Grading Standards: (Note: No extra credit work will be given.)
Grading is on an absolute scale. There are 500 points total possible in the course. 450-500 is the A range, 400-449.9 is the B range, 350-399.9 is the C range, 300-349.9 is the D range, and below 300 is an F. The only adjustment may come at the end of the course after all assignments have been graded. If at that point it appears to me that there may be a problem with the assessment process, then an adjustment may be made. Note: The scale will never be shifted upward (i.e., made harder). See below “Reflections on Grading” for more information.
Representative examples of Midterm and Final Exams are on the Homepage.
It is your responsibility to pick up and hold on to all graded materials to ensure that in the event of any confusion you have proof of your work. Grades will be posted on Blackboard as material is graded.
Reflections on Grading:
The goal here is not a good grade, it is a good education.
But … alas, I do have to give grades, so I work very hard to do so fairly. I hope your grade will be a good proxy for the quality of your education.
I have two standards of fairness:
- Absolute fairness: Are my standards fair and have I implemented them carefully?
I do not grade on a curve because I don’t want you to compete against one another. I want you to strive to reach my standards and I’m here to help you reach those high standards. If everyone achieves at the highest level, everyone will get an A. On the other hand …
- Relative fairness: Do all students with similar performances get similar results?
I strive to ensure that they do.
Let me explain how I try my best to approximate both of these standards of fairness simultaneously.
In the syllabus above it says: “Grading is on an absolute scale. There are 500 points total possible in the course. 450-500 is the A range, 400-449.9 is the B range, 350-399.9 is the C range, 300-349.9 is the D range, and below 300 is an F. The only adjustment may come at the end of the course after all assignments have been graded. If at that point it appears to me that there may be a problem with the assessment process, then an adjustment may be made. Note: The scale will never be shifted upward (i.e., made harder).” Here is what this means in practice:
There are 500 points in this course. When the number of points each person has received for the entire course is determined, I line these numbers up in rank order from top to bottom. At that point, I first ask the question: “By my absolute standards are there any A students in the results?” I know there are A students in my class. If the results are so skewed downward that no one or very few folks get an A, I look for any systematic problems in the assessment process. If there is a problem I shift the entire scale to adjust for my mistake.
With this scale as a point of departure, I then look at the cutoffs I’ve established between grades to see if they actually occur at natural breaks (significant gaps) in the distribution. I find that there are often natural breaks, significant gaps, in the distribution of total points very close to my cutoffs. If there is a natural break a bit below the cutoff I’ve tentatively set, I shift my cutoff down to that more natural position (I never shift up). Then, and only then, do I go back and assign +s and -s to the As, Bs, and Cs. Again, I do this by looking for natural breaks. I move from the top to the bottom in each grade category looking for that break in the list that says “this is the last person whose performance is more like those above him/her than below.”
The whole process is always tedious and often stressful, but I belabor it because I care deeply about fairness. The only absolute with respect to the numbers is the initial guarantee that if you get into the ranges cited above you will get at least a grade in the range cited. Beyond that the numbers are just guides.
With the exception of missed work for certified extraordinary conditions, I do not take personal issues into account. There are generally over 250 students in my classes, and sometimes many more. Everyone has a story. Some of those stories reflect very compelling challenges. I’ll work with anyone in that situation to help him/her succeed …
If your world turns upside down, talk to me so I can see how I can help you succeed. If we decide that there is so much going on that you can’t deal with all the challenges and still succeed in my class, I’ll encourage you to drop or take an incomplete and I’ll look forward to seeing you again when we can work together for that success. The point of being in class is to get a good education, not to get it done. If due to extenuating circumstances you can’t get a good education this semester, then this is not the semester you should be in the class. If you think this is where you are, talk to me … sooner rather than later! If the final is near, talk to me before, not after. After is too late.
Ultimately the grade I assign is, and should be, a proxy for what you’ve mastered in my subject. It may not be a perfect proxy, but it will be my best effort to offer a fair assessment of your performance based on my standards. If you don’t do well I’m sincerely disappointed, because I want you and all of my students to get a good education and a grade that reflects that success. But I would consider it unjust to my other students to adjust anyone’s grade based on anything other than performance.
If there is any question regarding the accuracy or the fairness of the assessment, you are always welcome to appeal that assessment. See #9.