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CORRECTION TO THIS ARTICLE:
In a previous version of this article, the infographic incorrectly indicated the number of students in 6.01 that received fifth week flags. The correct number is 10 rather than 26.

infographic by vivian hu
Article Tools

This semester 171 freshmen received emails from their professors issuing them a fifth week flag to warn them of poor performance in the class. Approximately 16.4 percent of the 2018 class received flags this fall, much lower than the average number of flags per year received over the last decade.

The majority of flags were given out to students in introductory chemistry and biology classes, with the most flags given out in 7.012. The class with the highest percentage of flags given this year was 8.022 with 22.2 percent.

“It’s an early alert. If students respond to the flag, they still have time to pass,” said Julie B. Norman, the Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education and Director of the Office of Undergraduate Advising and Academic Programming (UAAP). Norman supervises the UAAP, which sends reminders to General Institute Requirement (GIR) professors about sending fifth week flags.

Norman says that students who received one or more flags are asked to assess any academic barriers they may be experiencing. Students with more than one flag are asked to create a recovery plan with their advisors. Students with three flags are encouraged to enroll in Seminar XL, a structured study group consisting of four to six students and a teacher. All students issued a flag are sent by the UAAP with available resources, including Student Support Services (S3) and Seminar XL.

According to Norman, 86.5 percent of the students issued flags last year passed the course. She attributes this high rate to the early warning system that is triggered by receiving a flag. Additionally, Norman said the percentage of issued flags has gone down over the past decade.

She attributed the decrease to several factors, including assigning faculty as freshmen advisors and using the math diagnostic test to place students in different levels of introductory classes. “We speak with students during orientation, and students are more realistic about what they register for,” Norman said.

According to Assistant Professor Paolo Zuccon, the head faculty for 8.022, optimizing the math diagnostic exam would lower the percentage of students who receive flags in 8.022. “In my opinion, flagging is good because it is a chance to evaluate and organize,” Zuccon said.

No flags were given out this fall in 5.12, 18.014, and 18.01A.