Thursday, January 25, 2007

I Do Not Give A’s in My Courses

Students who are enrolled in my ECN 200, ECN 201 and ECN 202 this semester, you did read the title correctly. To repeat, I Do Not Give A’s in My Courses. HOWEVER, before you rush to drop or add my courses, I do want to state that I Do RECORD and REPORT Grades for Students in My Courses and will record and report a grade of A for every student who earns one.

Before you dismiss this as an exercise in semantics, let me explain that, at the end of every semester, I receive requests from students asking me to give them an A for the course. A few years ago people would email or call me a week or less before the end of the semester asking for an extra project so they could bring their grade up. I always refused to give them an extra assignment feeling that this would be unfair to other students who would not have same opportunity as the student requesting the assignment to bring their grade up. Changing or modifying the rules in the waning hours of the semester is not only, not fair, but also trivializes the grading process. If I let anyone who comes to me at the last minute re-do work until they get their grade up to an A why bother reading and correcting tests and assignments all semester? Why not just give everyone a ‘A’ the first day of class and be done with it?

Apparently some students have come to believe that my job is to simply hand out A grades for the asking. In recent semesters I have been receiving emails the last 2 -3 days of the semester from a few students either informing me of their desperate need for an A and asking that I give them one, or, as one student boldly sent me an email a year or so ago which went something like this:

Mr Nugent,

This is (student's name).
(Name of second student) and I are in your ECN 20X class and I am writing to you to let you know that both (name of second student) and I will need an 'A' for this course.

This is important and I appreciate your taking care of this.

(Student's Name)

I am not Santa Claus. Since all three courses I teach are basically self-study, I prepare and make available all tests and assignments at the beginning of the course. My syllabus for each course is published on-line 2 – 4 weeks or more before the start of the semester and the syllabus contains a clear rubric explaining the grading process. I never use a curve for grading. Instead, I use a 1,000 point scale for grading as follows:

920 – 1000 points A
820 – 919 points B
740 – 819 points C
650 – 739 points D
Below 650 points F

Each test and assignment has a point value and the point values of all the tests and assignments add up to 1,000 points. Since I don’t use a curve in calculating the grades every student has an equal chance to get an ‘A’ and if everyone in the class EARNS 920 or more points I will gladly give everyone an 'A'.

In addition to having access to all the work at or near the start of the course (the mid-term and final exams are exceptions as they are closed book and not available until taken in the proctored test center), I include comments on all work I return in order to help the students better understand the material as well as being available on Monday evenings from 6 – 9 to meet with students.

Anyone who wants an ‘A’ can get one with some effort. The secret to getting an ‘A’ is to start now, at the beginning of the semester, complete the assignments and tests and submit them in a timely manner which will allow me to correct them, add comments and return then to you in time for you to take advantage of the comments as you work on the next assignments and tests. If you don’t understand something or are having problems with some concepts send me an email or come in to the NELC between 6 and 8 on a Monday evening and we will discuss it. This course is not that difficult if you do it a section at a time and seek help when you have problems. However, the content is too large and too complicated for the average student to read the book, do the assigned readings and, in the case of my telecourse students, watch all the videos and then complete all the assignments in a week or less and expect to pass, let alone earn an ‘A’.