Monday, August 10, 2015

Today in Student Success

1) University initiates aggressive student retention plan with ambitious graduation and retention goals

2) Professor goes to commencement, gets a surprise:
“I went to graduation and I saw that several people’s names were on the graduation list that had been in my class,” he said. “I recognized a lot of names, but I also recognized names of some who didn’t do well in my class and I wondered, ‘How did they get MBAs?’” 
3) Professor checks grades, suspicions are confirmed.
One student earned a "D" but it was changed to a "B", another earned a "C" and it was changed to an "A". Another earned a "D" and it was changed to an "A," and one earned a "D" and it was changed to a "B".

4) Professor reports the irregularity. He is immediately transferred out of the business school, where he has taught for 37 years, to the math department. Apparently he is now "not a good fit for the college."

Now, all of these things might be a series of unfortunate coincidences, and maybe this has nothing to do with the fact that you tend to get what you measure.

Still, I can't wait until we start evaluating hospitals the same way. 
We've increased patient longevity 17% by smart-scheduling our determination of death process  


  1. The dean of the business college is named "Lance Nail."
    That is all.

  2. Now I've got half a mind to go back and check my grades.

  3. I routinely gape at the commencement stage going, "Wait, we let them graduate?" Makes us all proud to be part of this thing called higher education.

  4. During my last year of teaching, I ran a service course for a different department. The students were the worst group I ever had. I had both sections on the same day and I'd go home feeling like I'd been in a continuous slugfest for several hours.

    About a third of the students failed, partly because they thought they could loaf their way through like they did in their other courses. The grades for roughly half of them fell into that range in which they could qualify for a supplemental exam. However, the institution required that they had to ask the instructor, namely me, if they could write it.

    I never turned anyone down who approached me about it, so I had expected that I'd get requests for that. All I got was crickets.

    I suspected that their department head went behind my back and made separate arrangements, contrary to proper institutional protocol, though I couldn't prove it. He probably thought that since the kiddies were so close to graduation, I was being a meanie for "forcing" them to come back to take that course over again. As a result, I didn't hear anything about the grades after I submitted them, let alone anything about supplemental exams.

    I quit my teaching position several months later for other reasons. A few weeks after that, I happened to see the institution's graduation list in a local newspaper and I noticed that the names of many of the students who failed that course were on it. It confirmed my suspicion that someone made a deal with them to get credit for that course.

    It also confirmed that my decision to resign was the right one. It had become abundantly clear that the whole concept of academic standards at that institution had become a complete joke and that I had simply been wasting my time there.

    1. Are you sure they did not have to take the course later even though they "walked" at graduation? Some universities are actually allowing that. The newspaper people probably didn't know who graduated for real and who just "walked".

    2. The course was offered only once a year and the students graduated roughly 6 months later. There was no way that they could have taken that course again, so there was obviously a deal made under the table.

      Then again, the institution was mainly concerned about graduation rates and "customer satisfaction". (By the way, nobody ever "walked" at the ceremony.)

      It didn't surprise me that something like what I described would happen as I encountered a similar situation in my department a few years earlier. Two students in one of my courses failed but qualified for supplemental exams. One of them actually asked if he could write one and I agreed that he could do it when he returned from summer break. I lent him a textbook and told him to study it, but, when he returned before the start of the following term, he told me he didn't have to as he "passed" the course.

      The grade he earned was just over 40%. A pass was 50%. By some miracle, that kid managed to "get" an extra 10%. I certainly didn't give them to him, so someone above me did.

      The indication was that it was my department head as he did something like that before--in the presence of the instructor who taught the course in question.

  5. Hmm. I'm pretty sure that this isn't happening at my institution (yet), since my summer sections of That Class That Everybody Has to Take Which Sometimes Keeps People From Graduating are still pretty full. If the summer sections suddenly stop filling I and my colleagues should probably all check our grades (while we still have access to the registrar system, since we're almost all non tenure track, and such news would bode ill for our jobs).