Thursday, May 23, 2013

The twelfth hour

And even the eleventh hour is too late!

May flowers are supposed to follow April showers. Well, an even more reliable sequence is the arrival of plaintive e-mails after the publication of semester grades. Here's one from a student who missed a passing grade by half a percentage point. Yes, sometimes I round up an average score of 69.5 and assign a student a C, but only when that average includes a solid passing score on the comprehensive final. This poor student, however, did not pass the final.
Professor is there any way possible to retake the final or to roll up  the .5 of the grade? The last half of the semester were very difficult for me, I have encountered family hardships and fell ill. I know it is not an excuse but it would mean the world to me as so much depends on it. I am truly sorry to put you in such a situation. I'm just lost and I'm pleading for some help. I'm just hoping you can assist me in my situation. Again thank you very much for your attention, I am glad to have a professor who is willing to lend a helping hand.
It's a poignant missive, but much too late. We do strive to provide reasonable accommodate for hardship cases, including deadline extensions or makeup exams when illnesses or other emergencies intrude into a student's academic program. We can't, however, do a darned thing about it after the fact. And, in his case, there had been no hint of any difficulties during the semester itself. Only now, when it was too late. I replied to his message.
It's an intriguing idea, but absolutely forbidden by the college rules. No mitigation or revision is permitted after semester grades are assigned. It’s a strict but necessary regulation. Otherwise we would face a constant onslaught of students seeking to improve their grades by post-semester work.
I tried to let him down gently, explaining that his best option was to retake the class immediately, thereby taking advantage of what he had learned while he still retained it. The summer session sections of the course were already fully booked, but I contacted one of the summer instructors and explained why my student was in need of last-minute enrollment in summer session. He consented to add my student, going above the enrollment limit, so I passed the word along.
Dr R has promised to let you into his summer session class. Be sure to show up on Day One!
My student, whose fall enrollment at the University of California appears to be contingent on his passing this class before he gets there, was relieved to learn he had an option to fulfill the requirements of his UC transfer agreement:
Thousand thanks Professor you just made my day, thank you so much!!! Again thank you !!!
A happy ending? That remains to be seen. But he's got a shot.


Sue VanHattum said...

I had the best grades ever in a calc course - 35 passed out of 41. And all of the failing students earned D's (not F's). I was and am proud of this group. But two of the 6 students who didn't pass have been in my office in tears, asking me to allow them to pass.

I agree with you. I care, and I will do anything I can to help, but it would not be ethical to allow them to change their grades now.

Zeno said...

Congratulations! Your experience is similar to mine: 40 out of 45 of my students passed calculus, with 4 earning D's and one wiped out and pulled an F. Two of my D students came to me on begging missions. Sorry, guys. Much, much too late now!

Unknown said...

Your response was compassionate, and I hope your student takes you up on your advice. At the same time, there's a part of me whispering, "You failed a CC class and you're trying to get into the UC system? That's definitely a frying pan -> fire transition."

Still, some people don't "get" math yet go on to do great things (presumably with accountants in the background).

Unknown said...

In reading my last comment, I realized what I had written could be misconstrued as catty. Such was not my intent. In my first quarter of calculus at a UC school, I got a "D" on my first exam. Here I was, studying to be an engineer, and I couldn't do calculus! Fortunately the university had a Learning Center, and they suggested I listen to their Math Anxiety tapes. These were a set of guided meditations that got me over freaking out about math tests, and I finished with a respectable "B" in the class.

Math tests never fazed me again, except for those in one second-year class where the instructor shot for a class average of 35%, arguing that it made the curve easier to grade that way. Those were painful exams.

Sue VanHattum said...

The student may be interested in a major that has little math, and may do fine in the UC system.

Although I hadn't mentioned it, one of my students is also hoping to head to a UC school. He said his life was ruined, he'd never get into UC X. (He was taking my class while in high school. We have a high school embedded in our CC. It works well for the students, but doesn't always work well for me, as some of them do act their age, and I am not a high school teacher for good reason - I'm not good at keeping high school students in line, and would rather focus on math.)

Karen, Very often community college math courses are at the same level as UC math courses. (Although we may offer lots more support.)

I flunked (honors) calc II at U of Michigan, so I know there's a hard to get past hump for most students, though it happens at different levels.