Fail students and you'll fail to keep your job - Macleans.ca

Fail students and you’ll fail to keep your job

A U.S. prof is getting fired for failing nine of ten students

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A Virginia professor is losing his job at Norfolk State University after failing students who did not meet his academic standards and defying pressure from administration to lower those standards.

Read the full story online from the Virginian-Pilot.

Biology professor Steven Aird handed down a D or F to between 83 and 95 per cent of the students in his seven classes. Yes, you read that correctly, 83 to 95 per cent of his students are getting a D or F not the typical A or B.

My first question upon reading this was “What is this professor doing wrong?” “Why is he failing so many students?” (I’ve never heard one of my fellow students say, “I failed the course”; it is always, “My prof failed me.”)

The professor claims that the difference between his marks and the marks of other professors is he doesn’t inflate his grades. Aird says that his firing points to the dumbing-down of his university, where professors are being pressured by the administration to pass undeserving students.

The article states the professor “performed a statistical analysis of two common exams that were given to all students taking the [first-year] biology course in the fall of 2005. The median grade in all sections on both exams — taught by five different professors — was F.” And yet, the majority of students passed the course anyways.

How is it that more than half the student body is failing their first-year biology exam and yet they don’t fail the course?

Aird says his marks reflect the students’ actual performance on the exams. It seems to me that he is actually doing his job: he’s marking students based on their actual ability.

Aird has been warned a number of times to raise his pass rate. He has been denied tenure twice over the issue. But he is unbending: “I really care about my students,” he told the Virginia-Pilot. “That’s why I refuse to lower the bar. The objective should be competence, not grades.”

If similar circumstances exist at other universities, the crisis in higher education is much worse than what anyone has stated. Instead of grade inflation smoothing out the bell curve, it has actually reached the point where it has completely inverted it.

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