DFW rate stands for the proportion of students in a class or group of classes who earn a D, an F, or Withdraw. This has become a trendy metric in recent years due, in part, to its negative correlation with retention. A search for DFW on the Chronicle of Higher Ed site, for example, returns 10 hits since 2018 - several of which mention retention as well. As a professor of mathematics at a small, public university in the US with a focus on the liberal arts, I've found myself thinking about our DFW rate and found that I don't really know the answer to the question:
What is a healthy DFW rate?
Such an answer would certainly be multifaceted (balancing faculty expectations with those of the administration) and would also depend on the student body. Since this is not a discussion site, though, let me be clear that I'm specifically wondering:
- Are there any authoritative publications on the question?
- Is there any publicly available data that would allow us to compute or estimate DFW rates for specific classes at a wide variety of schools?
Note that I have found some papers (like those in the Chronicle) that discuss DFW rate. They all tend to be very isolated, though, dealing with one or two anecdotal cases without mentioning any specific goals for DFW rates.
With regard to question 2, I should mention that I'm quite adept at dealing with IPEDS and, while there's plenty of data surrounding grades and retention, there doesn't appear to be any data of sufficient granularity to compute, say, the DFW rate for Introductory Calculus.