Faculty Senate looking for solution to improve productive grade rates

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Fine arts Chair Jeff Hunt talks about how teachers have no control over students dropping classes at Faculty Senate March 2 in visual arts. Other professors said it is hard to distinguish between students dropping because of a legitimate reason or students dropping for no apparent reason. When students drop a class, it hurts the teacher’s performance rates, faculty said. Photo by Raffy Gubser

Fine arts Chair Jeff Hunt talks about how teachers have no control over students dropping classes at Faculty Senate March 2 in visual arts. Other professors said it is hard to distinguish between students dropping because of a legitimate reason or students dropping for no apparent reason. When students drop a class, it hurts the teacher’s performance rates, faculty said. Photo by Raffy Gubser

English Professor Mariano Aguilar Jr. discussed teachers not having enough time to grade papers and finalize grades yet still being encouraged to attend graduation. Aguilar suggested extending the due date for grades by one day. He said even though attending graduation was not required, he still wants to see some of his students graduate. Photo by Raffy Gubser

English Professor Mariano Aguilar Jr. discussed teachers not having enough time to grade papers and finalize grades yet still being encouraged to attend graduation. Aguilar suggested extending the due date for grades by one day. He said even though attending graduation was not required, he still wants to see some of his students graduate. Photo by Raffy Gubser

Concern over graduation conflicting with final grade deadlines also addressed.

By Wally Perez

gperez239@student.alamo.edu

The topic of instructors being under heavy pressure to get higher grades and better outcomes was discussed during the monthly Faculty Senate meeting March 2.

Students who drop for reasons outside the instructor’s control are still counted against them in terms of success, which most of the senate agreed upon as being difficult to deal with.

Mike Burton, English, reading and education chair and head of the senate’s Curriculum Committee, said he was convening a subcommittee with representation outside of the senate on the dual pressure between increasing productive grade rate and maintaining rigor.

“We want to try to find some middle ground where we can realistically think about where and how much of PGR can be increased, given the students we have with the preparation they’ve had,” Burton said.

There is valid criticism some PGR can be increased without hurting the quality of the class, but there are some situations that can’t if students aren’t prepared or do not want to do the work, he said.

Spanish Professor Tammy Perez confronted Burton’s concerns saying some institutions across the nation are not counting withdrawals and only counting naturally graded students.

“We could look to other institutions across the nation to see what they’re doing,” Perez said.

Some members of the senate thought of the possibility of differentiating withdrawals as academic or nonacademic reasons. If not that, then finding the reasoning behind the withdrawal, and starting a conversation with the student.

History Professor Mike Settles said one of the things that bothers him is there is no community understanding about what student success really is.

“Some think student success means that students get through your class successfully or get a high grade, but whether they’ve actually learned anything or not is a concern,” Settles said. “That’s not student success to me. If you find out they’ve been sent to the next level and they aren’t prepared and cannot compete; we’re just setting them up for failure.”

Settles said he wants to make sure his students will be successful going into the next level whether it be furthering their education or the job force.

Fine arts Chair Jeff Hunt chimed in cautioning Burton’s committee by saying they shouldn’t discredit the accountability factor.

“If a class of 30 ends with 15, then there’s a problem with instruction. You can’t possibly have that many personal issues across the board,” Hunt said.

Counselor Steve Samet reminded the senate that advisers are mandated to see students every six weeks. They’ll be sitting down with students and going over issues they have.

Another concern was graduation and grade deadlines.

English Professor Mariano Aguilar voiced his concern over the lack of flexibility with the deadlines for final grades and eLumen assessments.

Aguilar asked if the senate was going to take a stand on pressure for attending graduation without getting an extra day for grading and for the assessments.

“By attending graduation, that’s about a dozen research papers, a dozen final exams that I can’t grade. There isn’t an additional hour given to us for these,” Aguilar said.

Faculty Senate President Lisa Black addressed Aguilar’s concerns by mentioning that a conversation with Dr. Vela has occurred.

“Everyone wants to see senate at graduation, it belongs to us and the students. It’s the result of the work and the partnership that happens, it’s important to me as a faculty member to remember why I do what I do,” Black said.

Black brought up a $6,000 incentive for departments based on the rate of attendance, which would be split between professional and technical education and the academic side who would be put into a drawing to win it. There is also a VIP breakfast for faculty.

“We can take the VIP food and flush it down the toilet for all I care; I need time to grade. That’s what I care about. Forget about incentives; I need time to grade,” Aguilar said.

Hunt wondered if Aguilar and others are feeling pressure from their chairs to attend. He let them know it’s not mandatory for them to attend. They’re encouraged, but it’s not required.

Burton added this isn’t about not wanting to support graduation. This is about a crunch time, particularly when faculty feel much more obligated to accept papers and get grades in by midnight on he Monday following graduation.

It’s a very difficult task, he said.

“We need to communicate with the administration and start now working on next year, we can’t change where they are right now, with graduation so close,” Black said.

The deadline is not arbitrary; it’s based on when they need to report grades for the state.

Aguilar motioned to see if standing committees could extend the final grades deadline and the eLumen deadline by 24 hours for this current semester or at the very least next semester. The motion passed.

“There needs to be a conversation and research with the right authorities to see if the matter can be adjusted,” Black said.

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