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In Second Term, Academic Flags for Class of ...09 Rise

By Daniela Cako


More than a quarter of students in the Class of 2009 have had academic trouble in at least one class this term, receiving warnings that they were danger of failing a class based on performance during the first five weeks.

Last spring, 22 percent of students received academic flags after the fifth week, making this year’s 26 percent a slight increase.

The Class of 2009 fared better last fall during the period of pass/no record grading, with only 18 percent receiving flags.

Why the increase in academic flags from last term?

“We expect to have more issued during the spring semester because generally the material is much harder and most students have not been exposed to it before,” said Julie B. Norman, associate dean for Academic Resources and Programming.

Prior to the fifth week the Academic Resource Center has class rosters and sends letters to all the instructors asking them to flag or warn the students who are in danger of failing the course. The instructor notifies the student, his or her advisor, and the ARC.

Students are provided with a list of sources of help, including tutoring, a meeting with their advisors, or MIT Medical treatment.

18.02 (Calculus II) Professor David S. Jerison said that “the key message of the flag is to tell the student they are failing and if they do the same thing for the rest of the semester it’s not good, which means they need to change something.” He said that there is not one single issue that affects freshmen.

“The students need to advocate for themselves and show that they can be successful and turn things around,” said Norman.

18.024 (Calculus II with Theory) Professor Kiran S. Kedlaya PhD ’00 said that in small freshman classes “students are less likely statistically to get flags.” Kedlaya, who joined MIT’s faculty in 2003 and also taught 18.014 (Calculus I with Theory) this fall, said he has only ever issued one flag and that student ended up passing.

What do students think about the warning system? “I think it’s a good thing,” says George J. Courtsunis ’09, who received a flag in 8.02, “because it told me to get my stuff together and it encouraged me to set up meetings with the professor and become more focused.”

Ebrahim K. Balghnaim ’08 received a flag his freshman year in biology. “It didn’t really matter to me because I knew I wasn’t a bio person so I didn’t care … the flag was mildly helpful,” he said.