NSU Professor Loses job for Failing Students

Posted on May 5, 2008. Filed under: Education Idiocy |

Let the dumbing down of America continue. Unbelievable! We are becoming a country of weak, lazy, whiny babies who want everything to be easy. I’ll be emailing this school to let them know what I think of this. You should do the same.

NSU professor loses job in dispute over grades

By Bill Sizemore
The Virginian-Pilot
© May 4, 2008


At the end of this semester, Steven Aird will lose his job as an associate professor of biology at Norfolk State University for giving out too many F’s.

He is not going quietly.

Aird says his termination is part of a dumbing-down of academic standards at NSU – a move by administrators to intimidate faculty members into passing undeserving students and rewarding inferior work.

Other faculty members in NSU’s School of Science and Technology say they, too, have experienced pressure to bend their standards to pass more students, and more than a dozen current and former students in the school back up Aird’s claim.

Because it is a personnel issue, NSU administrators declined to comment directly about Aird’s case. But Sharon Hoggard, a university spokeswoman, flatly rejected Aird’s accusation that the school has dumbed down its standards.

“It goes against our very mission, which is to provide an affordable high-quality education for an ethnically and culturally diverse student population,” Hoggard said in an e-mail response. She pointed out that NSU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, for which it must meet stringent standards.

Aird says he understands, and believes in, NSU’s mission. But he insists that too many of the university’s students are ill-prepared for college-level work. “I really care about my students,” he said. “That’s why I refuse to lower the bar. The objective should be competence, not grades.”

For more than four years, Aird has carried on a running battle in which NSU administrators repeatedly pressed him to raise his pass rate and he steadfastly refused.

Twice, he was denied tenure and issued a one-year terminal contract, meaning he would have to leave at the end of the year. After the first denial, he filed a grievance. A faculty grievance committee found in his favor, ruling that the tenure decision was flawed by procedural violations and retaliatory actions by administrators.

He reapplied and was turned down again, despite a favorable recommendation by a departmental tenure review committee. Citing seven classes in which 83 to 95 percent of his students got a D or F, Sandra DeLoatch, dean of the School of Science and Technology, wrote that Aird’s “core problem” was “the overwhelming failure of the vast majority of the students he teaches.”

In a December 2004 memo, Camellia Okpodu, the biology department chair, expressed alarm about the grades in lab sections of the freshman-level biology course. Dean DeLoatch, in rejecting Aird’s application for tenure in March 2007, reiterated the theme again.

Each time, Aird’s response was unbending. “I believe that we serve our students and our country best when we help our students to discover and develop their abilities, and when we help them develop the intellectual tools and the strength of character to overcome the obstacles they will encounter in life,” he wrote in reply to Okpodu. “That cannot be accomplished, as so many at NSU have tried, by pandering to them and to their parents with inflated grades and pass rates.”

To support his allegations of grade inflation, Aird performed a statistical analysis of two common exams that were given to all students taking the freshman-level biology course in the fall of 2005. The median grade in all sections on both exams – taught by five different professors – was F.

His final grades were an accurate reflection of students’ performance on those two exams, Aird wrote the dean.

Hoggard said attributing the discrepancy between exam results and final grades to grade inflation is too simplistic.

“Every student doesn’t learn in the same way,” she said. “It becomes the duty of the faculty member to find ways to ensure that his or her students are understanding the material.”

Student testimonials to Aird cite his passion for biology, his enthusiasm in the classroom and his willingness to help students who are struggling.

Natalie James, a senior biology major, took Aird’s zoology class in 2006. “He told us at the beginning of the semester, ‘It’s going to hurt, and I’m going to really push you.’

“I was up at 2 o’clock many mornings e-mailing him with questions. It was a challenge the whole time.”

James said Aird had a pleasant attitude and she learned more than she could have imagined in one semester. At the end of the course, she said, “I came out with an A by the skin of my teeth.”

In contrast, James said, she easily received an A in another class. “Yes, it looks nice when you get out with a 4.0 GPA, but then you go to medical school and you know nothing.”

Tiana Stephenson, a junior journalism major, took Aird’s freshman biology class in 2005 and found it difficult, despite Aird’s out-of-class assistance.

“I got a D – the only one I’ve ever gotten,” she said. “If I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t have taken his course. I was still in a high-school mindset, and he’s not a high-school teacher.”

LINK: http://hamptonroads.com/2008/05/nsu-professor-loses-job-dispute-over-grades


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