Thursday, May 9, 2013

More stories...

Wow, it seems like it's only been a few days since I've posted; I've been putting off the latest story of how nuts remedial coursework is. My main distraction has been final exams and tests.

Every semester, I get a student with test grades of F (23 out of 100), F (35 out of 100), F (29 out of 100), and F (41 out of 100). Maybe not those numbers, but straight F's. That's not the weird part, the weird part is then the student takes the final exam, and scores--you guessed it!--an F.

Then, the student comes to my office..."What's my average in the class?" I then explain that an F, F, F, and F, togther with the final exam grade of F, comes out ot an average of F.

Sometimes the student will turn in an exam with most of the questions unanswered, literally left blank, but STILL waits patiently to see his/her grade. And is still disappointed with an F. I have to wonder what goes on in other courses, that turning in a nearly blank paper could reasonably be considered passing work.

"Is there anything I can do to pass?" asks the clueless student. Naturally, I respond negatively, explaining that after 4 months of failing, about the only thing that can happen is failing.

Sometimes the student complains to admin, who naturally sides with the student. I actually have a penalty on my evaluation last year, from a student who failed all assignments, missed a month's worth of classes, and complained to the Dean, who didn't like that I wouldn't help out the student in some way.

This semester I had over half a dozen failing students like this. One had an average of 45, but really wanted to pass. "Can you at least give me a C, I'm applying to a medical program."

"You're 25 points away from a C...are you sure med school is a good option when you're struggling with 10th grade material?"

"I'll study harder. But can I get that C?"

I do what I can to avoid him complaining to the Dean, but I sure don't want this guy having anything to do with my medical care. Maybe he could take care of the Dean or her children when they get sick.

I'm not a monster, but I still think it should be possible to fail. I'm not quite a minority, I hope. I might be; due to glitches in the system, students accidently get enrolled in classes that they know nothing about. Since they don't know about them, they don't go to class, or do any assignments.

The registrar explained to us that every semester she gets such students. 2/3rds of such students failed and are angry about the F. They complain that the grade should be removed and refunded their money. The students have a point, and the college complies.

"2/3 fail courses they don't know they're in. What about the other 1/3?" one can ask. They get A's in the course, but still want the course dropped and money refunded, because they'd rather that loan money be spent on courses of some use to their degree. Again, the college complies, but admin never considers the implication here.

Think about that a minute: empirically, 1/3 of the courses taught on campus (and I'm talking a state, non-profit, institution) are so BOGUS that students can literally do nothing...and still get an A. A thinking person might conjecture more than 1/3 of courses are bogus, since it's possible that student would take a free A, rather than complain about it, at least sometimes, so "1/3" is a minimum estimate on the proportion of college courses that are bogus.

So, yeah, I could be a minority when it comes to thinking that it should be at least possible to fail a course.