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:

- to avoid misunderstandings
- to be fair
- to minimize temptations to try to
*negotiate*grades or to ask for exceptions or special consideration.

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

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:

- Any correct and complete problem solution earns at least a
**C**. - Work that is unusually thorough, well-organized, nicely
presented, innovative, or in some other way superior to a
minimum required solution, earns at least a
**B**. - A grade of
**A**is earned for work that is*outstanding*in some way. - Partial or flawed problem solutions can earn any grade
**A**through**F**, depending on the nature of the omission or errors and on the quality of what's turned in.

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.

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.

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: | 90-100 |

B: | 80-89 |

C: | 70-79 |

D: | 60-69 |

E: | 0-59 |

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:

- A rather insignificant 1% change in your course average can result in a significant 25% change in the course grade that goes into your grade-point average. That may seem drastic, but it's the way the system works at this university and many other institutions.
- When a numeric average falls at the borderline, therefore, I take into
consideration the
*trend*. If your*later*work, including the final examination, earned higher grades than your earlier work, I'll nudge your letter grade upward.

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.

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.

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

- How much the instructor
*likes*the student. - Whether the instructor feels sorry for the student.
- Whether the student will lose a scholarship, forfeit tuition reimbursement, or get sent back to a repressive country.
- Whether this grade will ruin a previous straight-A average.

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.

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.