I’ll admit to being a fairly generous grader. If students turn in all their work and don’t massively screw up, they should be able to get a C or better from me. Earning an A is a little trickier, and I very occasionally get complaints about this. All in all, though, I’m sure I give higher grades than many of my colleagues in math, engineering, and the sciences.
Soon, though, we may all come under pressure to hand out A’s like candy at the homecoming parade – or at least pass students even if they don’t bother to show up. Earlier this week, my university’s president issued a memo informing us of cuts to higher ed in the new state budget. It included this little bombshell:
The state budget also implements Ohio’s new performance-based funding formula, which focuses on course completions and degrees awarded.
Course completions? Degrees awarded? Hey, these “outcomes” (as the bureaucrats like to say) are largely out of the university’s control. We already do lots of hand-holding. Students have access to free tutoring, writing assistance, and a Student Help Center (which a friend of mine does a fine job of managing). Faculty devote unreasonable amounts of time to advising. We field questions from parents, some of which are very legit (as when a student is struggling with physical or mental health issues), while others are just silly (your kid is old enough to buy his own textbooks!). Many of us email students who stop coming to class and reach out to students who seem troubled; we can’t play therapist but maybe we can listen and provide a helpful adult perspective.
At a certain point, though, students have to do their own part. They have to show up for class. They have to turn in their work on time. They have to study without a parent or instructor leaning over their shoulders.
Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t see how creating incentives to give away grades, course credits, and degrees is going to help students learn – or make Ohio more “competitive.”