My first fall semester teaching honors precalculus finished on an up note in stark contrast to the majority of the semester. I was unprepared for the onslaught of student and parental anxieties related to the course, especially students’ progress grades and/or scores on various assessments. The cumulative effect of their fears and frustrations weighed heavily upon me nearly crushing my spirit and desire to teach. I cannot put those feelings into words quite yet. I hope to do so soon. In the meanwhile, I am posting a letter I emailed out to my 84 honors precalculus students after entering their final grades for the semester.
Email to Honors Precalculus Students
Final grades are posted. Christmas* came early for most of you. In the spirit of transparency, trust, and the holiday spirit of giving, I share data related to the course grades below for your review and understanding.
Mr. Math Teacher aka Santa
BACKGROUND AND DATA
As you may see when you look at the online grade book portal, over 75% of you received a letter grade higher than the one determined by the grade book software; in those cases, if you compare the overall percentage for the semester with your assigned grade, you should see an upward bias. No one received a lower grade than that determined by the grade book.
As I mentioned to your parents during Back to School Night, I do not allow the grade book to constrain the letter grade I assign to a student; it does set the floor, however. Assigning the appropriate grade for a student is a challenging task as assessments are not “black & white” (e.g. deterministic) in nature, as the educational system wants you to believe. When assigning your grade, I consider your performance in each grade category (assignments, quizzes, tests, and final) placing considerable emphasis on the final if it significantly exceeds other categories. While there is a subjective element to assigning your course grade, it is based on data collected throughout the semester.
Everyone should feel that the grade they received reflects their understanding and performance in the course; in fact, for many, the grade assigned likely exceeds your understanding and performance. However, as the rigor of this course surprised many of you, this is my way of making everyone whole from the experience. I may not be so generous second semester as you have had more than adequate time to adjust to the pace and rigor of the course.
The following figure depicts the distribution of grades for all students in the course as well as by period. In the first figure, Advanced represents an “A,” Proficient a “B,” etceteras. All numeric values are based on a grade scale where an A+ is a 4.33, an A is a 4.0, an A- is a 3.67, a B+ is a 3.33, and so on.
The following figure breaks down grades by the minus (“-“), regular, and plus (“+”) ratings.