Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Professors in the online mall 

It's bad enough that I have to worry about whether or not I get a chili pepper on online rating services for professors (here's where you find mine). Now, at least at Pick-A-Prof, you can also acquire their grading histories. (Last link is temporary; permanent link for Chronicle of Higher Ed subscribers.)

Since the company was founded, in 2001, Pick-A-Prof has worked to collect information from the 170 colleges and universities that it covers about how many A's, B's, C's, D's, and F's each of their professors has ever given.

Karen Bragg, the company's director of university relations, says it has succeeded in obtaining the data from most of the institutions. "At some campuses it goes back as far as 20 years," she said.

Some colleges refused to provide the data at first, Ms. Bragg said. "They're not familiar with what they're asking for, or it's not held in a readable, usable file," she said. "It's quite burdensome getting this information."

The company contends that, at public institutions, such information is a public record. It sued the University of California system this past summer after officials on its Davis campus refused to supply some of the grading histories of professors, Ms. Bragg said. The university has since relented and handed over the information, she added.

A spokeswoman for the university system, Julia Ann Easley, confirmed that account but declined to provide details.

...Any student on the Davis campus can now use Pick-A-Prof to find out the average grades given by any professor there, complete with bar graphs showing percentages for each letter grade.

I have noticed on my own campus an increase in the number of students who think paying for a course means they're entitled to a passing grade. Maybe bar graphs are reinforcing that belief.

(h/t: reader jw)