The last Tuesday Teaching Question(s) of 2010 (I think.)

OOPS, this should have gone up at 11:59 last night.  I had it scheduled for 11:59 tonight, giving people only one minute on Tuesday for the Tuesday teaching question.  Sorry for the delay.

The end is here.  The multicolored pen business is booming as we in the education business (ha, according to who?) do our business so we can enjoy a much earned vacation (if such a thing is truly possible).  I figured I’d keep it incredibly practical and low level this week in order to respect the cognitive demands of grading.  Here goes.  The even-numbered questions are slightly meatier than the odd-numbered ones.  In fact, the one that is divisible by 3 and even (i.e. divisible by 6) is likely the meatiest of them all (and my original TTQ idea).

1. Are you procrastinating from grading right now?

11. Do you have a red pen to lend me?

24. Since it’s likely that many students won’t come back to collect their final work from you (assuming it hasn’t happened already)…

a) What do you do with you students’ work?

b) Are you as careful “marking their work up” knowing that they will likely never see it?

40. Do you use a percent based grade weighting scale or points?  Why?

115. Would you be more likely to grade in room 1046 if there was music playing?

Let’s see if we can get more than 2 responses this week.  Thanks for reading.  Good luck in this final week.

Final Grades Deadline

Remember the whole “Final Grades Deadline WhoHah” way back on Monday that ended in us all pretty reassured, maybe even a little sheepish?

Well, MY email says that my grades are due by December 11th for classes that end December 8th.

Anyone willing to revisit that petition idea?

If so, I think we should address it to someone local to forward to the appropriate District Office. But who? Since my objection is academic, I would say the Dean of Instruction. But in the past it has been a Registrar’s Deadline, which suggests either the Registrar or the Dean of Student Services. Or we could split the difference, jump over their heads and send it to the VP. Or, in the words of Tom Waits, go straight to the top and send it to Prezi.

Any thoughts?

Oh yeah…GRRRRR (which is the censored version of the words that are in my head).

Next Up!

Next up! is a regular feature on Sundays, showcasing HWC (and beyond) events in the coming week. Use the “Comments” section to provide updates and addition.

Monday, May 17th: Grades are due at noon.

Don’t be LATE! See you in line at 11:55.

More on Grade Inflation

Last week I put up a post about the way grades have changed over the last ten years or so at HW, and how that compares with a recent national study about grades over the last seventy years and the differences, in particular, between private and public grading.

This week the New York Times invited readers to submit questions to the author of the study, and the answers are interesting. An example:

There are no indications that college students have been getting better nationally and some indications that at the end of their four years they know less than a college graduate of the past.  They study about 10 hours less per week than they did in the 1960s.

Some students do game the system.  But that’s always been the case and it’s important to note that from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s average grades actually dropped.  It would be hard to explain that drop on the basis of increasingly less savvy students.  Something else drove that drop and that something else was likely a modest return to pre-Vietnam-era grading.  Similarly, something other than increasingly savvy students is likely responsible for the gradual and persistent rise in grades since the mid-1980s.

You can read the rest of the piece here.

And while you’re there, check out these other two really interesting pieces, here and here, that I missed (and found fascinating).

Grades, Inflation, and Research

I’ve been saving this piece on Grade Inflation over the last 50 years until I had a little spare time to dig up some old files. According to a new study:

Over the last 50 years, college grade-point averages have risen about 0.1 points per decade, with private schools fueling the most grade inflation, a recent study finds.

The study, by  Stuart Rojstaczer and Christopher Healy, uses historical data from 80 four-year colleges and universities. It finds that G.P.A.’s have risen from a national average of 2.52 in the 1950s to about 3.11 by the middle of the last decade.

This topic brings together a number of different threads of discussion we’ve been engaged with this semester, including transfer. Equivalence between courses (heck, between instructors) is such a mystery that it’s always bothered around grading time.

The article goes on to say this:

For the first half of the 20th century, grading at private schools and public schools rose more or less in tandem. But starting in the 1950s,  grading at public and private schools began to diverge. Students at private schools started receiving significantly higher grades than those received by their equally-qualified peers — based on SAT scores and other measures — at public schools.

In other words, both categories of schools inflated their grades, but private schools inflated their grades more.

It’s hard enough to figure out, with some sense of fairness and accuracy, who has met your standards (and whether that merits a B or a C) and who has exceeded them, without taking into consideration the idea that pervasive bias against community colleges, and maybe city colleges in particular (slowly changing, I think, but still out there) means that there will be a prepositional phrase attached in the case of most students (“Ah, I see she got an A in Chemistry at HWC” instead of just “She got an A in Chemistry” Same for C’s. Sometimes I wonder if a C is really like a Grad School B–essentially an F for institutional evaluative purposes). All of which makes me wonder about grading, its fairness, its purpose, and its goals (in connection with and contrast to my own goals for my students), and I wonder all of these things even as I do it.

There’s more, too, about the relative differences between disciplines (science grades are the lowest, humanities the highest; who knew?). Anyway, all of it got me thinking about grading at HWC and so I wanted to dig up some data from some old reports and compare us to the national averages.

In 1996-1997, the national average GPA for public schools was 2.90 (it was 2.99 for all schools).

In the Spring Big term of 1997 (as old as my data gets), HW numbers were as follows:

Stat Date Retention Success Credit As Bs Cs Ds Fs
13011 82.7% 62.7% 23.8% 20.3% 18.6% 7.9% 9.4%

There were also 2.8 students who received incompletes, but their final grades can’t be determined from this data so I’m leaving those out, which gives us a nice round 80% number. 80% of our students who made it to the Stat date received a grade. Now, I don’t have the total number of credit hours so I can’t calculate the GPA, but I can calculate an average grade of 2.515.

Compare those numbers to the Fall Big term of 2006 (the Spring term had a weird jump in Incompletes):

Stat Date Retention Success Credit As Bs Cs Ds Fs
13011 82.7% 62.7% 23.8% 20.3% 18.6% 7.9% 9.4%
19493 88.2% 66.5% 30% 29.8% 16.7% 7.5% 12.8%

There are a few big differences. First, an extra 6400 students. Then, we retained an extra 5.8% through the Stat Date. The percentage of incompletes dropped a little to 1.5%, and an additional 3.8% passed their classes. The average grade rose to 2.877.

The national average for 1996-1997 also went up, rising to 2.97 for public schools and 3.07 for all schools.

So, while it isn’t exactly an apples to apples comparison, the national public college and universities GPA went up .07, while the average grade earned at HW went up .3, which is about 4x the rate of rise in the national GPA. I don’t have any idea what any of this means, but maybe someone who is smarter than me can say (or at least check my math).

One thing that doesn’t surprise me, actually, is the finding that we are much closer now to the national average. That seems right. We have about six years worth of assessment data (at least two of which were normed nationally to four year schools) and it consistently shows that HW students score about the same as students at four year schools in various areas (critical thinking and informational literacy are a couple), and while I recognize that there are a variety of variables in play, I can say unequivocally, that I am doing things with my classes now that I could not have done successfully with some of the groups I taught in 2000, at least not without failing 90% of them.

Anyway, I think it’s all fascinating. Thought you might, too.

Grading Controversy at LSU

Did you see this story last week?

According to the story:

LSU removed [a faculty member] from teaching, mid-semester, and raised the grades of students in the class. In so doing, the university’s administration has set off a debate about grade inflation, due process and a professor’s right to set standards in her own course…

The Dean released a statement explaining the administration’s actions, which said, in part:

“The class in question is an entry-level biology class for non-science majors, and, at mid-term, more than 90 percent of the students in Dr. Homberger’s class were failing or had dropped the class. The extreme nature of the grading raised a concern, and we felt it was important to take some action to ensure that our students receive a rigorous, but fair, education.”

Having seen a bad teaching situation from the administrative side, I do have some sympathy for their desire to step in and fairly adjudicate a class (if their characterization that it was unfair is correct), but having taught a class or two where at one point or another more people were failing than passing, I sure would be troubled if such a move were made on our campus. The effect would be truly chilling, and it would likely have ramifications in every classroom on campus.

Think, Know, Prove

Think, Know, Prove is (going to be) a regular Saturday feature, where a topic with both mystery and importance is posted for community discussion. The title is a shortened version of the Investigative Mantra: What do we think, what do we know, what can we prove? and everything from wild speculation to resource referencing fact is welcome here.

UPDATE: 2/23/10–Bumped back up to the top to try to get more votes

Today’s Topic: Electronic Grade Submission

Why don’t we have it? Rumors have abounded for years–it’s a union thing, it’s a money thing, it’s a Luddite thing, it’s an evil plot, etc. But seriously, why don’t we have the capability, if not the requirement, to submit our grades electronically, like the rest of the schools in the world? I’m not even going to bring up the Day One, and Ten Day lists…(oops; did I just bring those up?)

What do you think, what do you know, what can you prove?

UPDATE: Just to be clear–though you are invited to answer all three questions (rock on, Realist!), doing so is not a requirement…