Grading Curves

I am historically a hard grader.

At my small to medium uni I was told I needed to curve my grades about 10% to get my students’ grades in line with the rest of the department. At my medium university a student came to me and said that their roommate was taking the same class and had only written two papers while we were on paper ten. I opened the grade book and offered to excuse him from the rest of the semester if he wanted

At the community college, I require at least three papers be rewritten. Then they get an average of the two grades. I feel like it is a good way for students to actually see what they are doing wrong in their papers.

I also will usually (though not in the summer) drop the lowest paper grade. But I am able to do that because my students write a bunch of papers. We write at least eight papers. I can afford to drop the lowest grade since I have lots of other work from the students.

I also offer some extra credit work. The extra credit usually only applies to the homework and attendance section. That’s 30% of the grade. And it usually has about 3000 points in it. So the students can write extra papers and get another 100, 200, or 300 points. If they did all the work it could make a difference of 10 points in their homework average. That gives them a 3 point increase in their grade average.

Why do I do it? Because sometimes, no matter how hard someone tries, life interferes. This extra credit I give won’t save their average if they don’t turn in major papers. But if they skip a homework or got sick, it isn’t going to destroy them.

If I have given a lot of extra work that semester, I give two or three extra points to the average. It’s happened once in the twelve years I’ve been teaching.

But I don’t curve in general. My students aren’t being compared to the people in their class, they’re being compared to themselves and all my other students ever.

I have been considering changing my grading because my students do 2 or 3 times the work that all the other teachers’ students do. But I’m not changing it because I think I’m too hard. I’m thinking about changing it because everyone else is too easy.

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