swim, chem, baseball, I talk with my hands

Grades and Do-Overs

Calvin & Hobbes


So, you want a chance to retake the exam and raise your score? You say that your lab score is low and you wish for more points? Your homework is late or missing and you want points for this? As I have stated many times, I truly don’t care about student grades. That is, I don’t see a student score as reflecting anything other than what it is: an evaluation of single performance at a moment in time. Given that I create the guidelines for my courses and I evaluate every item submitted then – logically – I have complete control over the outcome of grades. (I am always puzzled by teachers who don’t think that they have control over how this works.) So, if I don’t care about your grade then why not let you do something to raise it?

Approach and Curvespriorities

I am passionate about teaching and I am passionate about helping my students succeed. For me, success is defined in terms of learning and growing and not as “high grades.” To congratulate students (and myself) based solely on grades is odd since I created the game. The single hardest task is removing myself from the system I operate. I have learning objectives for each unit and then teach to these objectives. The test (or quiz or lab) evaluates work against these objectives, using rubrics that exist before giving the exam. So what should I do when students perform poorly? “Curving” as used in the vernacular really refers to shifting everyones grade higher because the overall performance was low. So, when students ask about the curve they are actually asking for free points. “Curving” really means adjusting every exam so that the same percentage of students get high grades regardless of the performance. I don’t think this works as it presumes there are always high and low performers.

If I say I don’t care about grades then I have to mean it in every way. If the intent is mastery of the subject then why should I care about deadlines? Why should I care about a student requiring multiple attempts to achieve mastery? Student lives are filled with endless activities and nonsense and this class is a portion of that. I don’t think that each test is a referendum on a student’s learning study skills.

I care about your learning and how you apply the principles from the course. You likely care about your grade and since I value YOU (the person, the student) I have created a policy that works in both ways.  You exist in a very demanding environment and I wish to support your growth, especially when not at your best. I know that no single day or assessment reflects your understanding of a given topic.

So, what now?

Let’s get down to specifics: yes, I will allow for re-submissions of work and here is what you need to know about each type of work and the possibilities for extra points. Note that you should not ask permission to do this nor ask me to predict how I will evaluate resubmitted work. Besides, I don’t care about points – I only care about learning. If you do the work it shows you want to learn and I will always discuss that. And I absolutely ADORE motivated students!

Retakes and Resubmissions

Homework / Lab Work / Lab Reports

If you receive a grade that does not reflect your understanding…

  • Completely rework and resubmit the item for up to 85% credit.
  • No permission required (no need to ask me – just do the work)
  • Work must be submitted within five days of returning original item
  • Include the original submission with the new work
  • The new grade will completely replace the original grade
  • Only one resubmission is allowed per item

Quizzes / Tests

You will be allowed to “retake” any quiz or test according to the following rules.

  • Your original score is less than 85%
  • You complete the necessary work to prove you learned the topic (see below)
  • The work must be submitted within five calendar days from the returned item
  • You take a completely new test/quiz again as a way to prove this learning.
  • Your new score will replace the original score (up to 85%)
  • You may only retake an item once

What work is required?

  • Completely rewrite the test/quiz answers with corrections (you do not need to write the questions). This includes those answers that were completely correct.
  • This should be completed on loose leaf paper and be stapled to the original. Do not write on the test/quiz itself.
  • You must also provide written proof of extra practice work (found in the textbook) of similar topic with complete solution. So, included with the test/quiz is at least one extra page of work to show you have gone beyond to practice.

Note that I will not provide reminders for makeups or resubmissions as these are completely optional for those wishing to take advantage of this opportunity. The important component of this policy is that the end result is enhanced understanding of the material.



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