Thursday, December 2, 2010

Grading Policy

Here is a direct quote from my Christian Scriptures class syllabus:

"Grading for this class is strictly on a points system. Grades in this class are EARNED not GIVEN. At the end of the semester, your point total will determine your grade. “Grade bumping” will not occur in this class as it is arbitrary and is unfair to students."
 I post this to serve as a reminder to students and as a jumping off point for discussion.

Let me mention that in my class I try and follow this phrase: "I WILL NOT DO for one student what I AM NOT DOING for every student."  Therefore, if some student has an 89.5% in my class (537/600 points) and they ask for a grade bump, I would essentially be giving them three points in my class.  I will not do that for one student unless I am doing it for all.  So, OK, lets say I do it for all, I give three points to all students.  Now, the student who had 534 points now has 537 points and an 89.5%.  What if they now feel gypped and ask for a grade bump.  You see where this is going.  Therefore, my class works on a purely capitalist system.  My students earn every point they get and I do not give out free points.

I do want to mention that I understand why a student feels justified in asking for a grade bump.  I do think our current grading system is not perfect.  Surely a student who earns an 89.5% is very close in ability and work to a student who earns a 90%, yet the grade point assigned to the former student is significantly lower than the latter.

This is why elsewhere (here and here) I have discussed the grading system and why I would like to see it changed (not that I think it will).  In short, I think just going to a purely percentage based system would be best.  Most classes are graded on a percentage system and then translated into a letter grade, which is then translated into a four point grading scale.  Why all the translation.  At the end of the class why not just give a student an 89.5 which then goes on their record and is averaged with their percentages in other classes.  This would have several positive effects.  First, the 89.5% student would no longer feel gypped knowing that their grade does not look significantly different than the 90% student.  Also, it would allow other students to really shine.  What about the 99% student who really works their rear end off, but in our current system they look just like the 90% student.  Last, but certainly not least, it might curb the emails to professors at the end of the semester asking for a grade bump.

What do you think?  Students, what do you think is most fair?  Other teachers, how do you grade and what system do you think is/would be best?


  1. I've always wondered why they don't use a percentage system.

    When I started university my university used the 9 point system. Not sure where that came from. The city I live in now also uses the 9 point system, though most universities I know of use the 4.0 system. But it gets even more confusing. Some universities on the 4.0 system give 4.3 to people who get an A+ and a 4.0 for those who get an A. But others give a 4.0 to both A and A+ because how can you get better than perfect? I just don't get why a person who gets an A should get the same mark as the person who gets an A+

    I know people are attached to letters but why not do what my high school did: They gave us percentages and then at the bottom they put a legend saying what percentages corresponded to which letter.

    I just don't get how letter grades are easier than saying 85%. In my experience people understand 85% just as easily as B. And 85% sounds better than B anyway.

  2. As a student, I do agree there is a lot of pressure to make a certain letter grade. Which is why frustrated students come begging to their professors doors asking them to raise there grade by .5 just to make it. This act is probably seen as pointless to some professors but makes complete sense to those of us who have been in his or her shoes.

    Basing grades on a percent scale would be wonderful and beneficial to both parties. As a student your grade would directly reflect how much effort or lack there of, was given throughout a particular class. Your right there is a huge difference between a 99 and a 90 an "A" is much to vague. And as a teachers a percent scale would eliminate the bombardment of students who come knocking on your door for a grade change.

    Now, due to the fact that Baylor has not quite jumped on the bandwagon for percentage scale grading I think your system is most fair. Although deep down I would hope all my professors would see my hard work and bump me up if I happened to need .2 points to get an A, but fair is fair. This is one challenge us students must learn to deal with.

    -Alera Budd

  3. I do think that your grading system is a fair policy.

    With "grade bumping" it's easy to cause controversy and tension. Until I came to Baylor, the only form of grading that I was exposed to was the percentage policy and because of this, grade bumping was common. In fact, it was even a requirement for teachers in my high school to bump a student up to the next number grade (Example: if they had a 69.6, the teacher was required to bump it up to a 70), and also, no one was allowed to get under a 50 in any class. (Even if a student didn't do any work at all and didn't take any tests and basically did NOTHING at all in the class, they still had a 50 in the class). They did this so that the statistics reflected from the school wouldn't look as bad, but this did absolutely nothing to motivate students to try harder and actually do their work, because they knew that they could do NOTHING and still get a 50, or that they would have the benefit of the doubt if their percentage was something like 69.6

    So I do think that your grading policy is fair because it gives students exactly what they deserve.

  4. I believe the grading policy in use is effective and fair for all. At the beginning of the semester you told us there was no grade bumping so it would not be fair to you if we ask you to bump a grade. You motivated us to work hard to earn a grade we desire and not expecting easy points by bumping.
    I have been used to percentage grading in Mexico and in the high school I finished my junior and Senior year here in the US. So I have been exposed to both types of grading and I believe letter grading make one try harder since an 80 is not to bad compared to a 90 but the difference between a B and an A seems significant. Your grading policy seems fair and makes the students work harder