Grading Up

December 21, 2003



We complain a lot about grade inflation, but I find that the last step in working up class grades is making sure that I gave enough As.

I give a lot of grading opportunities: homework, discussion, two papers, two exams. Everyone screw up at least one of them. Even my hero forgot to do 3 homework assignments, lost 3% of her final grade, and finished with a calculated 3.44 for the semester. Six tenths of a point - a C on each homework or a B on two of them - and she would have had an A-.

On the first pass through the grades, out of 70 students I had one A and two A-. You generally want to give about 3% A, about 10% A-. The total grades A- and above should float between 10% and 13% of your students. With 70 students, I was low - an indication that I have been flinching as I grade just as the fact that the final had more C- than C or D suggested that I was flinching on grading the bad exams. I am a grading wimp sometimes.

So, I went back, double checked a couple of out of character blue books, double checked blue books and discussion grades for folks who were very close to a grade margin, and ended up with one A and five A-. That is about right.

On the low end, I am flunking one, giving one D, and three C-. I have more C than C- grades, suggesting that my flinch on the final did not extend to a flinch on overall grades. I am actually light on grades of D and below - if the curve were relatively normal I should have about the same number of D and down as I do of A- and up. But, two students took an incomplete that will become an F if they do not get papers to me by February.

I check my grading curves as a form of quality control - if your grades are bimodal, or skewed high or low, or show a flinch then that is a sign that your teaching or grading may not be working as intended.

All in all, the curve looks pretty good. The class average is about 2.58 - a low B-. That used to be the gentleman's C. There has been grade inflation since the 1950s, but history departments still try to protect the A.

And so to fill in bubble sheets.

Posted by Red Ted at December 21, 2003 08:06 AM | TrackBack