Friday, May 07, 2004

Grades, Graduation, and Losing Scholarships
It has been a long semester. I turned in grades three days ago. Tonight is Baccalaureate and tomorrow is graduation. I had one student, a graduating senior, get a D in my class. The D in and of itself was enough to graduate, as he/she is not a Theology major. However, his/her gpa is 1.84, and he/she needed a 2.0 to graduate. This student did OK on papers, perhaps at the C level, but on exams they scored abysmally. The problem was the student only came to class about five times. The student came to my office on Monday and we spoke at length in circles. The student's final score was below the D range, but because of the paper scores I was willing to give them a D. But I couldn't give them a C. The student wanted me to give them an extra assignment, such as another extra credit paper so that they could graduate. The student tried to make the argument personal, claiming that I didn't understand how hard his/her life was, and he/she decided that the grade was not about performance in my class but based on whether or not I liked students. After quite some time we went together to my department chair. The student restated their case, and the chair tried to explain that it was too late and that the grades reflected work. I later met with the chair of the student's department. I found out the student's mom is coming in for graduation. Also, the student needed to get Bs in all of his courses to achieve a 2.0, and they got Cs in at least one other course. Anyway, all of this weighed heavily on me. This semester I also met with several students who claimed that I more or less was responsible for them losing their scholarships. They needed B averages to keep them, and the C or D in my course meant they could no longer attend college. I think if they would have put as much effort into studying for exams and writing papers as they did figuring out ways to escape personal responsibility, they could have scored in the B range. One of these students was one of my favorites. This student just called from Atlanta and asked if I could write a letter to the scholarship board explaining what happened. They were doing well until the final exam and paper, which dropped their overall score to a 77. I agreed to write the letter, about how and why the student impressed me, and what happened with their grade. I sure hope they can keep their scholarship. But I wish they would have worked just a bit harder earlier. My colleagues tell me that instructors at Xavier routinely raise grades for such students. There seems to be some idea floating around that students can do mediocre work and then at the end beg for extra credit or grade raises. I wish this practice would stop, as I see it as a disservice to the students. It also cheapens the value of a Xavier degree and the value of the grades for students whose work earned the grade.

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