One of my shortcomings as a professor is that I am much too lenient with partial credit.  I have started using technology to combat that.  When I give a test, 15-20% of it is on paper (mostly graphing and occasionally showing one process over another) and the rest is on a computer.  The questions are algorithmically generated so that each student gets a different problem on the same concept.  I also have the software lock a student out of a test when he or she hasn’t exhibited a reasonable performance on a practice test.

The paper and pencil version is given only once (in class) and partial credit is granted.  The computer portion is given in class and no partial credit is given.  The computer is a machine and will grade rigidly.  When I give generous partial credit, students are not inspired to improve.  They settle for pretty close.  However, grading so rigidly is disheartening to students.  So, I aim not to let them settle and not to be disheartened.  I allow them to take the computer portion of the test again in the college’s designated testing area.  We’re talking about maybe 4 or 5 students per unit (trying to turn a B into an A or a D into a C).  Wanting to perform well is a worthwhile academic process.  I have found that this system promotes mastery instead of barely passing.

The testing center sent me a long letter. It said that I needed to fill out a separate form for each student (!), that I was creating too much extra work for her staff by not letting them know how long each test was or when it was allowed or when the due dates are, that they only have two calculators assigned for testing, and that the testing center was “not for convenience.”  While I asserted that *I* set the testing parameters and her staff doesn’t need to worry themselves with it as they lack the ability to give my test without my consent/requirements (and that I didn’t need her staff to report back to me as the computer tells me all of the information that she insisted that I needed from her staff), I was enraged by the suggestion that anything I do as an educator is for convenience.

Let me be perfectly clear.  Being an educator is inconvenient.  I hear my son say, “Mom, I wish you didn’t have to go to work.   I miss you.”  My daughters and I have the same conversation.  “Mommy, I want to go with you.”  “You can’t.  I’m going to work.”  “Please, Mommy, I’ll go to work with you.  I want to be with you.”  Then, I have to leave a sobbing child and instruct my husband to hold her back and not to let her run out into the driveway as I’m backing out.  My husband sometimes calls me while I’m grading papers, “Just wanted to know when you’re going to be home.  I want to see you.”  All of these ideas swirl in my head while I consider that my friend who is a cashier at a home improvement store has a higher annual income than I do.

Being an educator—especially a part-time educator—is certainly NOT FOR MY CONVENIENCE.  I daresay that I really enjoy saying “asymptote,” “logarithm,” and “the gog of x.” Maybe I’m trying to give them a foundation and inspire them that they can conquer algebra…something they believe to be unconquerable.  Maybe the fact that I’m giving the students a second opportunity to perform (something else I have to grade) is evidence that convenience was never really my goal.

The only reason I send students to the testing center at all is because I am an adjunct and have not been blessed with an office where I can have students prove themselves academically.  It would be much more convenient for me to take my children to day care, work full-time…from an office, and never have to talk to the testing center.  Yes, being self-contained and earning a grown-up income and being provided with space to accomplish goals sounds more convenient.

Lastly, the testing center’s goal is not to be convenient?  Really?  That seems like that would be the primary reason that it exists.

Ms. Xxxx,

Pardon my surprise.  This is contrary to what I was told last semester.  An emailed roster with a password was exactly what I was told to send.

Please correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that 4 years ago, I was told that there was a version of this document that was easier to edit electronically.  Maybe I could mail merge it.

I do not require that my students have a specific calculator that belongs to the testing center to test.  I clear programs that were created for cheating before he or she is allowed to test.  If a student has a “program” that is intended for cheating, I clear the RAM.  It’s a simple process and it could fix the problem of a mere two learning center owned calculators.  It’s how I test in my classroom since I do not have a classroom set of calculators.  

Also, the software where the test is located allows me to control the testing parameters.  The form wants me to list the testing time allowed, the dates that students are allowed to test, and where to hold the test.  I assume that these are listed so that your staff can make sure to follow all of each professor’s procedures.  I assure you that I have set those testing parameters online.  If the student is no longer allowed to take a test, the link to the passworded screen will disappear.  If the student has not finished the prerequisites that I assigned, the link will not be available.  When the student’s time is up, the software will not allow the student to answer any more questions.  Frankly, while I will fill out the form as procedures dictate, your staff lacks the ability to give my test without my consent. 

I have admin rights to the course.  Without paperwork from your staff, I still have the ability to see what time a student took the test and how long it took him or her.  While I’ve never tried (because the password removes the necessity), I bet I might be able to find an IP address to ensure that the student took it at the right location.

You mentioned that your staff might have had an additional workload because of this.  I assure you that that is entirely unnecessary.  I intended for them to do three things: 1) ID matches roster, 2) calc has RAM cleared if applicable, 3) password.  I would, however, appreciate if my passwords were protected a little better.  Forms that I have filled out in the past (with my attempts to hide the password removed and my password exposed) were stapled to the roster that students sign.

Additionally, I appreciate that you clarified that the learning center’s assessment services are “not for convenience.”  While I assumed it was never for mine, I thought that it existed for the students’ convenience.  While many of them work full-time, care for dependents, and are terrified of the subject matter that I teach (as the subject of algebra is often the barrier between them and achieving their life goals), we have found a system where their work ethnic is rewarding them academically.  While I am trying to promote mastery for their success instead of barely passing (or not at all), this is sadly not within the little box of traditional assessment. I was under the impression that the learning center was in the business of fostering that (even if it might be slightly non-traditional).  I should have known. Alas, it is not the educational practices of archaic classrooms full of university students of 50 years ago.

As an adjunct, I’m frustrated.  Maybe as a full-time instructor, I could take care of this in an office…where I have my blessed control and I don’t have to create an inconvenience for the sake of my students’ success.  This is, of course, assuming that it would be highly inappropriate to invite students to my house to allow me to proctor between loads of laundry, scrubbing toilets, and wiping noses.  I thought that using a place whose goal is to proctor tests would be a great compromise and appropriate use since I am only allowed to be a “professional” from 6pm-10pm.  Forgive my misconception.  

Thank you for your help.  Please expect forms and rosters very soon.  Have a nice day.