Saturday, May 9, 2015

I need an A!

As teachers, how often have we encountered students at the end of the semester -- after grades have been turned in, stating, "I need at least a C to graduate.";  "I'll lose my scholarship if I don't get at least a B." or asking "Can I do anything to improve my grade?"  Some use the teary-eyed approach to gain sympathy.  Others are confrontational with an air of entitlement.

If the grade is so important to you, then why didn't you work harder during the semester?  The biggest whiners are often the students who made little effort, skipped a large percentage of classes, and didn't turn in all their assignments.  And the sparse work they did turn in was either wrong or devoid of intellectual content.

Graduates students, for the most part, are experienced enough to know how to work hard and make an effort to learn.  Since most of my teaching over the last few years has been at the graduate level, such whining is rare.  However, my wife teaches on the order of 500 students per semester, and this time of year her email box gets filled with requests for higher grades.  In response, she has prepared a level-headed standard email response, which calmly states the facts.  It is reproduced below:

Some of you may be disappointed in your grade for this course. That is a regrettable fact of college life. Please do not ask me to give you a grade that's higher than that which is justified by your course average.  (I routinely round up for students whose course average is just a hair below the cutoff point).

Also, I do not offer additional extra credit opportunities at this point.   It would be unethical for me to offer extra credit opportunities to an individual student that have not been offered to the entire class. 

Furthermore, a grade in a course is a reflection of the depth of the student’s comprehension of the material, not a favor bestowed by the teacher. It would be a violation of my integrity and an act of dishonesty for me to assign grades that are not justified by a student’s performance.

An email from me would have been more caustic. 

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