May 8, 2010

End of Semester Blues

Posted in Semester endcap, student stories tagged , , , , at 7:45 pm by profart

As the spring semester winds to a close, I would like to share one of my (least) favorite emails I have received from my students- the kind that makes me bang my head on my desk and wonder why I am here. Several years ago, I received this (and yes, I kept it. Remember, friends, email can be forever!):

Dear Ms. Arrt:

I was wondering if you could help me with my final grade, I’m trying to figure it out. I’m transferring to DecentFourYear College (DFYC), and I’ll have to retake this class if I didn’t get at least a C so it won’t effect my GPA.

Baddat Maths

Note the mis-spelling of my name. Yes, this person actually mis-spelled my name, and continued to do so throughout the whole email exchange, which was a general back-and-forth of “The formula for computing your final grade is stated in the syllabus, as well as conversion from letter to numerical grading. I do not discuss final grades.” “But I can’t figure out my grade!”

And here was the crowning moment:

Ms. Arrt:

When I added up my grades of 58.8 for my mideterm, 45.6 for my final, 72.9 for participation, and my 72 for my paper, I got 251.4, and divided by four, I got a 63.85. Is this a C? I really need to transfer to DFYC.

Baddat

Did you all get out your calculators? That’s right- not one of those calculations is correct. And better yet, neither is the participation score. When I actually tallied it according to the conversion I provided, I got 62.8 (apparently, Baddat didn’t realize that when you get a 0 for a week, you have to actually count that in, and divide by the total weeks, not just the weeks you participated in. And it would still be wrong.) Oh, and according to the syllabus, a 63.85 is a D. Since I consider 62 the cutoff for a D-, the student still got a D. How Baddat would get through DFYC with this kind of problem with simple arithmetic, I have no idea. They certainly took none of the classes I teach at DFYC.

I get a few of these every semester, but none this bad- and despite my “I do not discuss final grades” clause in my syllabus.

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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.

June 5, 2009

Bad at Math

Posted in clues to the clueless, Semester endcap, student mistakes, student stories tagged , , , , , , at 3:00 am by profart

From a student:

Hi Prof. Art. I was in your class and I just now looked at my grades and I am really not understanding my D in the class. I did all of the assignments and participation and my grades dont look bad. I averaged them and it looks like a C to me. The only thing I dont see on there is my Final exam part 1 grade but all else looks right. I am just a little confused, I thought that class was going well and I was doing well.

-Confused.

So I went back and crunched the numbers. Hey, I ain’t perfect, I’ve missed a number before. But the facts remained:

In fact, Confused had missed one weeks’ worth of participation, and one assignment. Part One of the final was never opened, nor attempted, according to BlackBoard.

And in fact, the numbers crunched to a 57.

Which is an F.