August 13, 2009

Bad at Math: Massive Increase

Posted in Semester endcap, student stories, teaching revelations tagged , , , , , , , , , at 3:00 am by profart

You may recall that I have been having trouble students who cannot do math. I have recently had a serious uptick in the number of students who email me at the end of the semester with emails to the effect of, “How can I have gotten an F? All my grades were C’s!” and I rush to check the gradebooks, only to find that they failed their exams, sometimes spectacularly, failed several of the weekly assignments, and have the occasional “0” to really help that grade out.

Do students not realize that anything below a 70 is not a C?

When I was in school- elementary and secondary- our grading scale looked like this:
95-100 A
88-94 B
81-87 C
75-80 D
74 and below F

You read that correctly. A 74 was an F. Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with expecting a student to be able to retain, analyze, and communicate at least 75% of the course material in order to pass a subject. Seriously.

So I think it is a freakin’ GIFT that a 60 is a passing grade in college. A gimme. A break of a lifetime. That a 70 is considered “adequate” is just miraculous. Why students who made it to college can’t get a grasp of 70% of course material, or grasp that below that would be “inadequate”, that’s just unacceptable. This is what happens when you change the secondary school grading scale so that 60 is passing: you are lowering your standards. Why do parents want to pay all this tax money to schools to get less achievement, lower levels of learning for their kids?

As the grading systems in elementary and secondary schools get fluffier, the students at the college level become less capable of doing college-level work. After all, a grade is a simple problem of basic arithmetic. If your kid can’t do a simple equation of add four numbers and divide by four, your school system has some very serious problems. Maybe expecting more from your kids would result in getting more from your kids.

Kids tend to rise to the challenge. Unless you don’t set them one. Then they get to adulthood without any skills to cope with challenge.

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