2010: My year in Photos

Thought I’d end the year with some of my favorite photos of the year (narrowed down to 25).  Mostly, chosen by how cute my kids looked, but some, just because I like them.   Enjoy…

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RPI for grades

The Times ran an interesting story earlier this week about efforts at UNC to combat the ever-increasing problem of grade inflation.  Princeton has a policy that only 35% of grades can be A’s.  A number of universities are now including information on transcripts that show median GPA.  Here’s the nature of the problem at UNC, “At U.N.C., the average G.P.A was 3.21 in the fall of 2008, up from 2.99 in 1995. A’s have become the most frequent grade, and together, A’s and B’s accounted for 82 percent of the 2008 grades.”  As for me, the truth is, it’s pretty hard to get an A in one of my classes, but perhaps easier than it should be to get a B.  I’m definitely in line with my department averages and I’m pretty sure that I have not been grading any easier over my 8 1/2 years at State.  The article discusses some of the problems that have resulted with providing median grade information, etc., and points to UNC’s new system:

Last spring, the faculty called for the creation of Mr. Perrin’s committee to help the registrar give context to undergraduate grades by providing statistics on what percentage of students got each letter grade, what percentage are majors in the department and what percentage are seniors, juniors, sophomores and freshmen.

“We seem to have a pretty good consensus here now,” said Holden Thorp, the chancellor. “What I like about this approach is that it allows faculty who have a certain philosophy of grading to stick with it, as long as they’re O.K. with having it be shown. If somebody gets an A in a class with a lot of A’s and that’s put out there, that’s good. If the chemists are willing to tell everybody that they grade harshly, that’s good too.”

Sounds like a good idea, though I think you may end up having so much information on a transcript that it stops being helpful.  What I love, is the idea the UNC faculty voted down a few years ago:

Since 1967, when the average G.P.A. was 2.49, grade inflation at the university has been well-documented. In 2000, the faculty council heard a proposal to adopt a target average G.P.A. of 2.6 to 2.7, but the idea was dropped. A few years later, the faculty narrowly voted down an ambitious proposal for an adjusted G.P.A., called the “Achievement Index,” that would reflect not only the students’ performance in their courses, but also the rigor of those courses.

What occurred to me is that we’ve already got an analog for that which most sports fans are familiar with: the RPI for rating college basketball teams based on the strength of their schedule.  I., a team that got to be 20-5 playing against ACC competition is going to be much better than a team that got to be 20-5 playing against Big South competition.  The RPI is basically accounts for the quality of opponents by looking at not only their record, but the record of their opponents.  Wikipedia puts it more clearly: “In its current formulation, the index comprises a team’s winning percentage (25%), its opponents’ winning percentage (50%), and the winning percentage of those opponents’ opponents (25%).”  The formula is not perfect, but it is a heck of a lot better than just looking at a team’s w/l record.  The truth is, if all you know is a student’s college GPA, its pretty much like simply knowing the W/L record of a college team with little other information.  I’d love it if something like an achievement index caught on.

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