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CUP Suggests Limiting Frosh Evaluation Forms

By Venkatesh Satish
Associate News Editor

At next Wednesday's faculty meeting, the faculty will vote on a proposal that would end freshman evaluations for all freshman except those in danger of failing.

The proposal, made by the Committee on the Undergraduate Program, includes a measure that would unofficially record the first-semester grades of freshmen in the same way the second-semester grades of freshmen are now recorded.

According to current faculty regulations, professors must contact their freshman students through the evaluation forms twice a term. The modifications would require faculty to complete evaluations only for freshmen who might fail a course.

Professors would also notify the Office of the Dean for Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs about students in danger of failing, according to Professor of Materials Science and Engineering Linn W. Hobbs, chair of the CUP.

The Office of Undergraduate Academic Affairs and the CUP have experimented with the current system for the past five years, Hobbs said. They "finally decided that the present system wasn't working," he said.

Problems with the current freshman evaluation form system include timeliness, quality of comments, and compliance rate, said Margaret S. Enders, associate dean for undergraduate academic affairs.

A major problem with the freshman evaluations is the timeliness, with some responses being turned in as late as the ninth week of the semester. "It is important that information about students not doing well gets into the system quickly," Hobbs said.

Under the revised system, students in danger of failing would be notified of their status by electronic mail, Hobbs said.

The problem with the comments made on the evaluation forms is that in many cases the faculty do not provide a complete assessment of students' performances and instead include short, general statements, Enders said. "Considering the expense and all the people in the system, the message good luck' seemed to be a waste."

Also, the return rate of evaluation forms under the current system is approximately 60 percent, Enders said. The CUP expects that evaluations for students having trouble will be completed now that faculty will only have to process forms for between 10 and 20 percent of their freshman students.

Grades will aid evaluation

To compensate for the loss of freshman evaluations for students who were passing, the solution was to assign hidden grades, Enders said.

Although the CUP considered that recording first-semester freshman grades in adviser's files might have an adverse effect on the Pass-No Record grading system, committee members generally agreed that the information would outweigh any negative consequences, Hobbs said.

Presently, freshmen know if they have passed a class their first semester, but many "don't know if they passed by the skin of their teeth or passed with flying colors," Hobbs said. The additional information could be useful to both advisers and students when deciding second semester courseloads, he added.

"Advisers often can't counsel students effectively if they don't know how well the student has done," Hobbs said.

The grades would only be recorded for use by advisers. Students would be able to obtain anonymous grade sheets that could not be used as official grade reports, Hobbs said. Maintaining such reports is not much of a change, since most instructors already know where a student ranks or what his grade is, he said.

Student and faculty opinion played a role in the changes. "We've had continual suggestions by both the faculty and students on this process," Hobbs said.

All the student members of the CUP supported the revision, Enders said.

Enders called scaling down the use of the forms "an example of good re-engineering." Hopefully the goal of the original system - to get students to see their professors if they need help - will be achieved, she said.