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01/03/2015 - 8:30am

As the president of this institution, I want to take this opportunity to inform you about the Success Equals Effort (SEE) Policy that you may have heard about through the media or other sources. Since much of what has been presented in the media has been inaccurate, misleading, or downright incorrect, I believe it is my responsibility to ensure that our constituents and supporters have a clear understanding about this innovative new policy. 

The SEE policy requires all instructors at Benedict College to evaluate each freshman and sophomore student on two factors: effort and content learning.  The final grade for freshmen is weighted 60 percent on effort and 40 percent on content knowledge and the final grade for sophomores is weighted 40 percent effort and 60 percent content knowledge. The policy is designed to increase student learning of subject matter content at Benedict College by increasing a student's learning efforts.  The innovation in the policy is to provide our students with a strong and immediate incentive to adopt the behaviors and habits that are most likely to bring academic success.  In this innovation, because there are more assignments overseen directly, our students may have more feedback than under conventional grading processes, and our faculty members are expected to have more faculty-student contacts.  Our willingness to innovate for greater learning in this educational enterprise is also consistent with our historic mission.

The policy emerged out of our dissatisfaction with learning outcomes at Benedict College and our assessment of the reasons for the less than satisfactory outcomes.  In particular, despite the fact that Benedict College has a rich history of graduating leaders in the liberal arts, sciences, business and education we are not satisfied with the proportion that graduate with a bachelor's degree or the level of learning that some graduates attain.  From our assessments we concluded that the lack of sufficient effort was the major reason for the lower than desired student outcomes.

The logic of the SEE Policy is simple.  Student learning outcomes are positively related to two factors: student learning efforts and instructional inputs. In the past most of our focus has been on instructional inputs.  While we will continue to improve instructional inputs, we believe that significant gains in learning outcomes require significant gains in student inputs or efforts.  Therefore, in order to improve student outcomes, all else remaining equal, we must improve student efforts.  The more students work at learning the more they will learn.  The SEE Policy is intended to increase the campus wide emphasis on student efforts and student responsibility to actively engage in learning activities.  If the policy is successful, it will result in significant improvements in student learning and graduation rates.

Despite what has been said in the media, the policy does not automatically guarantee all students a final grade of "C".  In fact, there are 25 grade possibilities under the SEE Policy. There are nine combinations of knowledge grade and effort grade that would result in an unsatisfactory final grade for freshmen students.  In fact, the SEE Policy makes it more difficult for freshmen students to earn satisfactory final grades without exerting best efforts.  In effect, the SEE Policy provides a warranty for freshmen students who make an "A" in effort of earning a minimum satisfactory grade.  It is designed to provide the motivation and increase the incentive for freshman students to persist in making maximum efforts until the course is over.  We are confident that our instructional methodology is good enough to ensure that the overwhelming majority of students who earn an "A" in effort will also learn a satisfactory amount of knowledge.

It is also untrue that the Benedict College degree will be awarded to unqualified students under the SEE Policy.  As stated above, we expect learning to increase as a result of the SEE Policy. Moreover, the warranty only applies to the freshman year and thus no student could earn a degree solely because of the SEE Policy.  The SEE Policy alone cannot guarantee a satisfactory grade after the freshman year.  But if the SEE Policy is successful students entering the upper class years will have more knowledge as well as better work ethics and study habits.  Thus we expect freshman students to be able to perform much better as upper class students because of the SEE Policy.  Students receiving the Benedict College degree in the future should be better prepared for the real world than ever before.

Contrary to the assertions of uninformed distracters, the policy will not reduce the value of a Benedict College degree or the employability of Benedict graduates.  The policy will result in an overall increase in student learning of subject matter content as well as an improvement in student work ethics, motivation, attitudes, and self-responsibility.  These gains should be evident to employers or graduate/professional schools who objectively assesses the qualifications of our graduates.  Thus, the policy should increase the value of a Benedict College degree and the employability of our graduates.

The policy has not subtracted from academic freedom at Benedict College, but has in fact enhanced this freedom.  The policy has absolutely no direct bearing on faculty implementation of classroom instruction.  Nor does the policy interfere with faculty evaluation of learning or effort.  Moreover, by placing increased emphasis on student responsibility to make learning efforts the policy liberates faculty to teach content without fear of generating too many failures.  The policy will require greater faculty efforts and more serious faculty evaluation of the effectiveness of their instructional techniques.  But this is a good thing and should result in a significantly stronger faculty at Benedict College.

We are also confident that the College will be in greater conformity with the requirements of accreditation as a result of the SEE Policy.  The emphasis on effort in the policy will result in an improvement of educational outcomes for our students.  Moreover, we are committed to continuous assessment of all policies and we will assess the SEE Policy as systematic data become available.  We have had significant internal conversations concerning the policy and these conversations will continue as we work collectively to implement the policy and make Benedict College the best that it can be.

Despite the media hysteria, we are proceeding with a relatively smooth implementation of the SEE Policy.  Most faculty members and departments across the campus are working on improving their understanding of the logistics of policy implementation.  We are actively planning complete evaluation of the policy as implementation proceeds.  Any needed revisions will be identified and made based on objective evaluation of policy implementation and outcomes.  We are confident that this innovation in our approach will result in improved learning outcomes at Benedict College and that this will be revealed in the outcomes evaluation. 

We have received significant positive feedback from a diversified group of supporters. I would like to quote one of these comments by a parent from a letter to the editor of the State Newspaper dated September 15, 2004:

            "  (T) here is a great need for college presidents nationwide to follow David Swinton's lead and address an increasing academic performance problem among students of all socioeconomic levels. Whether I agree or disagree with Dr. Swinton's method, I applaud his decision to do something about the situation. His objective to provide severely needed motivating factors for those students who would otherwise drop out of college should not remain under attack (especially with such sarcasm and cynicism)." 

We hope that this letter provides you with a sound understanding of the policy and look forward to your continued support.

Sincerely,

David Holmes Swinton
President


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