Economics and the mid-life crisis have much in common: Both dwell on foregone opportunities

C'est la vie; c'est la guerre; c'est la pomme de terre . . . . . . . . . . . . . email: jpalmer at uwo dot ca

. . . . . . . . . . .Richard Posner should be awarded the next Nobel Prize in Economics . . . . . . . . . . . .

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

I Had a Headache; Raise My Grade

During my past 68 years, or so, of teaching, I have heard many pleas from students begging me to raise their marks -- grandparent death, family member illness or accident, apartment fire, break-up with girlfriend or boyfriend, death of family pet, etc.

My policy is that once you write the exam, you get that mark. Students are not allowed to write a makeup exam to try to raise their marks. In most instances students approach me before the exam. In these instances, I ask for documentation, and then usually allow students to write a makeup exam if they did not write the original exam. I do not
  1. allow students to rewrite an exam if they have already written it.
  2. raise the students' marks, depending on the degree of trauma that might have adversely affected their performance.

In you think the second possibility sounds strange, consider this [h/t to BrianF]:

Death of family pet worth an extra mark or two at exam time

.... Waking up with a headache on the morning of the exam is as detrimental as the death of a pet; there is a 1 per cent allowance for a sore head. A bout of hay fever can get a pupil an extra 2 per cent, as can the "effects of pregnancy" - though not pregnancy itself.

Among the more serious problems are, for 3 per cent, the death of a close friend or witnessing a "distressing event" on the day of the exam.

An incapacitating illness for the candidate or close family member will earn an extra 4 per cent, as will a severe injury at the time of the exam.

For the maximum award of 5 per cent, pupils need to suffer terminal illness, the recent bereavement of an immediate family member, or a serious and disruptive family crisis.

The guidelines, set out by the Joint Council for General Qualifications, which represents examination boards in England and Wales, says it has attempted to set a code for the consideration of any negative factors for pupils at exam time.

So we don't know whether a student's mark reflects ability and knowledge in a given subject or ability and knowledge in how to work the system. To paraphrase what those teachers can expect to hear:

"I deserve a higher mark because I had a headache. Also, my grandfather is deathly ill, and he is very special to me. And my boy/girl friend and I had a really horrible fight last night when I was hoping to be studying. ...." etc.

After all, people respond to incentives, and educators would be fools to think students do not quickly learn how to work the system to get higher exam marks.
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