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Policy on Syllabi and Grading

Policy on Syllabi and Instructor's Statement of Grading Policy

July 18, 2002

  1. By University policy, the instructor must make available a syllabus to each student on the first day his/her class is scheduled to meet at the beginning of the semester.

  2. The syllabus must be in compliance with already existing applicable University, College and Department policies and, in addition or therefore, it must clearly state and explain the Instructor's Grading Policy (IGP) . It is the instructor's prerogative to choose or design his/her IGP as may be appropriate for the course he/she is teaching. However, it is the instructor's responsibility to include in the syllabus an IGP statement which must clearly and fully explain the rules according to which (a) a student's overall letter grade for the course will be determined at the end of the semester; and (b) a student's excused absence from a test or any other scheduled evaluatory procedure during the semester will be handled for purposes of determining the student's grade.

Example: An IGP statement such as this "Grading Policy: 60% of four tests + 25% of the final exam + 15% of the lab grade = 100%. All students are required to take the final exam. The final exam grade will automatically replace the lowest of your four hourly tests, if it is higher. An excused absence for any test will allow final exam grade to be substituted for that test grade." is compliant with the above-stated Rule (2b), but is is obviously woefully inadequate with regards to Rule (2a), since the student has no way of telling how his/her score average (calculated according to that neatly stated formula) will be translated into a letter grade (A,B,C,D,F).

In order to bring an IGP statement such as the foregoing into compliance with Rule (2a) of the above-stated policy, the instructor would either have to clearly state the letter grade cut-offs to be used, e.g. if the "standard cut-offs" are used, by adding "Letter grades are determined from the foregoing percentage score average as follows: A>=90%, B>=80%, C>=70%, D>=60%, F<60%" ; or else, if the letter grade cut-offs are not pre-determined, e.g. because instructor chooses to manipulate the grade distribution by somehow "putting the scores on a curve", then the algorithm by which the "curving" and assignment of final letter grade will be done should be clearly stated and explained in detail. Please note that, in the latter case, the explanation of the grading policy will necessarily be more complicated and convoluted, compared to simply using fixed, pre-determined letter grade cut-offs. However, it is the instructor's prerogative to construct such a policy -- but it is his/her obligation to unambiguously explain that policy in the syllabus to the students.

If, for example, the instructor's "curving" algorithm is constructed such that it could potentially result in a student with, say, a 90.7% avg. score getting a "B" letter grade, then the IGP statement should unambiguously alert the students to that possibility and it should clearly state a "safe upper-limit cut-off" which a student would have to reach in order to be guaranteed a certain minimum letter grade, regardless of the application and/or outcome of the curving algorithm. And if (extreme case scenario!) that safe upper limit happens to be, say, 100% for an "A" letter grade, then so be it ! But do tell the students, ahead of time and in writing, not just orally halfway through the semester or, worse, after the fact.