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# Thread: Student takes university to court over grade.

1. ## Student takes university to court over grade.

http://today.reuters.com/news/articl...src=rss&rpc=22

After reading this, I sort of side with the student. I mean he had a 91 average. I would like to read the syllabus(sp?) If you are giving grades based on a number score, how can the final grade be subjective? How can you "redo" the grading scale after the course is completed? I think he has a real beef.

I would like Falls City Beer's opinion on this since he teaches.

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3. ## Re: Student takes university to court over grade.

I was once a teaching assistant at that very school.

We were very careful to put people on notice about the grading scales. I'm surprised that a TA was given the authority to redraw the curve. Seems like that should be the professor's call.

4. ## Re: Student takes university to court over grade.

As a former teacher and a student I've never been a fan of the curve myself, and I've often been on the "smilin' side" of the curve. I feel that grades should be an objective measurement of a student's performance that the student can use to measure his or her own progress rather basing the grade off of how one compares to other students. If everyone in the class works hard and does well, the grades should reflect that. Likewise if people blow off a class and have lower scores, the grades should reflect that as well.

5. ## Re: Student takes university to court over grade.

Originally Posted by Yachtzee
As a former teacher and a student I've never been a fan of the curve myself, and I've often been on the "smilin' side" of the curve. I feel that grades should be an objective measurement of a student's performance that the student can use to measure his or her own progress rather basing the grade off of how one compares to other students. If everyone in the class works hard and does well, the grades should reflect that. Likewise if people blow off a class and have lower scores, the grades should reflect that as well.

6. ## Re: Student takes university to court over grade.

Good post, Yachtzee. Now, I realize everyone has a different experience going through college, but I'm not sure I took a class where the classic curve was used ("There are 30 in this class, so three of you will receive As, six of you will receive Bs..."). What was called the "curve" was usually just a scaling adjustment for the degree of difficulty in certain classes.

7. ## Re: Student takes university to court over grade.

We had pass/fail at my school.. good times.

8. ## Re: Student takes university to court over grade.

He should have visited the ombuds office prior to visiting his lawyer.

9. ## Re: Student takes university to court over grade.

Originally Posted by Yachtzee
As a former teacher and a student I've never been a fan of the curve myself, and I've often been on the "smilin' side" of the curve. I feel that grades should be an objective measurement of a student's performance that the student can use to measure his or her own progress rather basing the grade off of how one compares to other students. If everyone in the class works hard and does well, the grades should reflect that. Likewise if people blow off a class and have lower scores, the grades should reflect that as well.
I understand the point you are making, Yachtzee, but a "straight grade", as it were, can become problematic if the course is taught by a particularly poor instructor. I remember I had an advanced economics class "taught" by a Chinese professor who was, perhaps, the worst professor I've ever had. I wasn't an econ major, but I knew my way around basic micro and macro theory. And from day one the man might as well have been teaching Sanskrit while talking in Mandarin. Not only was he extremely difficult to understand, but his teaching style was not at all geared towards a classroom setting, particularly of students who were not econ majors. He consistently used theories that he expressly stated were beyond the scope of the class bu that we might find "helpful." This, in actuality, only served to confuse us.

The first few weeks, I made arrangements to meet directly with the TA--himself a foreign-born individual who had a less-than-wonderful grasp of the English language--to attempt to get caught up on the material I was missing. However, the TA proved unhelpful when even he admitted to being unable to adequately follow along with the professor's lectures. At this point, I filed a complaint with the necessary department, and copied the dean of the college. I received only a form response that my complaint had been received, and that the school would follow up if they felt it was warranted.

Ultimately, nothing became of the investigation. At the end of the term, the class average in the course was a 37%. Now, perhaps I could have pressed the issue further, or sought other avenues for tutoring in this class--but the fact of the matter is that my class schedule was already overburdened, and I simply didn't have the time to devote to re-learning the material from another source, particularly for a class that was not in my major and was only fulfilling a general ed requirement.

In cases like this, I think a curve has legitimate value, because it compensates for a sub-par teaching and learning experience provided by the University. Admittedly, there were times when I benefitted from a curve in a class where it likely wasn't necessary. So there are times when I would agree with you. But I also had experiences whereby grading on a curve was, in my opinion, a necessary adjustment. So I can see both sides.

10. ## Re: Student takes university to court over grade.

How can an average, or close to average, grade be a 91&#37;? Sounds like someone needs make tougher tests.

11. ## Re: Student takes university to court over grade.

Originally Posted by registerthis
I understand the point you are making, Yachtzee, but a "straight grade", as it were, can become problematic if the course is taught by a particularly poor instructor. I remember I had an advanced economics class "taught" by a Chinese professor who was, perhaps, the worst professor I've ever had. I wasn't an econ major, but I knew my way around basic micro and macro theory. And from day one the man might as well have been teaching Sanskrit while talking in Mandarin. Not only was he extremely difficult to understand, but his teaching style was not at all geared towards a classroom setting, particularly of students who were not econ majors. He consistently used theories that he expressly stated were beyond the scope of the class bu that we might find "helpful." This, in actuality, only served to confuse us.

The first few weeks, I made arrangements to meet directly with the TA--himself a foreign-born individual who had a less-than-wonderful grasp of the English language--to attempt to get caught up on the material I was missing. However, the TA proved unhelpful when even he admitted to being unable to adequately follow along with the professor's lectures. At this point, I filed a complaint with the necessary department, and copied the dean of the college. I received only a form response that my complaint had been received, and that the school would follow up if they felt it was warranted.

Ultimately, nothing became of the investigation. At the end of the term, the class average in the course was a 37%. Now, perhaps I could have pressed the issue further, or sought other avenues for tutoring in this class--but the fact of the matter is that my class schedule was already overburdened, and I simply didn't have the time to devote to re-learning the material from another source, particularly for a class that was not in my major and was only fulfilling a general ed requirement.

In cases like this, I think a curve has legitimate value, because it compensates for a sub-par teaching and learning experience provided by the University. Admittedly, there were times when I benefitted from a curve in a class where it likely wasn't necessary. So there are times when I would agree with you. But I also had experiences whereby grading on a curve was, in my opinion, a necessary adjustment. So I can see both sides.
While I agree with you to a certain degree, I think the use of a curve to rectify issues caused by sub-par instruction should be the exception rather than the rule. I think that too often the curve is used to hide inadequacies in the education system. If a teacher hands out grades in a bell-curve distribution, you can't tell that there was anything wrong with the class based on student performance. With straight grading, if too many people are getting an A, you might question whether the current lesson plan doesn't sufficiently challenge the students. If there are too many low grades, you might argue that the material is too hard or that the teacher did a poor job. In either case, the fact that the grade distribution looks odd gives the administration reason to investigate further.

I say that, rather than taking the lazy route and curving everyone to get that bell-shaped distribution, teachers, administrators, and schools should work to improve the lesson plans to come to that distribution naturally. If students aren't allowed to cheat, why should schools be allowed to do so?

12. ## Re: Student takes university to court over grade.

Originally Posted by Yachtzee
While I agree with you to a certain degree, I think the use of a curve to rectify issues caused by sub-par instruction should be the exception rather than the rule. I think that too often the curve is used to hide inadequacies in the education system. If a teacher hands out grades in a bell-curve distribution, you can't tell that there was anything wrong with the class based on student performance. With straight grading, if too many people are getting an A, you might question whether the current lesson plan doesn't sufficiently challenge the students. If there are too many low grades, you might argue that the material is too hard or that the teacher did a poor job. In either case, the fact that the grade distribution looks odd gives the administration reason to investigate further.

I say that, rather than taking the lazy route and curving everyone to get that bell-shaped distribution, teachers, administrators, and schools should work to improve the lesson plans to come to that distribution naturally. If students aren't allowed to cheat, why should schools be allowed to do so?
I agree with most of what you wrote, but I don't agree with penalizing students with a bad grade if the bad grade is truly not of their own making. It shouldn't be an odd grade distribution that causes alarm, it should be the size of the curve that does. The same effect is produced, but the students do not pay with a bad grade on their transcripts due to the unfortunate circumstance of taking a course with a professor with poor teaching methods.

I completely agree that curves should not be used to hide inadequacies in the education system. In my own example, you would have thought that a course whereby a group of seemingly intelligent students somehow managed to pull a 37% in a mid-level economics course would have set off red flags throughout the department. However, a friend of mine had the same professor for the class the following year, with no apparent change in curriculum or teaching style. I personally found it deplorable.

13. ## Re: Student takes university to court over grade.

Originally Posted by registerthis
I agree with most of what you wrote, but I don't agree with penalizing students with a bad grade if the bad grade is truly not of their own making. It shouldn't be an odd grade distribution that causes alarm, it should be the size of the curve that does. The same effect is produced, but the students do not pay with a bad grade on their transcripts due to the unfortunate circumstance of taking a course with a professor with poor teaching methods.

I completely agree that curves should not be used to hide inadequacies in the education system. In my own example, you would have thought that a course whereby a group of seemingly intelligent students somehow managed to pull a 37% in a mid-level economics course would have set off red flags throughout the department. However, a friend of mine had the same professor for the class the following year, with no apparent change in curriculum or teaching style. I personally found it deplorable.
That's why I think that, in situations where there is a poor grade distribution, the University Ombudsman or someone similar should be called in to investigate to determine what caused the poor grades. If it looks like there was a problem with the lesson plan or quality of instruction, implement a curve to rectify it for that class so that they aren't penalized for having the bad luck of taking the class at the wrong time. While the investigation is going on, give the students in that class an "In Progress" to avoid causing transcript problems should someone be in the process of transferring or applying for a job with a grade requirement. Curves should be used sparingly, as an exception to rectify inequities within a single class for reasons beyond the control of the students.

14. ## Re: Student takes university to court over grade.

I'm a teacher who feels grades are highly overrated. In the end they are nothing more than one person's opinion; they really don't mean what people take them to mean. An A from me might be a C from someone else. It all depends on the criteria the professor finds important. That said, I think this student has a legitimate beef with UMass.

15. ## Re: Student takes university to court over grade.

I feel that grades should be an objective measurement of a student's performance that the student can use to measure his or her own progress rather basing the grade off of how one compares to other students.
There are some classes in which you can do this and some you can't.

I had a politcal theory class that was very difficult. The teacher presented four or five philosophers and you had to make them speak to each other in an essay test. You had no idea what the questions would be.

Something like, "How would Rousseau respond to Bush's war on terror?" "What would Machiavelli do?" What would Foucault say to Machiavelli?

Well, I'm not sure how you grade that on a point scale. While your answer certainly could be wrong or right, it had to make sense no doubt, but it's bit hard to deduct points or give credit for something like that.

What our professor did was read all the papers and get an idea where they were from best to worst and lay the grades out that way. I had no problem with that. While one could make the case that you could be giving worse grades to great papers, I would say the chances of that happening are slim. If you take a group of 50 students, they are usually going to peform the same way. You'll have two or three that will knock it out of the park, you'll have some above average, and then you'll have the average ones with some stragglers on the down side of things. There is no way that 40 people will be writing A material. If they are, the class probably isn't challenging enough.

I've always been told that if a professor turned in grades to the department and everybody got A's, his class was too easy and would have to be made harder.

My experience with college, though, was that most classes were as tough as they needed to be. Not many had curves.

Only the ones that were out of sight hard had good curves. That allows the teacher to not compromise the material just because most people don't understand it.

How do you dumb down Astronomy? You either get it or you don't.

16. ## Re: Student takes university to court over grade.

I think once you get out of high school, grades are pretty meaningless.

You either earn the degree you're attempting to get, or you don't. What's the point of stratifying things out beyond that (aside from some compulsion to know how you compare to other people doing the same thing)?

But, then again, I also think that once you start paying for schooling you should have the choice as to whether or not a grade appears on your transcript. The way things are currently set up it's like McDonalds force-feeding you the hamburger you just bought even if you're not hungry.

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