Tuesday, May 30, 2006
"The concern is that if we have a lot of classes where there is no competition for a grade, that dilutes the evaluation of students overall, which is not good for our jobs and unfair for our students," said neuroscience professor Dale Branton.Nobody ever comes into your office to complain about an A (though increasingly we see some arguing for it over even an A- or B+, something I would never have dreamed of doing short of some error in grade calculation.)
U officials say there is no widespread problem, but they don't know exactly why some classes have so many A's.
The U last year asked deans and faculty to look at classes with high numbers of A's.
"The question was what, if anything, we could do about it," said Branton, "and I think that's where the discussion got a little more lively than usual."
Interestingly, the list of courses that give out many A's included most introductory courses (Introduction to Sociology was called "a joke" by "most students", as was art history.) Also, "Cultural studies focused on race and gender also showed up regularly on the A list." No surprise there. Our HURL department's A+, A, and A- as a share of all grades last fall was 64.2%. (Go ahead and research for yourself here.) My department had 18.2% in the same area.
At SCSU, where the average GPA was 2.82 last fall (spring grades not yet posted), there was once a list of what they called "high difficulty" courses (failure rates three times the university average.) These were available to anyone. Now the list is protect to only administrators. Most faculty view these lists as being of poor data quality, perhaps choosing to keep their heads in the sand. Students would have loved that list so as to avoid those courses.