Early Warning
Midterm grades adopted to improve retention

The midterm grade pilot program that began in 2009 became campus policy this semester in an effort to give freshmen and first-year transfers a faster and better grasp on where they stand academically.

All faculty members teaching 100- and 200-level courses now need to submit midterm grades.

The college’s Retention Steering Committee found during the pilot that early notice of slipping performance could help students at risk make improvements that ultimately can keep them in school.

Julie Pretzat, committee co-chair and associate dean of the School of Communication, Media and the Arts, said the committee has been looking at SUNY Oswego’s retention numbers for years. She said there are many different factors to address when it comes to retention rates and why students decide not to stay at the college. 

“One population of students we saw that we were losing were students who were not doing well academically,” Pretzat said. “Often they were first-year students or first-semester transfer students, and we decided to focus on that population of students to see if there was anything we could do to help them out.”

Pilot data convincing

After assessing data that suggested a connection between students’ awareness of their midterm grade and their subsequent improvement in the course, Faculty Assembly and President Deborah F. Stanley agreed faculty must turn in grades, via myOswego, by the end of the eighth week of each semester for lower-level courses.

With the assistance of the Registrar’s Office, the Retention Steering Committee found that from 2005 to 2008, about 36 percent of 774 first-year students on academic warning because of their grades ended up disqualifying. That percentage changed significantly in 2009, corresponding to the first semester of the midterm grade pilot.

From fall 2009 to fall 2010, there was a striking decline in academic warning and disqualification numbers, with only 25 percent of first-year students disqualifying. And, according to the steering committee, in both the fall 2009 and spring 2010 semesters, 69 percent of the below-C midterm grades improved for the final semester grade.

‘It helped’

Jacob Lapan, a junior graphic design major, said he wishes he had gotten some of his midterm grades earlier in his academic career. “It would’ve been nice to know where I stood halfway through the semesters my freshman year,” Lapan said. “For the classes that I did get a midterm grade for, it helped me see if I needed to do better for my final grade.”

Midterm grade policy varies across the SUNY system, the committee found. Brockport, Geneseo, Oneonta, Cortland and Delhi require midterm grades, while Buffalo State, Fredonia and University of Buffalo encourage them.

According to the SUNY Report Card, the average freshman-to-sophomore retention rate for four-year colleges in the system is 83 percent, while the equivalent figure for Oswego is 82 percent.

(Posted: Feb 10, 2012)