Where have all the students gone?

Long time passing… (Reference to a song from the 60s by Pete Seeger)

National Association of Scholars has an article on teaching by John C. Chalberg.

Among other things, he notes:

There has been a marked decline in the percentage of C’s. One other thing that I have noticed (as opposed to that which I know) is that many students do not want C’s on their transcripts. C’s!! There once was a time when only D’s and F’s were frowned upon (as they should be). But C’s?? This shift has been and remains stunning to me. I thought a C was supposed to mean satisfactory work, or certainly average work.

3-students-bigIt’s worse than that for me at my CC. I teach a class for nursing majors. If they don’t make As, they can’t go for nursing. So, that class, folks either make As or drop.

But the most interesting thing, to me, was this statement:

Here’s what I do know. I know that I’m not the tough teacher that I used to be. At least I’m not nearly as tough—or as demanding as I once was. I assign less reading. I now permit what I once dismissed as an unfortunate carryover from high school: extra credit. I give free points for simply turning in work, not all work, mind you, but a not insignificant chunk of work (and, therefore, points). And yet, when all is said and graded, I have the aforementioned drop rate. And I’ll likely wind up with nothing smaller than the usual small handful of A’s and a somewhat larger handful of B’s. In other words, I know I have gotten easier in recent years and yet the percentage of A’s and B’s has stayed about the same.

What an interesting idea. I’ve given more extra credit and been easier on students, but I still have about the same number of As and Bs as well. Where have all the students gone?

And why are we letting this happen? I mean “we” institutionally.

One thought on “Where have all the students gone?”

  1. I’ve noticed this phenomenon in my comp. courses. Students expect As and Bs on their essays and when they get a C (which most of them do), they complain or get upset (even though I provide a very specific rubric that illustrates what an A paper is, what a B paper is, etc.). I’ve tried to explain that C=average and that an “A” paper has to be especially good in all aspects of my grading criteria, including grammar and mechanics (this alone is nearly impossible with freshman comp. students). When they complain, I point to the rubric and explain that my standards were not invented by me but are, in fact, those outlined on the course objectives and are commonly accepted as necessary to good writing by those who care about good writing (including their future employers). But they still insist that my standards are too high and they deserve As. So far, I haven’t backed down and after reading your post, I’m not planning on doing so any time soon since it appears it will have no noticeable effect on the number of As anyway. They are, after all, freshman and the point is that they are not expert writers and my job is to teach them how to be.

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