Tuesday, May 19, 2015

this calls for harsher measures

My Monday students did their much-dreaded pecha-kucha presentations, some of which were quite impressive, and some of which sucked, as is only natural. There were a few "A"s, many "B"s, many "C"s, and even a few "D"s, but... the students' overall grades remained unsinkable. I still have way too many "A"s in that class. (That said, kudos to the one girl who did an amazing presentation: she got a well-deserved 15 out of 15 points. She spoke naturally, didn't rely on notes, used humor, timed her talk perfectly to match the auto-advance rhythm of the PowerPoint slides, had excellent projection and comprehensible grammar and diction... you really couldn't have asked for better.)

Because I have the kids' grades on a Google Drive spreadsheet, I can run the hypotheticals, and I have. If, on the final exam, everyone gets a 15 out of 20 (roughly a midrange "C" at 75%), the class will end up with 5 "A"s, which is one too many. If everyone were to score a 10 out of 20 (an obvious "F"), there would be no "A"s, but there would still be 13 "B"s, which also breaks the curve, as no more than 70% of the class may receive "A"s and/or "B"s, and my Monday class has 15 students. Ideally, I need to craft a final exam that will allow a tiny number of students to scrape by with "A"s while the rest of the class fails spectacularly. (If everyone were to get a 5 out of 20, I'd at long last have 10 "C"s and no "A"s, which would definitely fit the curve while simultaneously pissing everyone off.)

I've already warned the kids that the upcoming final exam will be harder than the midterm was, even though it'll be in exactly the same format. I'm also going to quietly not mention the fact that they have one more required consultation with me. We'll see who forgets to do the consult, and when he forgets, he'll be docked three points from the final grade (this is all written on the syllabus I'd handed out during Week 1). It's dirty pool, but what I don't want to be left with is a class full of high grades, which will force me to push some "A"s down to "B"s and maybe even "C"s.

I know what I should have done this semester: I should have required the teams to turn in comprehensive lesson plans each week for their round robins. Inevitably, somebody would have forgotten to turn a plan in, and that person would have been docked homework points for his negligence.

For my Monday class, though, what I'm very likely going to do is this: I'll tally up the grades at the end of the semester. If I have more than 4 "A"s, fine. If my "A+B" number is over 10, that's fine, too. I'm just going to tally the grades up, give "A"s to the top 4 kids (if only 3 students have "A"s, then I won't give more than 3 "A"s), give out 6 "B"s, then make the rest "C+"es if the kids actually deserve a "C+" or higher. And that's about the best I can do, and that's likely what I'm going to do for my Wednesday and Thursday classes as well.

Man, I hate the curve. It makes grades completely worthless.


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