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Old 14 April 2010, 02:53 AM
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Teacher Instructors must grade failing classes on a curve

Comment: I am attending Lone Star College in Houston,TX. I heard a rumor
that if, after a college's drop date, there is a majority of failing
students still enrolled in a particular class, the instructor is required
to give a curve. Could you please verify this for me?
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  #2  
Old 14 April 2010, 03:42 AM
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Can't speak to specifics, but I would think that if the majority of students in your class are failing in a typical college/university setting, then you need to re-evaluate your teaching/ grading methods.
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Old 14 April 2010, 04:31 AM
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Not necessarily. Clusters happen, and with the number of classes that happen yearly, I think it is possible to get a class where the majority is not putting forth the required effort. Now if all (or most) students who take the course fail when averaged out over many classes, then there is a problem.
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Old 14 April 2010, 04:49 AM
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Yeah, that's pretty much what I meant. "Majority" was probably a misleading word. I meant "large majority," like 85% at least. I imagine way more than 51% failed my first year Calculus class, but I thought it was fair. (Except that they gave me a B-. 72.6 rounds up to 73, curse yooouuu!)
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Old 14 April 2010, 07:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by geminilee View Post
Not necessarily. Clusters happen, and with the number of classes that happen yearly, I think it is possible to get a class where the majority is not putting forth the required effort. Now if all (or most) students who take the course fail when averaged out over many classes, then there is a problem.

I took a chemistry course in college where the professor did have to end up grading on a curve; by the end of the semester a 56 out of 100 or above was an A. I think 26 and above was a C. The class was meant for people who had never had chemistry before and weren't planning to tak eit again and had about 150 students. I believe 3 got As at the end of the semester. I pulled a C with, I think, an average of something like 27 on my tests. He taught at way, way too advanced a level and I have rarely felt so stupid as I did in that class.
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Old 14 April 2010, 12:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Beejtronic View Post
(Except that they gave me a B-. 72.6 rounds up to 73, curse yooouuu!)
I had a professor who took some sort of sadistic glee, it seemed, in telling us he never rounded up. 89.95, he insisted, does not equal 90, and it is not an A range grade.

Now that I am the grader more often than vice versa, I round up. But my students still think I grade too hard.

ETA: I also had a professor like kitap's--these seem to be epidemic in the sciences. No, teaching a course for non-majors just like the course for majors, when one has no prerequisites and the other tons, is not appropriate! Curving is almost always a sign of something wrong with the teaching in the classroom.
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Old 14 April 2010, 01:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Avril View Post
I had a professor who took some sort of sadistic glee, it seemed, in telling us he never rounded up. 89.95, he insisted, does not equal 90, and it is not an A range grade.
Did he also explain how he knew his assessments were accurate to within 5 parts in 10,000?


Quote:
...Curving is almost always a sign of something wrong with the teaching in the classroom.
I think that depends on what you mean by "curving." There is no physical principle that demands that "A" work, for example be 90% (or 94%,or whatever). One can make any test be arbitrarily hard or easy. Ideally, the mean score should not be too high or too low, in which case you haven't determined whether students have actually learned the material, and scores should be distributed enough to ensure there is a good enough spread to distinguish between "A," "B," or "C" material, for example.

Nick
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Old 20 April 2010, 09:22 AM
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When I started college the first time, my dad told me he got a B with a 20-something % in some advanced math or science class. I used to think he made it up, but now I could see now it might happen, if graded straight. I'm not sure that method is used much anymore, at least not at WVU.

Most classes I have right now have a set number of possible points for the term, usually around 500, with strict compliance to final grades coming down in, say, 50 point intervals (or 10%, one class is 570, another is 450). So 450-500 is an A, 400-449 is a B and anything under 300 receives a failing grade. 449/500 might be 89.8%, but it's not going to get rounded up, because where does it end? If there is any curving to be done, it comes on the individual test or assignment, so that the class average works out to a mid-C, usually 74%. When my Organizational Communications class averaged 65% on an exam, the prof just added 9 points to our tests, with an allowance to go over 100%. I actually have an average well over 100% in Business Law to date right now due to that sort of thing. If I didn't bother to show up for the rest of the semester and skipped the final, I'd still have a B.

Now, one professor I had a while back just curved the class by percentile. 7% got A's, 18% got B's, 50% got C's, 18% D's, and 7% F's, period. The first day of class, he actually announced "Welcome to Geology 101, 7% of you will fail." There really wasn't any way to know how one was doing until the final grades were released, as students knew their scores, but they didn't know where they stood with respect to their classmates. Another simply did not curve at all. His scale was in 12.5% intervals instead of 10, so 87.5% for A, 75 for B and on down the line. Nobody got an A in there. 86% was the highest grade, and he didn't budge.

Last edited by Elwood; 20 April 2010 at 09:38 AM.
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Old 20 April 2010, 12:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Elwood View Post
Now, one professor I had a while back just curved the class by percentile. 7% got A's, 18% got B's, 50% got C's, 18% D's, and 7% F's, period. The first day of class, he actually announced "Welcome to Geology 101, 7% of you will fail." There really wasn't any way to know how one was doing until the final grades were released, as students knew their scores, but they didn't know where they stood with respect to their classmates. Another simply did not curve at all. His scale was in 12.5% intervals instead of 10, so 87.5% for A, 75 for B and on down the line. Nobody got an A in there. 86% was the highest grade, and he didn't budge.
I also had a class where the class was curved by percentile, and in fact there are some institutions/programs where that is mandatory.

And one of my business school professors, when he was getting his MBA, also encountered a curve with required failing grades. Imagine the pressure, knowing that no matter how hard you try, or how well you perform, if you can't keep up with your peers you get a failing grade.

Thanks.

Bill
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Old 20 April 2010, 12:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Elwood View Post
Now, one professor I had a while back just curved the class by percentile. 7% got A's, 18% got B's, 50% got C's, 18% D's, and 7% F's, period. The first day of class, he actually announced "Welcome to Geology 101, 7% of you will fail."
And 25% gets a D or worse. Must be fun having that prof if half of the class are overachievers.
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  #11  
Old 20 April 2010, 01:44 PM
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Originally Posted by rujasu View Post
And 25% gets a D or worse. Must be fun having that prof if half of the class are overachievers.
If over half a class is overachievers it's either a very rare anomaly or (more likely) someone is over-applying the term overachiever.
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Old 20 April 2010, 02:47 PM
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A story somewhat related, provided by the New York Times:

http://finance.yahoo.com/college-edu...du-collegeprep

There has been substantial college grade inflation since the 1950s, and the inflation has been higher at private institutions. This might account for private college grads being overrepresented at "top" graduate/professional schools, and schools may believe that giving high grades helps their alumni.

Thanks.

Bill
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Old 20 April 2010, 03:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Beachlife! View Post
If over half a class is overachievers it's either a very rare anomaly or (more likely) someone is over-applying the term overachiever.
I don't think it's as rare as you think it is, and it depends on class size. If there are 50 students in the class, you're probably right. If there are 12, it's quite possible that such an anomaly is the case.
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Old 20 April 2010, 03:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rujasu View Post
I don't think it's as rare as you think it is, and it depends on class size. If there are 50 students in the class, you're probably right. If there are 12, it's quite possible that such an anomaly is the case.
Still not statistically likely unless you're using a loose definition of 'over achiever'. It's certainly not the top 10% of a students, those would be achievers or maybe high achievers, but there is nothing 'over' achieving at being the top of the class.
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Old 20 April 2010, 04:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Beachlife! View Post
Still not statistically likely unless you're using a loose definition of 'over achiever'. It's certainly not the top 10% of a students, those would be achievers or maybe high achievers, but there is nothing 'over' achieving at being the top of the class.
Huh, I didn't realize there was a statistical threshold for "overachiever." Could you specify what definition you're using here?
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Old 20 April 2010, 04:17 PM
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Huh, I didn't realize there was a statistical threshold for "overachiever." Could you specify what definition you're using here?
There's isn't. I'm suggesting that your threshold might be set too low. Generally an overachiver is one who goes beyond what is required for achievement. They're the ones with a perfect score in a class still pursuing the extra credit. The exception to the rule. Getting a class full of these people is pretty much impossible since I doubt there's enough in the average school to fill a classroom.

What do you consider an over-achiever?
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Old 20 April 2010, 04:44 PM
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There's isn't. I'm suggesting that your threshold might be set too low. Generally an overachiver is one who goes beyond what is required for achievement. They're the ones with a perfect score in a class still pursuing the extra credit. The exception to the rule. Getting a class full of these people is pretty much impossible since I doubt there's enough in the average school to fill a classroom.
This is easily possible when a significant number of students aren't satisfied with A's but want to be the top performer in the class. It's fairly common in introductory math/science/engineering classes, and sort of annoying to instructors when students certain to get a 4.0 in the class still insist on taking extra credit assignments just for the sake of 110% completion. It tends stop after the first year, as these students find more useful outlets for time and effort in excess of their class obligations.
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Old 20 April 2010, 05:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Elwood View Post
When I started college the first time, my dad told me he got a B with a 20-something % in some advanced math or science class. I used to think he made it up, but now I could see now it might happen, if graded straight. I'm not sure that method is used much anymore, at least not at WVU.
I lost track of how many of my college classes were like that. Often it was a consequence of poor teaching, but more often it was a philosophy of "challenge the top students". Some professors felt that their test didn't "test" everyone in the class if anybody got 100%. I took tests where I understood the material perfectly, but, because of the size of the test, I couldn't finish more than half of it before time was up (and judging by the rather vocal reactions of the class when "5 minutes left" was announced, I was hardly the only one).

We discussed this on the old board here.
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Old 20 April 2010, 10:45 PM
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And 25% gets a D or worse. Must be fun having that prof if half of the class are overachievers.
It was a 200-student large-lecture Freshman-level class. WVU admits just about anybody with a high school diploma, so I doubt a class full of overachievers is likely to occur at the Freshman level. The university only graduates about 44%, so it the upper-division courses, it could be a bit more of an issue. I get the impression that some instructors in Freshman-level courses feel it is their duty to weed out the ones who won't graduate early to make room!

Still the thought that 50 out of 200 would get a D or F is pretty frightening, especially since advisers in the College of Arts and Sciences tried to steer Freshman into Geology to meet the Lab Science requirement since it was an "easier" class than Physics, Chemistry or Biology. OTOH, the class only seemed to be half-full except on Exam days, so maybe the curve was right.
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Old 21 April 2010, 12:00 AM
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Quote:
This is easily possible when a significant number of students aren't satisfied with A's but want to be the top performer in the class. It's fairly common in introductory math/science/engineering classes, and sort of annoying to instructors when students certain to get a 4.0 in the class still insist on taking extra credit assignments just for the sake of 110% completion.
One of my current instructors claims to have encountered a novel solution to this problem as an undergraduate. He said one of the professors actually offered a syllabus for each letter grade. Students were free to choose the A, B, C or D and they had varying requirements of coursework. Students had to sign and turn in the one with the letter grade they hoped to attain during the first week and were graded according to their adherence. It was not possible to score higher than the syllabus chosen at beginning of the course, but only the "A" syllabus had what might be considered extra credit, only in this instance, the work was required. That made the "A" syllabus a bit of a gamble, because scoring too low on work that would otherwise not be required could impact the grade negatively, perhaps driving it all the way down to a "C," whereas a "B" syllabus might be a safer bet. To his surprise, at least one student chose the "D."
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