C for effort

Benedict College, a historically black college in South Carolina, has fired two professors for refusing to go along with “effort-based grading.” From The State:

Benedict College has fired two professors who refused to go along with a policy that says freshmen are awarded 60 percent of their grades based on effort and the rest on their work’s academic quality.

Benedict President David Swinton says the Success Equals Effort policy gives struggling freshmen a chance to adapt to college academics. He expects students to improve – the formula drops to 50-50 in the sophomore year and isn’t used in the junior or senior year. But he says he’s “interested in where they are at when they graduate, not where they are when they get here.”

Students “have to get an A in effort to guarantee that if they fail the subject matter, they can get the minimum passing grade,” Swinton said. “I don’t think that’s a bad thing.”

Science professors Milwood Motley and Larry Williams defied that policy and Swinton dismissed them. Neither had tenure, which could have protected them from firing.

Eventually, effort leads to success, but not necessarily in the first year of college for students who start without basic skills and knowledge. And how did students get so far behind? They’ve been passed through school without learning the subject matter. It’s the Low Standards Equals Failure plan.

About Joanne


  1. I believe my college did give 1st semester freshmen a break: 65 vs. 70 was passing……but please….

  2. Bruce Cleaver says:

    Hmmm…’Effort-based grading’ is the hoary ‘labor theory of value’ in a new bottle, and just about as useful. It might make sense to use something like this in grade school, to inculcate the children with the idea that hard work (generally) pays off, but please….

  3. I wonder how you grade effort. Is it showing up to class more than 60% of the time? Turning in every homework assignment even if half the questions are left blank? Staying to finish an exam students knows they will fail instead of leaving in frustration five minutes in (as I have seen students do)?

    I had a freshman (excuse me, first-year) seminar in college where the prof announced the first day that class participation would be close to 50% of the final grade. And he meant it — I know a student in my class got a B even though he got As on every paper because he never said boo in class. Maybe that’s the kind of effort they mean. Even so, that was only one class I had, and few other first-year seminars were like that, let alone normal classes. I’d hate to go to a place where most of my first year grades were based on the fact that I’m a loudmouth and not what I actually learned.

  4. Several of the university courses I took were seminars — for which you were expected to do the readings and come prepared to debate. It was possible to earn up to 10 percent of your course mark by showing up and participating. It could make the difference between a B and A in the course. This however is a long stretch from 60 percent for effort.

  5. superdestroyer says:

    I think we are missing the culturual aspects os this.

    If you read John McWhorter’s “Losing the Race,” one of his theories is that blacks see schooling different than whites. According to McWhorter, in main stream black culture, the idea of actually learning is not important but just the degree.

  6. Superdestroyer, if indeed Dr. McWhorter is correct, then it is time to EDUCATE the ‘mainstream’ of black america. The idea that education is about degrees and not learning is simply WRONG, and no amount of ‘cultural relavitism’ is going to make it right. Perhaps the solution might be found in establishing standards and holding people to them? Better than the thinly disguised racism (‘they just don’t think the way that we do’) that locks people in an intellectual ghetto…

  7. What I don’t understand is how students who can’t handle freshman work get accepted into the college in the first place. How many qualified candidates are turned away so the college can incorporate incapable students into its student body?

  8. superdestroyer…how exactly would that be different from mainstream *white* culture? I think that an awfully high proportion of students, of whatever race, see education as about getting the piece of paper, not about actually learning anything. That’s certainly the way that education has been sold: get your (high school diploma, college degree, graduate degree) and make more money.

  9. superdestroyer says:

    I suggest you go read “Losing the Race” whether McWhorter goes to great lenghts to explain the differrence. His basic argument is that black american college students show every little interest outside of that with which they are very familiar and that anit-intellectualism is much more prevasive that in white culture.

    To me the perfect example is freshmen starting out as biochemistry, pre-med majors. Many white students will decide that it is not for them and change their major. Yet, many black students who have low grades will expect the professor to curve they grades so that they pass them anyway. That is the difference.

  10. Cognitor, many colleges admit all applicants, as long as they’re able to pay tuition using their own money or non-college grants and loans. Benedict surely is in this category. Offering a shot at college is Benedict’s niche in the market. If the college makes it too hard for unprepared students, they’ll go elsewhere and won’t be replaced. Better students will choose better colleges.

  11. I was going to echo what David said. Lots of people I knew were just marking time in college.

    However, I can think of ways to include “effort” in the grade. One way is an intensive way to do homework and tests. One marks the work — then they have to come back with the corrections. It gets marked again, and so on until everything is correct. At which point you’ve got 100% effort marking on that assignment (or test)… this would be a different mark from work quality, as work quality would be the initial grade. I’ve seen people do this in composition courses. It is work-intensive for the teachers, but a little easier to quantify than some nebulous “effort”. And students learn that if they get it right the first time, they don’t have to waste so much time on the “effort” grade part.

  12. The fact that Benedict fired two instructors over this makes me wonder if any of the degrees that Benedict offers actually means anything.

    When standards aren’t upheld, it cheapens the degrees awarded to every student who busted their ass in the classroom (sigh).

  13. Mad Scientist says:

    Is that perhaps Benedict Arnold College?

    However the grading policy seem to hold up to the standard of the great Greek philospher Mediocrates who is purported to have said: “To try is enof”.

  14. Tim from Texas says:

    This idea/concept is old hat. It’s been tried on, then buried, then tried again. It’s not a bad concept at all. It has far-reaching utility if structured properly and then applied fairly and prudently. To date, however, as in this case, effort continues to be evaluated by the student’s participation, homework, and the like, whether done well or not. A students effort can only be measured/evaluated by tendency/trend in both directions.

    The rationale/need for such a concept won’t go away, because of the inherent flaw in every kind/sort of grade averaging. Grade averaging doesn’t produce a fair evaluation for that student who starts the grading period slowly but closes very well. It also doesn’t produce a fair evaluation for the student who starts very well, but then slows the pace to a lope down the stretch.

    Using a scale where 60-69 is a D and 90-100 is an A, and a student’s eight grades for the year are as follows: 99,99,97,92,88,85,83,& 82 the average being 90.62, does the student really deserve an A.? Does the trend say no? Yes, but it’s a tough call.

    Conversely, does the slow starter who’s ever increasing pace brings in an average of 86 deserve an A? Yes, the trend screams it. It’s an easy call.

  15. Superdestroyer, how in the name of sanity could you even quote ANYTHING that John McWhorter states? John Mc is nothing more than a mouthpiece for ultra-conservative (racist) forces that seek to undermine African-American unity in the USA. Period. If you don’t understand that, then he has already successfully brainwashed you. That he contributes to the Manhattan Institute should clue you in. You know, that so-called think tank that knows so much about minorities and African-Americans in particular, but NEVER publishes or supports mainstream minority heavyweigts like Cornel West for example…


  16. Mad Scientist says:

    You know, if I tried really hard, but crashed during a driving road test, I would not get a license.

    If I tried really hard to design a bridge and it fell down, I would be sued.

    If I tried really hard but did not get my job completed, I would be fired.

    Yes, trying hard counts for something. But 60%? Get real. Results count for more than trying hard.

    At least in the real world.

    So what lesson do they manage to instill in these kids? Feel good about trying hard, and so what if the outcome isn’t good?

    The real world is hard. The sooner people learn this the better off we will all be.

  17. superdestroyer says:


    I have read and heard both Dr’s McWhorter and West. I find McWhorter much more articulte and reasoned that West. In addition, the anectodal stories provided by McWhorter seem to fit my own experience in undergraduate and graduate school as well as my professional expereince.

    Ask yourself this, Why do the chidlren of black college educated white collar parents make lower SAT scores than the children of blue collar, high school educated white parents? If you belive Dr West it is due to white racism. If you belive Dr McWhorter it is due to anti-intellectualism in the black community. I find the latter more believable and Benedict College just confirms this.

  18. To superdestroyer’s point, I’d add as further evidence that this is a cultural problem rather than white racism the fact that black West Indian immigrants and their children consistently do better in the aggregate than do most of the larger, “native” (for lack of a better term) black community. Why? Because more of their parents and peers take education seriously rather than, at best, treating it as, at best, going through motions for a paper credential, or, worse, denigrating learning as “acting white.”

  19. Davej and superselfdestruct :),

    sorry, couldn’t resist that one, smile!

    back to business…like I said, John McWhorter is a mouthpiece of ultra-right racists. He is as far from being African-American as night and day. If maybe 1/16th African genes makes you African-American, then I am European-American. John Mc DOES NOT speak for the bulk of African-Americans. Cornel West DOES.

    “Blacks” are not anti-intellectual. They suffer from the end-game of SLAVERY my friend. What you see now is what your ancestors planted and it has flowered into a burgeoning class of self-destructing people, just as John Lynch said it would.

    I give you an example. Ask the nearest “black” woman why she uses chemical relaxer to make her hair straight. The answer is that she hates her natural nappy locks which are beautiful to me, but to the average “black” they are a liability to progress. So, blacks are brainwashed to self-hate, and THAT is only the tip of the iceberg. Ask a black person what they think of nappy hair. 98 of 100 will attribute negative connotation to it, proving my point that assimilation pressures are more the cause of poor academic performance than race itself. Check.

  20. Mad Scientist says:

    Check this you ultra-left racist. When you cry that “slavery” is the root cause of all your woes, you have effectively relinquished the argument that you have any control in your sorry lot in life. Get over it already!

    Jews have had more hatred spewed at them over the past 5000 years than “you people” have had in the last 500. They don’t bitch about it nearly 1/10,000th as much as you whiners.

    And have you ever considered that some people use chemical straighteners to allow them to look how they want to look, as opposed to your concept of beauty?

  21. Kenneth Jordi says:

    Well, people, I’ve hunch that the poet is pulling your leg a bit – playing the race card that way is so damned funny, it has to be a joke, hasn’t it?

  22. Mad Scientist says:

    Not really. There was a guy here awhile back calling himself theAmericanist. Everything was about slavery.

    And the guy believed.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Poet, you’re joking right? Yanking people’s chains? You can’t seriously believe that tripe can you? Yes, I said TRIPE. Who died and made you the arbiter of blackness?

    “They suffer from the end-game of SLAVERY my friend.”

    You may but I don’t. I will consistantly laugh in the face of anyone who insists on such foolishness.

  24. Whoops, that was me. This thing never seems to remember me.

  25. What MY ancestors planted, poet? I think they were busy fleeing in terror from the Tsar’s cossacks at the time.

    Moreover, you didn’t address my point at all. If racism and the legacy of slavery were the reason, you’d expect black Carribean immigrants to do basically the same academically, since they’re a part of that same legacy, and they don’t. Why not? In part because of the breakdown of much of the US-native-born black family, which is a phenomenon dating only to the 1970’s and thus obviously, empirically, not a legacy of slavery.

    Oh, and if hairstyles are about racism, then why do plenty of white women with straight hair get their hair curled?

  26. The nappy hair phenomenon is real, and not about “style”. Its about the right to have natural nappy hair and not be ostracized. Samantha probably never was racially profiled right? Never pulled over for NOTHING by a racist cop right?

    The Jews? Please. When we ask for reparations, LIKE THE JEWS ALREADY RECEIVED, we get laughed at. See what I mean? Japanese received reparations, Jews received reparations, but let a black ask for reparations for slavery. OH the bellowing that proceeds that request!!

    My ancestors built the railroads FREE, many monuments in the capitol FREE, countless companies today trace their fortunes back to slavery FREE labor. Give us the land promised to us in General William T. Sherman’s General Field Order 15 and I guarantee you we will be satisfied.

    Now, most of you will not know about that so go read it and see for yourself how black ancestors where SHAFTED. Check.

  27. Samantha,

    By the way…you comments indicate that you have not read extensively into the Slave Narratives, eye-witness accounts recorded in many different projects during the years just after Emancipation. Read at least twenty of them (there are thousands…) and then get back to me. I think you will tearfully take back what you said because you cannot know your history and say what you are saying.

    Look how this USA govt allows genocide to continue in Africa while we send troops over and over to Iraq. How about a few troops in Sudan? in Uganda? In Liberia? YEARS ago in aparteid South Africa? Oh, I forgot, they got whipped in Somalia and are afraid to go back.

  28. superdestroyer says:


    Why should I care what the ideas of Cornel West are when they are blatantly Marxist and racist. It still does not explain the differences between the test scores between rich blacks and poor whites.

    Also, to claim that John McWhorter is a racist even though he teaches at Cal-Berkley is laughable. Why don’t you discuss his ideas instead of just name calling.

    Also, Jew and Americans of Japanese Ancestory did not all get reparations. Only those who were actually harmed received compensation. Their grandchildren or great grandchildren did not get anything. As with all people who demand race based reparations, I would love for you to explain how they are constitutional.

    I would also point out that you have repeated the racist nonsense about hair that was written about in “under the skin” by Lena Williams where white women who flip their hair are automatically racist.

  29. Mad Scientist says:

    Where the hell are the reparations from the slavery in Egypt? Or the repeated sacking of Jerusalem over the centuries? Or the Inquisition? Or the purges of Stalin?

    Let me know when you have suffered all those indignities over 5,000 years. Then come back and whine.

    And Sherman had no legal authority to grant 40 acres and a mule.

    Oh, and boo-freaking-hoo. Slavery was tough. I don’t have to read how bad it was. Get over it. Time to moveon.org. Nothing to see here.

    Ask the UN what they are doing about genocide in Africa. Those are your homies killing each other for what? Because some are darker than others? When the UN decides to something about the moral dilemma, give me a call. If they all want to kill each other, fine by me.

  30. Moreover, the left screams when we invade Iraq and screams that we DON’T immediately invade Sudan, but the instant we actually did, how many nanoseconds do you think it would take for them to start shrieking that it was racist neocon imperialism or whatever? Damned if you do, damned if you don’t: everything the US does and does not do is ipso facto evil.

  31. Jim Thomason says:

    If I can take a break from discussing the idiocy spouted by “poet”, let’s go back to the original article.

    I think that the obvious reason for this decision hasn’t been mentioned yet – money. This college is likely taking the bottom of the barrel of applicants (with regard to preperation, at least). If they had decent grades and/or test scores, they would go somewhere else. This means that a very high percentage of freshmen will flunk out if they are graded based on their work. However, if they fudge the grades based on “participation”, then they get to make 2-3 years of tuition from them instead of a mere semester or two.

    It’s all about the Benjamins.

  32. “I think you will tearfully take back what you said because you cannot know your history and say what you are saying.”

    I am still laughing at your presumption. I hope you’ve enjoyed working your self into a lather. It was entertaining (and informative) to observe.

    To address the original post:
    Way back in the day any black person coming out of college had to be better than the best of the best at the best of the white colleges. And they were because they knew what was at stake. Ain’t nothin’ like an educated black person looking you dead in the eye to put a lie to the tales that racists (of all shades) tell. Folk don’t seem to get that any more.

  33. Benedict accepts applicants with a C average and a 750 combined SAT score or those who score in the top three-quarters of their high school class. The college also accepts applicants who don’t meet that standard under a special admissions program.

  34. The test scores are disparate because the tests are culturally biased, period.

    As to Sudan comments, its not “homies” killing “homies” as one racist posted here, it is ARABS persecuting Sudanese Christians for the most part. The lack of informative dialogue here is frightening. The Arab government has LONG been arming ARAB militia thugs to push the native BLACK Sudanese further south and ultimately out of the country so they can posess and control it.

    As to John McWhorter, he is not I repeat NOT African-American and he speaks not for those of us who are. Case in point, his ILL-CONCEIVED research and conclusions about the Gullah language. This supposed linguistic genius was CORRECTED by the native speakers of that tongue for his gross inaccuracies in his publications about that language. What did the pompous elitist McWhorter do? He ignored it.


  35. Mad Scientist says:

    As for labeling me a racist, I just guess it takes one to know one.

    Checkmate, suckah!

  36. Samantha,

    So, have you read the twenty slave narratives yet or not? I dont care about your laughing. Like I said before, YOU CAN NOT HAVE READ THESE NARRATIVES AND STILL SPEAK THE WAY YOU DO IF INDEED YOU ARE AFRICAN-AMERICAN. Your responses inform me that you know nothing of the plight and history of your people. You have been lulled to sleep by money and classism.

    You fail to realize that the money you so desparately cling to is NOT EVEN BACKED BY GOLD, and further, that the financial system you believe in is crashing even now. It will not even survive two more years from this point. Dont believe that either? Ok, study the triple-curve collapse function, and get back to me. You will find it under “Economics” categories on the web or in your university library most likely. I encourage you to read it. We are quickly approaching a breakdown crisis larger than the “great depression”. Think I am looney dont you? I challenge you to research it.


  37. Again, who died and made you the arbiter of blackness?


    I. The islands from Charleston, south, the abandoned rice fields along the rivers for thirty miles back from the sea, and the country bordering the St. Johns river, Florida, are reserved and set apart for the settlement of the negroes now made free by the acts of war and the proclamation of the President of the United States.

    II. At Beaufort, Hilton Head, Savannah, Fernandina, St. Augustine and Jacksonville, the blacks may remain in their chosen or accustomed vocations—but on the islands, and in the settlements hereafter to be established, no white person whatever, unless military officers and soldiers detailed for duty, will be permitted to reside; and the sole and exclusive management of affairs will be left to the freed people themselves, subject only to the United States military authority and the acts of Congress. By the laws of war, and orders of the President of the United States, the negro is free and must be dealt with as such. He cannot be subjected to conscription or forced military service, save by the written orders of the highest military authority of the Department, under such regulations as the President or Congress may prescribe. Domestic servants, blacksmiths, carpenters and other mechanics, will be free to select their own work and residence, but the young and able-bodied negroes must be encouraged to enlist as soldiers in the service of the United States, to contribute their share towards maintaining their own freedom, and securing their rights as citizens of the United States.

  39. Mad Scientist says:

    Totally illegal orders.

    Besides what about the Jews much longer (i.e., over milinea suffering? You seem to easily evade that part of your discussion.

    I am finding it quite difficult to decide whether you are a racist, an anti-semite, or both.

    If you dislike the system here, why don’t YOU go to the Sudan and put your life on the line, rather than bitching about how the government ignores this issue that is clearly not in the national interest?


  40. madscientist,

    AHA! you expose yourself insaneScientist. not in the national interest eh? that would be pillage and plunder right? just like your ancestors did the native americans and just like dubya is doing to the people at the foot of the Yucca mountains today, namely DUMPING NUCLEAR WASTE ON THEM.

    promote to QUEEN, check!

  41. The Yucca Mountian nuclear waste facillity has been underconstruction and a bone of contention for, lets see now, it was old news before I graduated from highschool so it’ probably been at least 15 years now. And I still want to know, who died and made you the arbiter of blackness?

  42. Mad Scientist says:

    Nope, not in the national interest. Has absolutely nothing to do with our national security. Show me otherwise.

    And my ancestors were being kicked around by the Czars (they got out of Russia in 1905), so don’t dare try to pin that one one me homey.

    Besides, there is a big difference between dumping and burying. Get your facts straight.

  43. May I ask poet not to use the word “check” at the end of each post? Your posts are annoying enough. The check thing is grating.

  44. OK, guys. I hate to close comments while the original post is less than a week old, but I also hate to host off-topic flamefests. The post is about a college that passes students who don’t know the subject matter in the hopes they’ll eventually catch on. It’s not about John McWhorter (who, though he doesn’t claim to speak for all blacks, is African-American). Please don’t applaud yourself by using “check” when you think you’ve scored a point; let your arguments speak for themselves. Please don’t call each other racists. Please don’t make me be Civility Monitor. I’m working on some paid freelance pieces and I don’t have the time to be on Blog Patrol.

  45. Mad Scientist says:

    My apologies.

  46. Me, too. Poet, I promise to still read ya.

  47. I go to Benedict, and even though I go there, I can’t be biased. I think that the SEE policy is nothing but all see and no effort. This policy is strictly made to help freshmen and sophomores through and all they have to do is sit their butts down everyday and they get an A while they get an F in work. I respect what Benedict is doing, but it’s just an easy way out and shows how much it insults our intellect. If teachers in high school graded us on attendance like the SEE policy does and we hardly did our work, then everyone would get accepted in college. President Swinton needs to change his policy or more professors will get fired.


  1. The New Black Freedom Fighter

    I’ve had this idea rolling around in my head for months now that I wanted to write about but couldn’t quite figure out how I wanted to parse it. The comments of one “Poet” over at Joanne Jacobs’ blog helped me break thro…