(in excruciating detail)

English 140

Teaching Associate: Patrick Mooney

Summer 2012

This document is an explanation of how your overall grade is calculated for the quarter. This is, after all, *your* education; and your grade, though perhaps incidental to the real purposes of education, is, after all, very important to you for a variety of (mostly good, I think) reasons. Because of this, I believe it's worthwhile to show my hand in this matter, so you can understand exactly how your final grade is calculated.

It is *always* perfectly OK to e-mail me and ask what your grade is. I use a spreadsheet to perform these calculations, and I keep it up-to-date, so it is almost no work for me to answer an e-mail asking what your grade is. It is *your* grade, based on your work, and I believe strongly that you should have the option of knowing what your current grade is at any time.

Recall the following details about the relative value of the course components from the course syllabus:

- Intermittent reading quizzes: 20% of final grade. Reading quizzes occur at the beginning of lecture and, if missed, cannot be made up. I will drop your two lowest quiz scores from inclusion in your final grade.
- Final exam: 20% of final grade.
- One three- to five-page paper: 25% of final grade.
- One five- to seven-page paper: 35% of final grade.
All course assignments must be completed, and at least five reading quizzes must be taken, in order to receive a grade above D+ for the course.- Extra credit (up to 4%) is available for those interested making a (15- to 20-minute) presentation of an in-depth reading of a specific aspect of a text, or of a specific theoretical perspective that is relevant to the course concerns.

This quarter, I am performing grade calculations in such a way that there will be 500 total points for the term. That is to say, more specifically, that the quizzes will total 100 points, the final will be worth 100 points, the first paper will be worth 125 points, and the second paper will be worth 175 points. Extra credit, if you take it, is worth up to 20 points.

I do not "curve" grades. In the past, the average (i.e., mean) grade I gave for all students during the quarter has always been very close to 85% (a middle B). This is not the result of curving grades, but rather of the way that I define what each grade is worth.

The University of California does not provide a formal definition of how percentages or point totals should map onto letter grades, preferring to leave that determination to individual instructors. However, there is a default mapping on GauchoSpace for instructors who use GauchoSpace to calculate grades and do not override this mapping. Though I do not use GauchoSpace to calculate grades, I find that this set of numbers is in line with general academic practice, and have decided to adopt it (with the small modification that I have defined an A+ grade in a way consistent with the rest of the grade definitions — GauchoSpace does not include a definition for A+).

My mapping from percentages to letter grades is as follows:

If your (percentage) grade for the quarter is at least… but less than … then your letter grade is… 97% — A+ 93% 97% A 90% 93% A- 87% 90% B+ 83% 87% B 80% 83% B- 77% 80% C+ 73% 77% C 70% 73% C- 67% 70% D+ 63% 67% D 60% 63% D- — 60% F

This set of mappings is the basis for both your paper grades (discussed in more detail below) and your final grade for the quarter (also discussed in more detail below).

Quizzes have a base worth worth of 10 points each (though there are extra credit possibilities on most quizzes), and the lowest two quiz scores will be dropped from inclusion in your final grade. I have not decided how many total quizzes will occur during the quarter, so I will scale the point total from your highest quizzes to 100 total points. That is to say: if there are *n* quizzes, then I will map your highest *n-2* quizzes onto 100 points by giving each quiz equal weight.

To be more explicit: There will be approximately ten to twelve quizzes over the quarter. Let us assume, for purposes of producing specific numbers in this example, that there will be exactly ten quizzes. If each of these quizzes is worth ten points, then your eight highest quiz scores will be worth a possible total of eighty points. If this winds up being the case, then I will multiply the total points for your eight highest quizzes by 1.25 (^{10}⁄_{8}) to produce a scaled quiz total out of 100 points. Similarly, if there are eleven quizzes, then I will total your nine highest quiz scores and multiply by ^{10}⁄_{9} to produce a scaled total out of 100 possible points. In any case, the ostensible total possible points will equal 100 (though some students may get more than 100 points on quizzes by performing very well and picking up bonus points throughout the quarter).

Letter grades for papers are assigned based on my grading rubric, possibly modified by up to two penalties. The first of these penalties is for late papers; the second is for not meeting the bare minimum length requirement for papers (three full pages for the first paper, five full pages for the second paper, not including the Works Cited page). Late papers are penalized by one-third of a letter grade for each day that the paper is late, counting both Saturday and Sunday as a single day.

The penalty for not hitting the bare minimum length for a paper — even if you're only short by one line — is *four-thirds* of a letter grade. You can also incur this same penalty by writing a paper that appears to meet or slightly exceed the bare minimum paper length, but reaches this length by tweaking the format for the paper in such a way that it looks to me as if you would not have reached the minimum length if the paper had been properly formatted (for instance, if you just exactly fill three pages for your first paper, but your margins are too wide, then you have, effectively, not met the minimum length requirement, and will incur the penalty). If you get this penalty on paper one, you can remove it by writing * at least six full pages* on paper two. If you get this penalty on paper two, there is no way to remove it, so make *absolutely sure* that paper two is long enough.

You will notice, regarding the penalty calculation, that I say that the penalty for a late paper is one-third of a letter grade

per day, *not* that it bumps you down to the next lower grade range. One letter grade being worth 10%, what this actually means is that each day that your paper is late reduces your score by 3⅓%. Because the middle range (neither plus nor minus) is slightly larger than the top and bottom ranges (plus and minus) for each letter range, this means that, in practice, a B that you get by turning in a B+ paper one day late is worth slightly more than a B paper turned in on time, whereas a B- that you get by turning in a B paper one day late is slightly lower than a B- paper turned in on time. In practice, I have never yet had a student whose final grade for the quarter was affected by this calculation detail (but this document is, after all, an exhaustive declaration of how your grade is calculated). You will also have noticed that I assign *letter grades* to papers, and then map those letter grades onto point totals. To put it another way: every A- paper is worth the same number of points as every other A- paper, every B paper is worth the same number of points as every other B paper, and so forth.

With two exceptions (the very rare A+ and F grades, discussed in a moment), points assigned for each paper grade are the number of points in the *middle* of that grade range — not the high end, and not the low end. That is, an A- paper gets not 90% (the low end of the A- scale), nor 93% (the high end of the A- scale), but the middle — 91.5%.

In the unusual event that someone writes an A+ paper, this is worth 100%, not 98.5% (which would be the middle of the A+ range). You will note from my grading rubric that I set the bar for A+ papers very high, and I believe that anyone writing one of these papers should be rewarded with the maximum possible number of points for that assignment.

If your paper has problems large enough to land it in the D range, I do not assign a plus or minus to it — all D grades are simply D's. If you do something that warrants an F on a paper, you get *zero* points for that assignment (and, if the F is caused by plagiarism, may have done something that will result in further disciplinary action).

After your letter grade is mapped onto a percentage, this percentage is then used to calculate a point total, based on the total possible points for the assignment: 125 points (25% of your quarter grade) for the first paper, and 175 points (35% of your quarter grade) for the second paper.

Given all of this, here is the point value of each letter grade, assuming there are no penalties:

Letter Grade Percentage Point total on 1st paper Point total on 2nd paper A+ 100% 125 175 A 95% 118.75 166.25 A- 91.5% 114.375 160.125 B+ 88.5% 110.625 154.875 B 85% 106.25 148.75 B- 81.5% 101.875 142.625 C+ 78.5% 98.125 137.375 C 75% 93.75 137.375 C- 71.5% 89.375 125.125 D 65% 81.25 113.75 F 0 0 0

The formula used to calculate total points for papers which do incur penalties is:

[(percentage score for base grade) - (days late * ^{10}⁄_{3}) - (length penalty of ^{40}⁄_{3}, if applicable)] * (^{maximum points possible}⁄_{100}),

in which percentage score for base grade

is the value from the column labeled percentage

above and maximum points possible

is 125 for the first paper or 175 for the second paper. Note that I count the entire weekend as one day: although you have two days (three, on holiday weekends) to make progress on your work, you are unable to turn your work in because South Hall is locked on weekends. I consider calling the entire weekend one day

a reasonable compromise.

(Those of you who are mathematically inclined may notice that the formula above is actually the formula by which all grades are calculated, including those which incur no penalties.)

The final exam will be worth exactly 100 points. No scaling will be necessary.

The first section of the final exam will consist of fill-in-the-blank quotation identification/commentary questions. The instructions for this section of the exam will be something very much like this:

Quote identifications. Pick

6of the following quotes. In each quote, fill in the blank(s), and then explain, in approximately two to three sentences, the following information about the quote: which text the quote is from, the author of that text, the speaker(s) in the passage, and the relevance the quote has to the broader concerns of the text and/or the course as a whole.(10 points each.)

Here is a sample question:

A man’s ________________ should exceed his __________,he muttered, up to his elbows in suds, his dead finger shriveling in the dishwater.Or what’s a heaven for?

This is from James Hynes's The Lecturer’s Tale, p. 73. (I do not expect you to know the page number.) The correct words to fill in the gaps are reach

and grasp,

respectively. It's worthwhile to note that this is not just some random string of words pulled from a novel — you can get much of the required information here by realizing that The Lecturer's Tale is the only text in which there has been any substantial concern with a dead finger, and remembering that this particular reference to Robert Browning's Andrea del Sarto,

and that this allusion is repeated over and over in the first part of The Lecturer's Tale.

Note that it's necessary to explicitly state answers to each component of the question. In this example, for instance, if you know that the novel is by James Hynes, but don't explicitly say so on the exam, then you lose points for not saying so. In all cases, giving partially correct answers will result in partial credit — so if you can't quite remember the entire answer to a question, put down what you *do* know. If all else fails, say something that is in some way relevant so that you will pick up at least some points. To put it another way: If you're not sure how to best answer a question, provide an answer that demonstrates what you know about the text.

There are multiple good ways to discuss this quotation's relevance. Talking about Browning would certainly be one, but it is not the only one, nor necessarily the best, nor is it necessary to do so to get full credit. I am not looking explicitly for specific answers on this section — what I want you to do with the quote is to demonstrate that you understand how it relates either to the text in which it occurs or in the broader context of our term-long conversation.

The second section of the final exam will consist of an essay asking you to discuss an idea across multiple texts. You will have approximately three options, and should be able to craft a reasonably strong essay in three to four paragraphs. The essay will be worth forty points.

Extra credit points on the final exam will be available. At least one of two things will be true for each of these questions: they will be *very difficult* and/or will be based on the optional reading. Some of them may assume that you have done outside research on topics that we have discussed in class this quarter.

Extra credit questions will have the lowest payoff in points for the amount of time that you spend on them, so make sure that you are perfectly satisfied with the other components of the exam before attempting these questions.

Students who opt to do the extra credit assignment will receive up to 20 points added on to their total score for the quarter. Although the criteria for evaluation are somewhat different than the criteria for paper-grading, my grading rubric provides a general guide to the level of excellence expected for each letter grade. Please see me if you have any questions about grading criteria for the extra credit assignment.

Extra credit presentations must be topically related to a text that we are currently discussing, or have discussed within the last week, or to something that is a fundamental, recurring theme throughout the course. To provide the most extreme example: the final week of instruction is too late to present an in-depth reading of some part of The Plot Against America for extra credit.

I add the points for your quizzes, after scaling them and dropping your lowest two scores, to the point totals for your final exam and both papers, and assign a final letter grade for the quarter based on the following table:

If your point total is at least… but less than … then your letter grade is… 485 — A+ 465 485 A 450 465 A- 435 450 B+ 415 435 B 400 415 B- 385 400 C+ 365 385 C 350 365 C- 335 350 D+ 315 335 D 300 315 D- — 300 F

The point totals above are "bright lines" — you either cross them or you don't. I do not consider getting close to be "good enough." If you have a point total for the quarter of 364.8, for instance, you have a C-, not a C (and have therefore almost certainly not satisfied any breadth requirements that you were trying to satisfy by taking the course).

Please let me know if you have any questions about these calculations!