Monday, April 06, 2009

Grades at UW-Milwaukee

The Journal-Sentinel ran an story examining the grades given at UWM from 2006-2008.  They filed an open-records request and present the data.  

The average grade at UWM is apparently a B.  The lowest grades given were in math classes, the highest in education.

The paper also gives also sorts of charts, even by name of professors, with top 10 highest grades, lowest grades, GPAs, etc.  I think we actually collect data like this, but it has never run in the newspaper.  We might expect this coming soon from the Northwestern.

The J-S particularly goes after the school of education, whose average grade given is an A-.  It is fun reading about the squirming ed. profs trying to explain why every student they teach is excellent.  They claim that their national ranking  (96th--is that actually good?) justifies their easy grading policies.

We have had our own discussions of this topic, but it takes on a new dimension when grades are the lead story in the local newspaper.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Note that many of the high grades discussed in the article were in graduate level classes. That's not unusual at any school and we must be careful to compare apples to apples.

But your department chair should be given a "distribution of grades" report each semester which would at least let you compare yourself among your colleagues. These reports were a source of contention in my department where one faculty member didn't think they should even be discussed. The chair finally just stuck them on a bulletin board for all the world to see saying they were public information and "if you have a problem with people seeing how you grade, you should probably think about why that's so." Of course the person resisting turned out to have the highest averages, and when pressed on it, insisted that it was because they were that good a teacher.

The grade distributions are collected by UWO and should be pretty easy to get hold of with a FoIA request. Of course that presumes there's anyone left at the Northwestern with the time to do an in-depth story like this.

What I find even more interesting is the pressure against grade inflation on one side, and the pressure not to fail our first year students on the other (c.f. the comments made by the Dean at the all faculty meeting last week). Of course his point that we can help the freshmen by being better teachers is well-taken (and not without truth). But if I do get as good as my colleague, I'll get in trouble for too many As.