GRADING POLICY (08/30/03)
Course letter grades will be determined from the top down by the overall Course Score (CS), calculated from the Normalized Test Score (NTS), the Normalized Lab Score (NLS), and the Normalized Homework Score (NHS), as follows:
(CS) = 0.65 (NTS) + 0.20 (NLS) + 0.15 (NHS)
Here the normalized test score, NTS, is the sum of the scores for best four of the following five test hours: The (normalized) final exam score, counted twice, and the (normalized) scores of hourly tests #1, #2 and #3, as described under EXAMS.
The Laboratory Score, NLS, is computed from the adjusted raw lab score, ALS, obtained from the raw sum of the semester’s lab report grades, RLS, on the basis of “80% of the Maximum” process described below.
Homework Score, NHS, is similarly obtained from the adjusted raw HW score,
AHW, obtained from the raw sum, RHS, of the semester’s HW scores by “80% of
the Maximum” process described in below. Occasional in class quizzes
related to the homework material may
also be given from time to time. Their grades will be added into the raw HW
score,RHS, and treated in the same way as the HW grades.
Occasional in class quizzes related to the homework material
may also be given from time to time. Their grades will be added into the raw HW score,RHS, and treated in the same way as the HW grades.
Students whose Course Scores lie in the top 20% will receive an A. Students whose Course Scores lie in the top 50% will receive at least a B. The A/B break-point will be set where a gap occurs in the course scores which is large enough to distinguish the performance of the lowest-scoring A student from that of the highest-scoring B student. Therefore, in practice, more than 15% of the students will likely get A’s. Likewise the precise B/C break-point will be set by such a gap, so that in practice more than 50% of the students will receive A's and B's.
Students who do not complete the course requirements will receive an F. Failure to complete all of the Labs, missing the Final Exam, and/or missing two or more hourly exams each constitutes a failure to complete the course requirements. Generally students who do complete the course requirements earn a course score sufficient for a D. Regarding the C-D breakpoint, we shall apply a prejudice in favor of C by giving D's only to students whose course scores are separated by a gap from the smooth distribution of the rest of the class. Thus despite our prejudice for C over D, a substantial gap between your score and the low side of the continuous part of the class distribution may be dangerous to your C.
“80% of the Maximum” is Enough
The “80% of the Maximum” process for determining Lab and HW components of the Total Course Score is based on the proposition that Lab and Homework are learning experiences, and not exams, and that if they are done well enough, they should carry no grade penalty. We consider the achievement of “80% of the Maximum” possible total score to be “good enough”. In addition, we believe that “80% of the Maximum” is within the reach of every student who is willing to do the required work.
Therefore every student who achieves 80% of the Maximum possible Homework (or Lab) score will receive the same highest Adjusted Raw HW or Adjusted Raw Lab score of 100. Students who achieve less than “80%of the Maximum” will receive a raw score equal to the percentage of 80% which they achieve. These raw scores will then be renormalized into a distribution with an Average of 70 and a standard Deviation of ±20, just as the hourly exam and final exam scores are renormalized, to yield the Normalized Lab and Normalized HW scores, NLS and NHS, used to compute the Course Score, CS, with the above 65-20-15 weighting.
Be Sure to Achieve the “80% of Maximum” Level
We advise everyone to make sure that he/she achieves the highest possible Adjusted HW and Adjusted Lab scores of 100, not just because it guarantees them the highest normalized HEW and Lab scores, but because the failure to do so may seriously damage their NHS and NLS component scores. The reason is that renormalization of a distribution in which most of the grades lie at some maximum value can carry the few lower-than-maximum scores to quite low values. The effect is drastic, but it can be avoided with due care, and it is the flip side of the decision to treat everyone equally who meets a certain specified threshold.