Some notes regarding grades
September 9, 2019
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The members of the Offices of the Provost and the College Ombuds would like to remind the faculty of four important suggestions to help avoid disputes and achieve fairness in grading:
- Specify course requirements and the grading scheme on the syllabus
Please tell students at the beginning of the course whether there will be a restrictions on the number of specific letter grades (A’s, B’s, etc.) to be distributed in the class and how any curve will work.
Grade restrictions should be communicated in writing for transparency about how the final letter grade in the course was achieved (i.e., students should know in advance that even if they achieve grade percentages that might earn them an A in other courses, that percentage (e.g., 94%) might not earn them a course grade in the A range in a particular class). Likewise, if a curve is to be used on an exam or other graded work, students should be apprised of that curve as early as possible in writing.
- Communicate in writing to all students in the class about any changes to the grading scheme
If you decide to change the percentage that specific assignments or exams will count towards the final grade, please do so in writing—such as by an email to the entire class or via Blackboard as an announcement or an update.
A written document provides clarity to the students on how their grade will be calculated and it documents any changes that a professor decides to make at his or her discretion. Describing changes in the grading structure verbally is insufficient. Students generally are permitted a certain number of excused absences and may be unaware of such changes if they are announced only in class. Therefore, these changes should be memorialized in writing. Grade disputes will be resolved by looking at the most recent documentation that members of the faculty provide to students.
- Students should receive the grades they have earned
This prescription might seem obvious, but at least two scenarios have been the source of some confusion.
- CUNY’s F-Repeat Policy allows undergraduates to delete a maximum of 16 credits of failing grades from calculation of their cumulative GPA if they retake the courses and achieve a grade of C or better. This means that some students who might be headed for low grades ask instructors for an F so that they can retake the course hoping for higher grades. Please do not accede to such requests: one aspect of academic integrity is that students are awarded the grades they actually earn, whether they be A’s, F’s, or in between.
- The grade of incomplete (INC) should be awarded only if the student has earned an average term grade of 50 percent or better for work already completed and has requested an INC and has advanced a reason for it that the instructor agrees is valid. INC should not be given if the student simply does not show up for the final exam or does not hand in significant work without explanation: s/he should receive the grade that s/he has earned based on the work submitted (i.e., if the final exam or paper or project is worth 30% of the grade, the highest grade possible would be the equivalent of 70%). Students must request incompletes and the instructor must agree that the reason is valid. Completed assignments or exams must be handed in to the instructor so that the grade can be resolved by the end of the final examination period of the subsequent semester, or it becomes a grade of FIN, the equivalent of F. Grades can later be changed (including from F to INC) via the change of grade form, providing that a reasonable explanation is given.
- Provide students with access to their graded work
Please make your students’ graded assignments available for them to see even if you plan to retain those materials.
Our students deserve the opportunity to learn from their mistakes—to see where they can improve and to know what they have done well. Students are entitled to question their grades, so we need to make ourselves available for that discussion and clarification too.
Baruch College strives to create a fair environment for our students and avoid unnecessary disputes about grades.
Dennis Slavin, PhD
Associate Provost for Teaching and Learning
Assistant Vice President
Baruch College, CUNY
646-660-6504 (phone); 646-660-6531 (fax)