High failure rates plague student transcripts

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    By PAMELA JO GRUNDVIG

    The transcripts of more than one BYU student were scarred by a failing grade during the 1997-98 school year with Math 97 and Computer Science classes producing the highest failure rates at BYU.

    Math 97 was failed by 37 of the 109 students who took the course Winter Semester and 19 of the 109 students enrolled in the course Fall Semester.

    “A lot of students have not had success in math and are scared of it,” said Lorraine Hellewell, a 23-year-old graduate student from Burley, Idaho, teaching Math 97 this summer. “They think of it as a chore, as something they have to do; therefore, students set themselves up to fail by making it harder than it has to be.”

    Hellewell said the course is set up so students can pass. Forty percent of the grade is based on homework, and the other sixty percent is dependant on seven tests.

    She said she believes a high failure rate occurs because students do not anticipate how much out-of-class time the course will demand, and they ended up taking huge credit loads.

    Math 97, which used to be called Math 100, is offered for those who have not been able to satisfy the university math requirement with an ACT math score of 22.

    Six years ago, in the fall of 1992, Math 100 and PE 129 were among the highest failed classes at BYU. Twenty-one percent or 50 of the 419 students who enrolled in Math 100 received a failing grade.

    The next highest failing rate for Fall 1992 was Physics 121 with an 8 percent fail rate. Zoology 260, Physical Science 100 and Economics 110 all had a 7 percent fail rate.

    As a non-credit course Math 97 costs students $75 dollars and three-credit hours of time.

    “The class fee was added as a disincentive for those who wait to get their high school credit here,” said Lynn E. Garner, undergraduate coordinator and professor of mathematics.

    “The math department is trying to get rid of Math 97 altogether and not even teach it on a special fee basis, but we have not received approval for doing that,” Garner said.

    Six computer science courses had a failure rate between 9 and 16 percent Fall Semester. Four of these six courses, Computer Science 236, 235, 143 and 142 had failure rates between 16 and 24 percent Winter Semester.

    At the top of the list Winter Semester, 40 of 161 Computer Science 235 students did not pass the course.

    Tad Norman, professor of computer science, speculates that the hot job market and potentially high salaries attract people to the Computer Science Department who are not really interested in the major or do not have the aptitude for it.

    “It takes some students a couple courses of working hard and not doing very well before they realize Computer Science is not for them,” Norman said.

    He also said the low faculty-to-student ratio results in large classes that leave students without much personalized assistance.

    “On average Computer Science classes take more time outside of class than the average university class,” Norman said.

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