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C'est la Z

My test grading policy

I was working on writing a midterm the other day so figured I'd talk a bit about my test grading policy.

Before getting to the specifics, let me set the stage. I spent most of my career at Stuyvesant - a public magnet school in NYC. There are many great students who are interested in learning but there's also a focus on grades. and this leads to a non-insignificant portion of the student body that is grade obsessed and will do everything and anything for every point possible.

We called it grade grubbing.

Grade grubbing goes beyond asking for points you think you deserve and it comes in many forms. It's when you BS your way through an essay or paper and put in as many key phrases as possible and hope the teacher only sees those when scanning through hundreds of papers. It's taking that same paper and only showing the key correct phrases during an appeal and ignoring the contradictory key phrases a few lines below. It's when you write an answer in a somewhat ambiguous way that if marked wrong allows for an appeal. It's appealing a low grade because "I always get over 95" and it even involves cheating sometimes and changing answers after the fact.

Now, this isn't the majority of the class. It's only a small percent but it's pretty annoying and it had a bit of influence on my testing policy.

So, what's my policy? It's pretty simple.

Rule 1 - once I return the test you can't ask me anything about your exam until either we go over the exam in class or if we don't until after I've shared the answer key with the class. If you do ask me about the exam before we've gone over it you forfiet your right to ask for any points back on any mismarked questions.

Rule 2 - If you appeal a question for points - that is come up and say "I got this question right" and it turns out that you are correct, you get your points. If, on the other hand, the quesiton is incorrect, I reserve the right to take off the points deducted a second time. That is, if you originally lost 5 points you could now lose up to 10.

This might sound harsh and somewhat jerky but it really isn't. Due to the nature of CS exams students can always be 100% certain that their answer is correct because they can always try it out on a computer. That's the point. If something is marked wrong, I want the student to take the time to see what's going on before appealing the grade. Questions that can't be absolutely tested are of course excempt from this policy.

If a student comes up to me and says "hey, i know this is wrong - I tested it and I'm not asking for points, I just don't understand what's going on" I would never deduct more points and in fact have sometimes lowered deductions.

As it turns out, I've never actually ended up taking off extra points.

The whole idea is to stop the reflexive grade grubbing and get students to think about the problems and solutions. It also helps in keeping teacher harrassment to a minimum :-).

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