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Emergent questions about grades


Grades are in.

Why is it that there are more thirteenth-hour questions than there were eleventh-hour ones?

I mean, I know I try to put students at ease when they needn't be alarmed, just because some of them are very antsy, and some are just a little insecure. Some students should be worried, though! To wit: grad students on the brink of a C or undergrads on the brink of a D or F should hit the books (or come and check on missing homeworks or their absolute standing) before the final. It's easy to say "I didn't see a grade posting, so I just guessed (read: assumed) I was okay"; it's quite another to know you only turned in half the assignments or turned the hour exams in half blank and then count on the curve.

... right?



( 28 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 21st, 2006 11:28 pm (UTC)
The buck has to stop somewhere. Tests earn you merit, and assignments earn you slack. Any college education that is any good will hold you accountable.
May. 22nd, 2006 03:28 am (UTC)
Preaching to the converted!
Y'all are talking to me as if I didn't believe you, or am one of them... :-P

May. 22nd, 2006 01:59 am (UTC)
If you're that stupid/inept you shouldn't be in grad school anyways.
May. 22nd, 2006 03:29 am (UTC)
Who's "you"?
J/K, I know what you meant. And yes. But mostly I am talking about undergrads. Senioritis is rampant. Sigh.

May. 22nd, 2006 01:59 am (UTC)
hmm, your students are lucky. My teachers would NEVER consider a curve. (but then again, with the one teacher that was going to give one, I was one of the students that screwed up the curve for everyone by missing only one question. I can't help it that I actually knew the material o.O)

Accountability of students is really taking a downward spiral if you ask me (and accountability of the human race in general) and I'm going to make a general assumption and point the blame towards public schooling standards and lawsuits =P
May. 22nd, 2006 03:35 am (UTC)
Loss of accountability
Yes. See my earlier rants from 08 Dec 2004 and Nov 2004.

And remember! Lots of good, wholesome Sesame Street and Square One TV for your baby. Teletubbies and Boohbah and Barney in moderation, if at all. It's one thing to say there is a proper age for exposure to certain cognitive skills and concepts, but it's quite another to deaden their minds with the visual Soma of nothing but bright colors and soothing babble.

May. 22nd, 2006 04:20 am (UTC)
Re: Loss of accountability
If Teletubbies or Boohbahs find their way into this house I'm going to stab my eardrums out! One "cartoon" that I DO want my child to see is this nick jr. show called the backyardagins (sp?) which I actually enjoy watching myself. Each episode has thought-out lyrics to song and thought-provoking and entertaining episodes... not a bunch of fluffy Things cooing over "Mr. Man" or whatever the characters on boohbah are. *twitches just thinking about them*

If I want to expose my child to bright colors and noise, I'll get down on the floor and play with her, thankyouverymuchmodernamerica (not snarking you, just these babysitter tv shows) I am SO grateful that I took a developmental psychology class before running away from college! If not I'd have been one of those silly women going out and buying OMG every educational dvd and toy there is when all a baby needs is some good one-on-one parental interaction. How did we ever develop as an intelligent race before dvds?
May. 22nd, 2006 03:30 pm (UTC)
Backyardigans, no Boohbah
Good woman. I've seen Backyardigans a few times because the TV was on Nickelodeon from the night before, and it looks interesting and not too shallow.

Developmental psych, now there's a good major. Are you thinking about going back to it someday?

May. 22nd, 2006 05:08 pm (UTC)
Re: Backyardigans, no Boohbah
The Backyardigans is just something I think I could stomach on top of all the other decent reasons for child exposure (songs that I wouldn't mind singing along to, that kind of thing ^_^)

Yeah, I definitely think I want to go back it's just a matter of finances. What's really awesome is the college I was at allowed me to keep my honors society status so when I Do go back, I can put it on my transcript and hopefully dig around for a scholarship. But until I pay off the chunk of loans I have, this woman is not adding more debt to her name.
May. 22nd, 2006 06:26 pm (UTC)
Financing education
Understood. Good luck with that, and please keep us posted. You seem like a very bright person, and I think you ought to pursue the degree you started when time permits. I know it's a serious commitment of resources (not just time and money) with your baby on the way, but there's no time like the present - or near future. How many years of debt are you looking at, if I may ask?

May. 22nd, 2006 07:43 pm (UTC)
Re: Financing education
Well, right now I have almost 4,000 but we're paying 100 a month (it's actually two seperate loans) but with next years tax return we're going to pay off the smaller loan and then with the tax return the year after we're going to pay off the remaining balance of the larger loan. It could be worlds worse but since I want to pay for the rest of my education out of pocket or with scholarships it just makes more sense to get these loans out of the way. Besides, in 18 years we'll be looking at building up loans for another girl in the household so I'd rather not have my own college loans to face while putting a child through college.

I really want to pursue a degree in child psychology but is it sad that I'm not even sure what I want to "use" my degree for?
May. 22nd, 2006 02:37 am (UTC)
Count me as one of those antsy students....I however don't bug my professors once the final is over and handed in, since I like to get everything wrapped up well before the final happens (which honestly, is rare that I need to go talk to them...).

I agree about hitting the books...and does anyone else find that when students blame only the teacher that is it INCREDIBLY annoying to listen to someone whine and bitch about getting a B or a C or a D when you know they didn't try?

*rant mode*
It's also really annoying when there's a huge curve. Take my CS301 class...I got a 91.1 in it without extra credit.... I had 3 points I think. The curve wound up being down to 87 is an A and some people got A's with their 83 (and never got an A on anything but HW!) and because they did 2 points worth of EC the day the final was due (and yoinked my answer to two EC problems eariler in the semester) they wind up getting an A.... talk about annoying!

*/rant mode*
May. 22nd, 2006 03:32 am (UTC)
My sentiments exactly
It's not fair to those who sweated and fought to earn their As and Bs, and it breeds discontent.

I know I was a grade-scraper when I was an undergrad, and I counted on the curve to get my A more than once. But on the few occasions when I earned a B, I remember thinking of the final: "crap, I was afraid it wouldn't be enough", not "well, gee, I wasn't expecting that!"

May. 22nd, 2006 06:41 am (UTC)
Re: My sentiments exactly
There's this one dude in some of my classes...he's the second one.

It REALLY pisses me off. He's all "oh, I never studied for any test or quiz or the final for more then a couple minutes" did EC got an A because 1) My professor is (too) NICE. 2)It's the hardest undergrad class (so goes the rumor).

I personally believe that even with 4 (percentage) points of EC, you should not be allowed to be bumped up to the next higher grade level if that barely puts you onto it with a curve. Even more so when you did NO A level work during the semester AND failed the final (with the curve).

I don't know.... I think most people will agree with me that if you fail the final, you should be repremanded somehow?

I'll admit to being a grade scraper, if I think I earned points and I was marked off, I want to know why and if I can show that I know what I'm doing enough to get back a few.

Whatever happened to the days of when students were expected to work hard and not have everything handed to them on a silver platter?
May. 22nd, 2006 03:49 pm (UTC)
Extra credit
Absolutely. I give extra credit, and people have squeezed themselves over the A or B line with it, but even when it amounts to (say) 5% of the overall grade, it has never been enough to cancel out a failing exam score. All my exams are worth 10-30% of the grade each: hour exams 10% each, midterms usually 15-20% (in my data mining course, it was 20 questions, 20%, which is pretty serious), and final, 25-30%. I don't give quizzes.

In my CIS 560 (Database Systems) course, extra credit problems on the final were worth 25 points out of 250. I did allow students who volunteered for one community service project in database development to write me a paragraph on what they did, and get exempted from one homework and 1/3 of the term project (with 100% on that part), but anyone else could have just done that homework. You know what, though? A lot of students did the community service project, and almost no one who didn't do it turned in more than 1 of 3 parts of the term project. Just a data point.

I feel that in courses 300-level or below, possibly all undergrad courses, no one should pass who fails the final. It's not rocket science, people! (Well, even if it is - especially if it is - people should pass the final.)

May. 22nd, 2006 03:51 pm (UTC)
Grade inflation: having things handed to you on a silver platter

Whatever happened to the days of when students were expected to work hard and not have everything handed to them on a silver platter?

It's relative, yes, but I for one am not willing to give up.
I herewith reaffirm that the Good Old Days of Accountability for Class Work "Not Gone Yet" in my courses.

K-State CIS students, you have been warned. ;-P

May. 22nd, 2006 06:59 am (UTC)
"Large" curve...well that depends on context.

ECON 110 (Intro to Macroeconomics) would not just annoy you. The semester I took it (at KSU):

A: 6?/100 for all hourly exams, scale appropriately for 200-pt final.

And this is for a class that can be handled virtually math-free as a foreign language. I understand the desire to not C-out every single business major, but give me a break: properly taught, business is not a content-free major. The number of specializations required to correctly expand a startup beyond a sole proprietorship is more than one person can conveniently learn.
May. 22nd, 2006 07:10 am (UTC)
Curve does depend on context, if a "large" curve is needed, because either the class wasn't taught properly, or for another reason, in other words, a large curve is justified then so be it.

The class I'm irked with had 29% of the students who got A's without any curve, the class average was a 78.7%. Most professors I know will give a curve if the average is below a 75 or a 70%.

If the class average is a 53% (like a class my Math major friend took last year), then I say 1)something is wrong with the class and 2)a curve is warrented, but not at a 78.7%
May. 22nd, 2006 07:12 am (UTC)
I should also add, I normally don't have a problem with a huge curve, I've benefited (happily) from them before. It's when a student does a crapload of extra credit work at the end of the semester AND doing substandard work during the semester (and not going to get help) AND fails the final that I have a problem with them getting an A.

If you're really trying, hey, that's a whole 'nother story.
May. 22nd, 2006 08:22 am (UTC)
Class average 53%...I've seen worse in KSU MATH. But there are two or three professors I respect (e.g., Saeki) that could do that in a mid-level course without doing anything wrong. (They just grade hard...very good for learning what a proof is. Saeki crushed my first semester of grad school GPA, but it was worth it.)

In low-level, I saw was a College Algebra with a 65% average...after dropping the one-third of scores less than 40/100. I felt this addendum deserved elevation from fine print. (Got rid of 1/3rd of my section...but really, there was no point leading them on a charade.)
May. 22nd, 2006 03:42 pm (UTC)
Grade inflation and dropping flunkers
At UIUC there is a feature of Rob Hasker's famous gradebook program gr, a version of which you can still find, with source code IIRC, on the net, that does "min > 0". This drops the no-shows on homeworks and midterms, even if they are still in the course.

In general, I think this is meaningful, and dropping 10%-ers and 30%-ers is less so.

My dad favored the "square root times 10" curve at National Taiwan University - I've never used it, but there is some sense to it, too.

Bottom line: a nonlinear scaling of grades is OK, as is lowering the cutoffs for A/B/C/D to 850/700/550/400 as I do. It's when you can pass, or earn a C, for having done no work, and just being qualified to come in the door, that I object.

May. 22nd, 2006 06:33 pm (UTC)
Context is everything, and getting there is half the fun
(Comment title from a quotation by J. M. Straczynski.)

"Math-free as a foreign language"? I'm not sure I get that.

Is "C-out" an analogue of "flunk out"? If so, why? I understand that D's are now the "new F's" because of probationary ramifications of C's and D's. (They shouldn't be, IMO; F's are F's, and ramifications are there for a reason: to create a buffer for people and to give them ample warning.)

As for 60's on all exams earning an A: on the one hand, knowing how it is at a few other universities, I agree that this is a crock. On the other hand, if the whole point scale was being utilized, I could see 60-something being worth an A. Pravin Vaidya had a mean of 17% and a standard deviation of 14% on one CS 373 (Algorithms 1) midterm at UIUC; a cutoff of 60 of A in that course might have been quite reasonable. I'm guessing it wasn't like that here.

May. 22nd, 2006 06:56 pm (UTC)
Re: Context is everything, and getting there is half the fun
No formal numeracy is required to understand introductory macroeconomics or introductory microeconomics (as taught as KSU, although the 1974 Enyclopedia Brittanica was similarly undemanding). The most demanding skills involved are reading graphs without scales, which is easily superseded by even remedial math classes.

So, math-free. All that is required to pass, is the ability to learn and use the terminology -- the same as facility in picking up foreign languages. I handled those courses as I handled taking French, not how I handled taking math.

Intermediate microeconomics (the other econ course I took) did require some algebraic facility, but nothing beyond college algebra. But it would have been possible to get 85% of the course material without that.

Econometrics (and its spinoffs) are the only part of economics that requires anything beyond college algebra to handle. Mostly multi-variable numerical calculus and statistics.

The verbatim quote from the instructor was "flunk out all business majors". I'm allowing for hyperbole. I think the cut was calibrated to hand out 5% A's. The arithmetic mean was in the low forties. The D/F cut was in the low teens; I half-recall that 20%-30% were getting F's on the exams.
May. 22nd, 2006 11:31 am (UTC)
A good friend of mine who is a professor at a west coast university has had the same experience: students with a sense of entitlement who email the day after exams asking for their grade, who didn't show up for class or do assignments yet feel they should have gotten extra credit for being a carbon-based life form, can't be bothered to read the syllabus, etc. And yep, these are grad students. Makes you wonder how they ever got a BA/BS.
May. 22nd, 2006 03:38 pm (UTC)
Grades for having a pulse and graduate admissions at KSU-CIS
Yeah, I don't think so. In fact, my Elrond icon was made for those types.

It's one thing to say you're a senior and you would like your grade to be based on the midterm, homework, and project, and be exempt from finals in the semester you graduate. You still have to do the work, and faculty of spring courses can grant "senior option" if they wish (I believe it was instructor's prerogative at Hopkins; I only took it for one course, 550.312 Statistics, and I stayed and did work in the course until the very last day). But this whole idea that people think they are either exempt from the homework if "all they want is a C" or from the final if they did the homework... WTH?

"How did you ever get into grad school" is a question that baffles me sometimes, and I'm on the grad admissions committee! You see, the problem with us is that we will admit most any domestic student with good General GREs, and most any student in general with a good GPA, halfway-decent GREs, and a curriculum that includes about 3 years' worth of a good CD program. That doesn't mean much!

Many are the times that I have personally lamented the lack of a GRE Subject Test score requirement for our department. We actually considered setting the GRE Subject Test in CS to be the Ph.D. prelim requirement. (Personally, I think we should have it as an admissions requirement for the Ph.D. program. One more hoop is not going to kill them, and it might save us a lot of grief.)

May. 22nd, 2006 03:52 pm (UTC)
Re: Grades for having a pulse and graduate admissions at KSU-CIS
One more hoop is not going to kill them

...says the man who has jumped all his hoops. ;)
May. 22nd, 2006 04:25 pm (UTC)
Well, yeah, but... GRE Subject Tests?
GRE Subject Tests aren't really a hoop, and this is someone who suffered greatly taking them because of my spotty architecture background! I scored 72 %ile the first time and 86 %ile the second, and my friend and colleague John Hatcliff was talking about setting the "pass" level of the Ph.D. prelim at 85%! (But that's for the whole Ph.D. prelim; I'm talking admissions.)

My thinking is that a subject test is a prefilter that saves both the graduate school and the student some time. The student gets sorted into a general quality tier and doesn't suffer and languish in a program where he or she doesn't belong, and there are plenty of second chances - a student can decide his or her background isn't good enough and shore it up.

May. 22nd, 2006 06:46 pm (UTC)
Re: Well, yeah, but... GRE Subject Tests?
Do all domestic students have to do them? If such a policy were instituted at Canadian universities, it'd be a pain in the butt, as domestic students here don't write GREs. The only people I've known who wrote them were applying to American universities (coincidentally, both Stanford).

Just so we're in the same ontology, are "prelims" what we refer to as "comprehensives" or "comps"?
( 28 comments — Leave a comment )

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