Monday, March 25, 2013

On Student Trolling (And Some Charts)...

The third quarter ended at school on Friday and as usual, some of the things I like to do is to analyze the numbers of my students.  Currently, there are 139 students across six sections of the course (all the same material), and the following shows the grade distribution (click to enlarge):


The A, B, and C ranges include the "minus" aspects as well.  Generally, you will find more A's and F's in any individual quarter; at the end of the year, there will be closer to five F's and twenty A's.  Individual quarters can be flukish, and it is actually hard to maintain an A average for an entire year.  Counter-intuitively, it is also actually difficult to maintain an F average for an entire year.  

The second chart are the section averages.  I intentionally mixed up the sections and did not put them in any order, to maintain the anonymity of the sections:


The overall average for the 139 students was 80.64, a B- average, which is pretty good, even as the final overall average at the end of the year will probably be a little closer to 77 or 78.

Now, if you are wondering why I entitled this "On Student Trolling", it goes to the practice of students bugging (and begging) me to "bump" them up to the next level.  I refer to this practice as trolling, because I find it annoying and it reminds me a lot of comment-box trolls who will deliberately stir things up to get a reaction.  

Most of the time it comes from kids have somewhere in the 78-79% range and want that 80%, because it looks better (and helps their GPA).  I will occasionally get the kid who has the 89% or even the 92%, but those guys understand that it just takes a little extra push on their part.  I also rarely get the 64% kids, because while they are understandably upset about getting an F, they are acutely aware that it is on them to improve.their grades.

There are two ironclad rules I follow when it comes to grades and assessments:

1) Students earn their grades - this is something taken for granted, or assumed, but it is amazing how much people think that I (or any teacher, for that matter) just give students their grades. But with that kind of thought, the logical consequence is that I can also just change them at will

2) I do not round quarter averages - let me clarify: I will round to the nearest tenth of a point. An 89.95% is an A- because it rounds to a 90%; 89.94% is a B, because it rounds down to 89.9%.  Harsh?  Maybe, but there is the possibility of it being rounded to the whole point at the end of the year, so there is some mitigation.  

When these two principles have to be applied at the same time, that's when the trolling begins. This usually then calls for the baseball lesson of losing the division in April and May.  What I mean is, when a student approaches me with a borderline grade and wants me to "bump him", I will pull out my gradebook and start reading him some of his grades (of which he should be aware).  

The point of this little exercise is to demonstrate that the quiz with an 8 out of 20 in the first week of the quarter, or the 65% on the first test midway through the quarter is just as much to blame for the lower grade, just as a baseball team can fall completely out of contention with a long losing streak right after the all-star break.  

The end result may not be pleasant, but there is little to be gained by simply giving the student that little bump.  He doesn't learn the lesson and will continue to think he can make up the ground with a furious last minute run.  Sometimes it works; often it falls short.  The C can be made in the first month of the quarter just as it can be in the final weeks.  So it isn't a question of whether I can just "give" points to "bump up" a student, it is a question of whether he understands that poor grades at the beginning can negatively affect the bottom line.

I don't mind the questions, the clarifications, but I draw the line at trolling, and as a result, I definitely need to say...

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Annuntio Vobis Gaudium Magnum...

...Habemus Papam!

With those words, Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio, Cardinal-Archbishop of Buenos Aires, was introduced to the world as Pope Francis.  Since he is the first to choose that name (in honor of my Confirmation saint, of course!), he will not be known as Francis I until there is a successor who takes the name.

Anyway, I am writing this because I had about twenty people ask me last night about my thoughts and were peppering me with questions about the election and the process.  I figured I would organize them all here, so let us begin...

1) It is very interesting that they selected a Cardinal from South America.  While I do believe that they pick the one who is most fit and best to lead the Church, I am sure it doesn't hurt in any fashion to pick a man from the new frontier of evangelization.

2) Pope Francis is the first Jesuit to be elected Pope.  Granted, the Society of Jesus has been around for less than five-hundred years, but their influence has been felt during the time they have existed.  I thought it was unusual that since the Jesuits have the "fourth vow" of obedience to the Pope, Cardinal Bergoglio might be obligated to turn down the election, but I have been since corrected by others who know more and better than I.

3) A lot has been made of the Pope's dedication to the poor and less fortunate and his humble life - which is good, wonderful, and Godly.  However, as a Servant of God (now Servant of the Servants of God), it is part of his résumé, and it seems as if there is some media spin going on, as in they only want to focus on that particular aspect rather than parts that I am sure are going to disappoint them.  For example, he said this concerning pro-abortion Catholic politicians:
We should commit ourselves to ‘eucharistic coherence,’ that is, we should be conscious that people cannot receive holy communion and at the same time act or speak against the commandments, in particular when abortion, euthanasia, and other serious crimes against life and family are facilitated. The responsibility applies particularly to legislators, governors and health professionals.
I haven't seen too many of the prelates in the United States who would have the courage to make this statement, since we are all busy "trying to get along".  How long will it be before the media begins to lament Francis' "conservative" positions?  Answer: not long at all.

4) I am glad the Conclave is over, so now we don't have to worry about insipid media coverage that either was a) agenda driven (zOMG, WE HOPE THE POPE WILL ALLOW FEMALE PRIESTS!!!), b) factually wrong (i.e getting basic principles of the Church incorrect), or c) using tired buzzwords like scandal, intrigue, or insiders.  Note to the media, especially on Point B:

GOOGLE. IS. YOUR. FRIEND.

5) As I stated on Facebook earlier today, I wonder when the Usual Suspects (looking at you, New York Times, NatCat Reporter, and MSNBC) will begin noticing "hey, we have a Pope from Latin America, but he is still white!!"  The horror that a white guy with an Italian surname from Argentina isn't going to change any liberal hobby horse might be too much for some of the journalists and talking heads at the aforementioned media outlets.  Oh well.  That is not my problem.  I look forward to his leadership.

Viva Papa!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Reaping What We Sow IX - Fast Food Edition


Of course it will.  Only the economically illiterate will not understand this.  Nor will the ideologically blind (like Donna Brazile, but that's a whole 'nother story) - but those two things tend to be combined quite often.  

I just had lunch at our local Five Guys franchise on Saturday.  Each Bacon Cheeseburger cost $7.29, and we shared a regular fries ($2.99) and a soda ($2.19).  With the tax, it came out to almost $21.  It's very good food, but that's too much to just pop in and grab a burger, given that McDonald's is across the street and we can eat for $8 or so.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Reaping What We Sow VIII - Maryland Edition

Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They always run out of other people's money. It's quite a characteristic of them. -- Margaret Thatcher
I wrote about this at the end of January and one of the things that I mentioned is that O'Malley and his chums moved a lot of money out of the Transportation Fund into whatever pet projects they had. The story does nothing to mention that particular aspect until a roundabout mention in the final sentence:
The new proposal would also make it more difficult for lawmakers to slate transportation money for anything but transportation projects.
And all it takes is to strip $3.4 billion from the taxpayers of Maryland.  Why did we elect this guy again?

Oh right, he has a D next to his name "fights for the little guy", and by "little guy" he means public sector unions and casino executives.

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