Wednesday, June 01, 2016
Only Her Registrar Knows For Sure...
1. Isn't this likely to make transfer more difficult? Given that many students transfer after a year, their transcripts will be meaningless when they apply to four-year schools. How can a potential receiving school really evaluate my transcript if my fall semester GPA is hidden and my spring semester courses are still in progress?
2. This would punish strong students, especially those who have one or two courses later on that lower their GPAs. Everyone has the one B or C that pulls down the GPA slightly; why should a straight-A/B student be punished because he or she got that C during the second or third semester instead of the first?
3. For many students, knowing that your grades are hidden does not provide the motivation to develop the necessary study habits that will last all of college and beyond. I know so many students who won't do the homework in classes where they know it doesn't count and the professor won't know if they don't do it (not because they're inherently lazy but because they have limited free time and will cut out what they think they can get away without). I'm sure many would start out their first semester with good intentions, but there is just too much temptation to develop a "I'll learn to do it the right way next semester" mentality.
I'd much rather see either an option that students can take 1-2 first term courses pass-fail (with the choice declared during drop-add at the latest) or moving back the withdrawal-without-GPA penalty deadline; at many elite schools, that deadline can be as late as after 75-80% of the term has elapsed.
Much better to learn from comparable institutions with different policies. Perhaps you can get someone to track any changes in retention at Hopkins as well as the subjective and objective impressions of faculty at Hopkins regarding student engagement and performance on comparable exams. Is this change motivated by a student body that is less likely to be internally motivated to learn? Perhaps Hopkins is seeing a rush to the bottom of a grade-inflated minimum required to get an S instead of a U.
At the CC level, we effectively do that already with developmental classes. How much of the lack of effort comes from taking a class that literally "does not count" even though we issue letter grades? The experiment at the CC level is putting developmental students into college credit classes with some (non credit) additional support. That is the opposite of your suggestion. It isn't producing miracles, but it hasn't made things worse AFAICT. Our standards slipped when passing rates became a topic in evaluating new faculty for tenure.
Finally, I'll second everything CC Bio Prof wrote above. Students won't do the homework even IF they know the prof will be aware of their slackitude. Only points matter. (Report from faculty who use an on-line homework system that they can monitor but do not count it toward the course grade.) It also would have to have an opt-out clause, because we have students who need a specific GPA or minimum grade in specific courses (including ones taken as first-term freshmen) to transfer.
I went to a SLAC and came in incredibly unprepared. (My high school had a graduating class of 23, and I was at the top of the class throughout high school, but was used to things going slowly and forgivingly enough that enough students would pass for the school to be able to offer the next class in the sequence.) My SLAC's solution to the GPA and transition issue was to let students withdraw from classes with a simple W (rather than a WP or WF) fairly late into the term. After it became clear that there was no way my high school habits and background preparation were going to have decent results in college, I ended up withdrawing from a couple of my classes my first term. (I'd also picked really ambitious classes because they "looked interesting", which did not help matters. Among other things, I was taking a "Greek 101" class that was actually a cross-listed upper division religious studies class in which we were translating The Gospel of John from Hellenstic Greek to English. As a non-Christian with no idea what it was supposed to say to help me make good guesses as I learned the Greek, it was not a class I had any business in to start with, but since it was technically a 1st year language class it had no official prerequisites.)
I played this game with basically everything I wasn't going to get at least a "B" in all the way through college, which meant I barely had enough credits to graduate at the end of 4 years but a good enough GPA for grad school. We were billed on the typical SLAC "all you can eat" model rather than per-credit, so I always took enough classes that I could drop about one a year and stay on track for graduation.
My GPA wouldn't have needed this game-playing if I'd been willing to stick to classes I actually needed to graduate with my major and normal elective choices, but I kept having the "looks interesting" problem where I'd get in over my head taking, say, a 400-level philosophy class that had nothing to do with my major and realize I was probably going to only get a C in it, which I couldn't afford if I wanted to keep the 3.0 to 3.5 GPA I needed to get into grad school in my totally unrelated major. (I went to grad school in computer science, and I consistently got A's and B's in those classes in undergrad. I just kept getting tempted by the classical "liberal arts" stuff, which I am apparently only at a B or C level in. I hate this entire system so much, since it discourages risk-taking and learning about things that challenge you in favor of taking classes where you can confirm and expand your grasp of stuff you're already pretty good at.)
I don't know if there's anything in there you could adapt, but letting students withdraw late in the game rather than fail or get low passing grades would game their GPAs in a way that might look "better" to transfer schools than pass/fail. I don't really know.
4-and-a-half hours of sleep a night is a good way to destroy any mental stability.
I have not encountered this policy in the context of evaluating applicants for graduate admissions; the applicant transcripts I have seen (over 10+ years) all seem to have grades for all years.
A exception about listing grades that I have seen here at University of (insert state here) is that when undergraduates transfer in a course credit from elsewhere, such as a CC, their transcript shows a T for transfer and not the actual grade at the CC. The grade matters for whether or not the transfer credit is accepted (C or higher, even if a C- locally would be enough for the major), yet the grade elsewhere does not appear on the 4-year-school transcript. This puts me in the camp of being concerned about what this policy would do for students who transfer elsewhere.
As far as I know, it is common not to list transfer grades on the transcript of the receiving institute's transcript nor to include those grades in GPA (at least when the CC is not in the same university system as the four-year). Hence, the often-stated application requirement is to transcripts from all schools attended.
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