General Discussion of Grading Policy

(see course syllabi for specifics of grading for each section)

This statement reflects only the views and policies of Dr. John P. Staeck and does not represent policy nor philosophy for any other individual, group, or institution.

Statement of Professor Staeck:

1.  I hate grades.   Letters do not make us who we are and do not, usually, reflect what we know or are capable of.  Nonetheless, our society has adopted the use of grades as a measure of success and capability in academic environments.  I work in this society and I am obliged to follow the rules set forth by my employer and the larger education industry in general.  Consequently, I assign grades. 

2.  If you are a student enrolled at the institution at which I am employed you, too, have voluntarily agreed to join an organization that uses grades.  If you object to this then I happily point out that there are a very few institutions that elect not to use grades as we commonly conceive of them.  If you feel strongly about the problems with grades I heartily encourage you to pursue admission to one or more of these institutions.  The institutions I am aware of are considered fine colleges and you may find precisely the sort of  environment which you desire at these places.  I truly encourage you to follow your heart and philosophy in this matter.

3.  Generally speaking your grade is NOT in my hands nor is it under my control.  It is in YOUR hands and it is under your control.  The standards for success in any course I teach are laid out on the syllabus and discussed the first day in class.  I adhere to these standards.  Each and every student who fulfills the obligations of attending the first day's class and reading the syllabus (on-line or in print) knows exactly what s/he must do to score certain grades.  Without significant, documented, and compelling reason (such as "I broke my leg in seven places and am completing the course from my hospital bed" [an actual and legitimate reason I have encountered]) the methods of evaluation and assignments required to complete the course will not be altered.  In no situation will the standards for passing my courses be lowered.  This also means that I do not offer extra-credit beyond any specialized questions or opportunities built into the class.

4.  If you object to those standards or my methods of evaluation (all standard academic techniques, I use nothing terribly unorthodox in this vein), I urge you to discuss those concerns with me prior to enrolling in the class.  There are multiple ways of evaluating success in the academic world and I am open to feasible, legitimate alternatives.  If you seek to use one of these, you MUST discuss this with me and obtain my approval before enrolling in the class.  I can be flexible, but I am not amenable to changing methodologies once we have set off on a particular pedagogical course.

5. I realize this makes me a villain in the eyes of some.  After all, I am not willing to "cut someone a break" for attending most of the classes or "needing to get an "A" in my class."    I do not believe my courses are particularly difficult to pass, nor is it difficult to achieve high grades in these courses.  Consequently I see no good reason to pass someone solely on effort, good intentions, or even desperation to keep a scholarship or some sort of academic membership.  Think of it this way,  if you were having open heart surgery would you want your surgeon to be the person who mastered that course of study or the one who really tried, didn't get it, but was passed anyway?

Return to Staeck's Main Page

Read a Tale of Grading Woes from a Major University