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Professors often miss grade deadlines

Every semester, after the rush of exams fades away and students settle into vacation routines, the wait begins - the wait for grades.

For some students, that wait can last weeks. Martha Daniels '05 said her grades are usually available online three weeks after a semester ends. "I think one semester I got it right away, but it's always taken a long time," she said.

Alison Fanous '07 said she got one grade online after a week, but the rest of her grades from last semester were not available for three weeks.

Registrar Michael Pesta said students should receive their grades within one week of taking final exams. Professors have 72 hours after the final to turn grades into the registrar's office, he said. Around 27,000 grades are given at the end of the semester to undergraduate, graduate and medical students.

Professors submit grades using class lists given to them by the registrar's office. Those lists include the students registered for the course and a spot by their name in which the professors manually enters the grade. Pesta said professors can have teaching assistants help them, but the professor must sign the grade report to verify that the student is receiving the appropriate grade.

That report is then forwarded to Computing and Information Services, where staff members key student grades into the University's system. At night, those grades appear online when CIS staff upgrade the system, Pesta said.

Students are usually able to access the grades within two or three days of the University receiving them, which is generally a week after the final exam, Pesta said. Grade reports are not mailed anymore unless parents have written in and requested them specially, he said.

Ironically, the grade office only handles grade changes during the semester, said Susan Adams, administrative assistant to the associate registrar. Most professors get the grades in on time, she said, but if they do not, Adams' office contacts the professor.

At the end of the fall semester, faculty members are usually given about three extra days before the office starts calling, Pesta said. But they can sometimes be given up to Jan. 5 to submit the grades so that faculty can enjoy the winter holidays if they start immediately after exam period, he said.

The Committee on Academic Standing requires that grades be submitted fairly quickly, Pesta said. In the spring semester, professors have 48 hours to submit the grades of any seniors in the class. They are given a separate sheet to turn in so that the registrar can determine which students have met graduation requirements.

When exams end on Friday, as they do every spring semester, the registrar's office is open Saturday to receive any outstanding senior grades. On the Sunday before Commencement Weekend, Pesta checks to see if students have fulfilled all requirements, he said.

Geoffrey Russom, professor of English, teaches classes that can enroll up to 50 people, and he said he grades all of his students' papers by himself. In the fall the 72-hour deadline can be pushed back if needed, he said, but in the spring, "it's really important to get the seniors in. Once you mark them, you can do a better job on everyone else."

"I give up my life to grade the papers in time," when he sometimes spends up to 45 minutes on one paper, he said.

Barrett Hazeltine, professor emeritus of engineering, said his class - EN 9: "Management of Industrial and Nonprofit Organizations," - "takes me a couple days just to read the essays (from the final exam). Then the final papers take longer so I get people to help me do that." Typically, about 550 students enroll.

Hazeltine said he hires alums who have taken his class to look over the final proposals that students submit. They are sometimes graduate students, one is an editor of the Providence Journal and about 15 are professional consultants. The grade is turned in about 10 days after the final, he said. In the spring, Hazeltine teaches EN 90: "Managerial Decision Making," which enrolls fewer students. At the end of the year, he grades seniors' finals first.

University administrators hope to organize the entire grading process electronically over the next few years, Pesta said. Eventually, professors will be able to submit grades directly onto student records, he said, but the project is in its initial stages.

"We hope that this will be the method of grading for the spring of 2006, according to current timetables," he said.


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