Grading Criteria and Policies

Conrad Weisert, part-time instructor


This document describes in detail both the criteria I apply to assigning grades and the policies I follow for reviewing and discussing grades. Those policies are intended:

Students should review these criteria and policies thoroughly at the start of a course, and ask me about anything that isn't absolutely clear.

Interpretation of letter grades

The assignments, projects, and examination questions in most of my courses emphasize quality. In assessing quality I apply very much the same criteria that an enlightened employer organization would apply to your work. Then I assign a letter grade as follows:

If you've taken other programming courses where A simply meant the absence of mistakes, you may be used to thinking of a grader "taking points off" for various flaws. In these courses, on the other hand, we don't take points off from some assumed starting point of 100%; instead we credit you for the positive aspects of your work.

Use of a grading assistant

Because of the non-quantitative nature of quality evaluation, I do all my own grading. I may occasionally rely on a teaching assistant to do some preliminary screening, but I examine all your work myself and determine the grade according to the stated criteria.

Numeric-letter grade equivalents

In order to compute the weighted course grades, the letter grades are converted to numeric equivalents. Unless the syllabus specifies a different range, I use the following table:

A plain, unadorned letter grade is assigned the midpoint of the range. If you get an assignment back marked B I probably entered it as 85 plus or minus a point. I use "+" or "-" to shade those grades, so that, for example a grade of "A-" is entered as 91 or 92.

Note that you are not in competition with other students in the course, either on individual assignments or for the course grade. Nothing would please me more than to see everyone enrolled in the course earn an A

At the end of the course, I convert the numeric grade back to a letter, using the same table. Note that:

Correcting errors and re-evaluating work

If I make a mistake in grading, I'll be happy to correct it right away. If you get an exam back in which the points are added wrong or an answer was overlooked, bring it to me before you leave the classroom and I'll make the correction.

On the other hand, if you want to discuss the quality criteria that went into a letter grade, you should make an appointment to see me in my office. At that time, I'll be glad to explain to you anything you don't understand about the basis of your grade. If you're then dissatisfied, and want me to re-evaluate your work, I'll do so, provided you understand that this may result in either raising your grade if I discover that I had overlooked positive aspects of your work or lowering your original grade, if I should notice negative factors that I had overlooked the first time.

Fairness of examination questions

Since I've been giving examinations in these subjects for many years, it's not likely that I'll include a question that depends on something we didn't cover in class or that calls for some brilliant inspiration that isn't reasonable to expect.

In the unlikely event that I do include an unfair examination question, you won't need to call it to my attention. I will very likely realize it when I grade the papers. If a surprisingly large number of students miss a question that I expected most students to answer correctly, then I'll throw out the question by giving everyone full credit for it.

Special considerations and negotiations

Grades are earned not awarded or negotiated, and they are not influenced by such factors as:

I may feel compassion for your circumstances, but please don't ask me to record a higher grade than you earned on the basis of such considerations. That wouldn't be fair to the students who don't complain.

Kurt Wiesenfeld, a physicist at Georgia Tech, published in Newsweek magazine a thoughtful and somewhat provocative essay on the topic of grade negotiation.

Extra credit and second chances

I cannot make special arrangements with individual students to do work over or to do an "extra" assignment. It wouldn't be fair to the other students, so please don't ask.