoring of lines and tubes and other medical equipment, checks physical therapy equipment and assistive devices for maintenance and/or disrepair, eliminates work place hazards).
  • Requests assistance when necessary (e.g. from supervising PT, utilizes and monitors support personnel)
  • Ability to recognize patient responses during therapeutic intervention that may indicate a life-threatening condition (shortness of breath, chest pain, sudden dizziness, sudden dysarthria, etc.) and provide proper response and notification to the PT, physician, or nurse.
  • Correct interpretation of weight bearing status and ability to choose appropriate assistive device for weight bearing status and individual’s abilities.
  • Utilizes appropriate gait pattern and assistive device relative to patient’s weight bearing status.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of facility/institutional safety policies and procedures.

Additional CSEs may be identified as part of each clinical skill taught and tested as part of the Lab Practical Examination.

Clinical Experience Remediation

If successful completion of a clinical education course is not achieved during the normal clinical time frame the student’s clinical experience may be extended if time allows, or the student may receive a failing grade. The student will be placed on probationary status, and an individualized plan will be developed to help ensure future clinical success. If the student can extend the clinical experience, and the criteria for passing are met by the extended end date, the student will continue in the program. If the student is not able to extend the course, or if the clinical experience has been extended, yet the student is unable to pass the course by the new end date, a remediation must occur prior to placement in to another facility. The remediation is developed by the ACCE with input from the Program Director and additional faculty as needed. If the student meets the necessary criteria delineated in the individualized remediation plan, the student will be given one opportunity to repeat a single educational experience if the course failure occurs for Affiliation I or II. If the student fails  Practicum I, the student cannot progress in the program. The student will have to remediate the clinical experience with the subsequent cohort.  Should extenuating circumstances exist, e.g. interpersonal incompatibility between the clinical Instructor and student, etc., further remediation strategies may be pursued, including reassignment to another clinical instructor and/or clinical education facility. This decision is at the discretion of the ACCE, Program Director, and ultimately, the Office of the President.

Satisfactory Academic Progress Requirements

Academic progress is monitored throughout the program. If a student fails a lab course at any point within the course, the student is required to attend mandatory tutoring for the remainder of the course until it has been successfully remediated. If a student is failing a theory course on a day of an exam, the student is required to attend mandatory tutoring that day.

At a minimum, clinical performance during Clinical Practicum, Clinical Affiliation I and Clinical Affiliation II (PTA 2010, 2030 and 2040, respectively) is assessed at the mid-term and final. The CI is required to complete the web-based Physical Therapist Assistant Clinical Performance Instrument (PTA CPI) at or near the completion of the middle week of the clinical education experience and again at the completion of the course. The PTA CPI must be reviewed with the student to provide a progress report on his/her clinical performance. Any red flag issues that are identified before that point in time are to be brought to the attention of the ACCE, who may notify the student of the issue and its potential impact on his/her course grade.