Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Finally Done

Grades are finally filed. From now on, nothing but opscan tests. Or maybe I give up on grades altogether. It takes too much time and all it does is depress me when I find out what my students understand. Did you know that "Maslow's Hierarchy" is one of the problem solving strategies we discussed earlier in the semester? I didn't. Maybe the student was suggesting that they were too sleepy to fully focus on the problem, since it was an eight am final. Well, it was an eight am final except for the student who came a little after 10.

Actually I had an astonishing number of students who came late to finals. Other than the one who came two hours late, they didn't really have an excuse or ask for extra time, they just wandered in anywhere from 5-30 minutes late and started. It obviously doesn't affect me, but why would anyone do that? What if you actually needed that extra 15 minutes? Of course, I'm always amazed by how quickly some students finish. I had one who turned in the exam without doing the last page (worth 30 points). When I looked over the rest of the exam, I wondered why he had bothered to come.

Of course, there are plenty of students who keep coming about whom I wonder "Why?" The very first semester I taught, I had a student who wrote on a start-of-semester survey that he liked to go clubbing. I think he must have done a little too much of it that semester, because he rarely showed up to class. (When he did, he was late.) He turned in few assignments and did very poorly on the tests. I think he had about a 40 average. When the final exam started, I looked around and discovered he wasn't there, which I actually considered reasonably wise; I figured he realized he couldn't pass, and opted to focus on other classes. No, he just opted to come 45 minutes late. I was speechless, and just handed him an exam. He worked on it for about 20 minutes, turned it in, and left. He actually lowered his average; I think he got a 17 on the final.

More interesting to me is the student who had a page that the photocopier had cut off: One problem was missing entirely, and the other had the actual instructions lopped off, but still listed three functions, without any question about them. I didn't find this out until grading, because she apparently didn't think there was anything wrong. I gave her credit for the missing problem, but had no qualms about marking wrong her answers to the other problem. How can you not realize that there is no question?

And as usual, I also noticed that (with some exceptions), the midterm grade is a great predictor of the final grade. What if I just offered everyone their midterm grade if they like it and keep coming? Wait--that would encourage only the failing students to stay. OK, bad idea.

I'm slightly appalled really by the high failure rates in some of our basic sequences. I was having shocked conversations with the other new hires about how poorly some of our classes were doing, until we found out that our rates were about what the department was used to in those classes. The department knows it's a problem and keeps trying to find ways to fix it, but apparently with limited success. We have too many students coming in too weak. We have a lower level remedial course, but in essence, the remedial course is trying to correct a deficit that has been building up for most students for 10 years or more. (Yes, it starts with integers and fractions.) How do you make up for 10 years in a semester? Maybe we should invest resources in a time machine so we can go back and catch these students when they first start having trouble in math. (Of course, what I really want to ask is who let them through fifth grade with this deficit, much less graduate high school.) Thankfully, I have not yet taught the remedial course, so mine have all either passed it or tested out. But even if you have passed the one-semester course which substitutes for 10 years of math classes, how well prepared are you really for algebra?

Oops, sorry; bet you wondered why I stopped typing for a while, right? You say you didn't notice? You're sweet to say so, but it really was a while... I just had someone come by to inspect my furnace. Turns out there is a very small gas leak, but they're going to replace some kind of of hoobie-joobie and make it stop. (On some things I'm not very technical.)

I'll have to catch up more here at some point. It's been a long semester, and I was beginning to wonder if I'd make it.

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