Friday, May 15, 2009

Why Do We Have a Catalog?

A student failed a math class with conventional A-F grading. The online web client for the instructor side of the grade system had a sequence of radio buttons for the instructor to click. A, A-, B+, ... , D+, D, D-, F. There were no other options for grades; the conventional letter grades were the only choices that this instructor could pick from. As the student had an F average, the instructor clicked on the button for F. This has caused the student's GPA to fall below the level for keeping a merit-based scholarship.

You know how I've been talking about what it takes to change grades? A paper form (press hard, you're making three copies) that the instructor fills out and has signed by the department head. This form is used for everything from replacing an Incomplete with a letter grade, to changing a grade because of a clerical error, to changing a grade because of a grade appeal. This form is known in administrative lingo as a "supplemental."

The student says that the financial aid office says that we can file a "supplemental" to give an entirely different grade called NC (for "no credit"). Like an F, an NC counts as 0 credit hours towards graduation and marks an unsuccessful attempt at a class. Unlike an F, an NC has no effect on GPA. While it carries no quality points, it also does not contribute to the denominator of one's GPA.

Trust me, nowhere in the freakin' catalog does it say anything about the instructor having free reign to choose the grading system for the course on a student-by-student basis after the semester is over. We could just save everyone the hassle and make a rule where every student gets an A in every course. That would cut down on my grading a whole lot.