The grading history of every CSUN professor will soon be available on the Internet.
A new Web site, Pick-a-prof.com, collects the records of university instructors.
California universities fought companies trying to obtain the grades of teachers to post on their Web sites, but lost because of the Public records Act. All grades at CSUN have already been turned over.
“Grading patterns are very popular,” said Karen Bragg, director of university relations for www.pickaprof.com. She said students’ names aren’t included in the grades that are released to the Web site. The Web site shows how many As, Bs, Cs, Ds and Fs each teacher gives in each of their classes as a percentage along with the percentage of students who have dropped the class.
Bragg said the grading patterns are a helpful tool for students when picking out a professor, and students start using other features on the Web site once they register. Some other features on the Web site include teacher reviews, discussion boards, and downloadable MP3s of teachers’ lectures, if the teachers upload the lectures on the Web site.
“There’s usually some resistance for sure,” Bragg said. Once the Web site is established on campus, however, she said the attitudes of some of the naysayers change, because they see that the Web site actually helps students and teachers.
Teachers who register for the Web site have their own features that they can use for their classes, Bragg said.
After the Web site confirms that teachers work for the university, they can post reviews for themselves that will always appear at the top of the lists of the reviews of them on the Web site, Bragg said. Teachers can also communicate with students through the Web site and post their syllabi, office hours, or anything else they wish to let students know about.
There are companies across the country trying to obtain teachers’ grades so they can post the grading patterns of teachers on their Web sites, said Harry Hellenbrand, university provost and vice president of academic affairs at CSUN.
The language used in the California Public Records Act is broad, and this is a reason why companies have been successful in obtaining grades in California, Hellenbrand said.
“I don’t have any objection to it,” Hellenbrand said. He said this was just another tool for students to use when choosing professors, but students probably won’t use the grading patterns alone. Students will use the patterns with other tools that they have at their disposal.
These grading patterns that the Web site has obtained aren’t very accurate, said Dave Ballard, head of the CSUN chapter of the California Faculty Association and assistant professor of sociology at CSUN.
“The better students artificially inflate the GPA,” Ballard said. He said this happens because some students drop when they don’t think they will be able to pass the class. These students aren’t counted in the grading, and that causes a higher percentage of better grades in the class.
Increases in students-per-classroom over the years could also effect a teacher’s grading patterns, Ballard said.
“If I have 25 students I might give them an essay test, but if I have 50 students, then I might give a multiple choice test,” he said.
The grading patterns for the two tests could possibly be different and alter grading patterns for the class, Ballard said.
“They requested all of the CSU’s grades,” he said. He said all the CSUs and UCs are turning over their grades, and it is because they have to.
“It’s a legal issue,” Ballard said.
The Web site has met some resistance in obtaining grades, and “the UCs fought and lost a legal court battle,” said Ballard.
“We are public employees,” said Ballard, “this isn’t a private corporation.” A private corporation might be able to hide their records, but “there are laws that regulate public employees.”
“I pick professors by their teaching ability,” said Landon Baumgard, a 19-year-old sophomore majoring in music at CSUN.
Baumgard said he has used Web sites that allow students to review teachers, but only to make sure they can actually teach. He said the kind of grading pattern that a teacher has isn’t of interest to him.
“I haven’t really been challenged yet,” Baumgard said.
The Web site, www.pickaprof.com, started at Texas A’M University and the University of Texas at Austin.
The Web site now has almost a million student and teacher members, and the number is still rising, said Bragg. CSUN is not currently on the Web site, but Bragg said, “(www.pickaprof.com) has gotten a lot of e-mails from people (at CSUN).” She said that the Web site will soon include CSUN in their list.
William Kammer can be reached at email@example.com.