Reflections on Grading


If you have a 0 for the test on SIS, then I don’t have your test answers. You are responsible for finding me and arranging a time to make up the exam.


As you know, aspects of my class approximate a college course. (To let you self-correct as you transition, I’ve been offering redemption points; more on that below). Since college lectures are wont to grade on a curve, I’ve decided to do the same for your assessments (and retroactively for the first exam).

Curves adjust your grade relative to those of your peers. Suppose everyone, including the best student, bombs a test. Then one or more of the following probably occurred:

  • The material was poorly taught.
  • The test was unfair (e.g. on untaught material).
  • The test’s difficulty poorly matched students’ skill level.

To account for such inequities, professors adjust grades to match a distribution they would have preferred. The top 10% of students might be awarded an A, the next 15% a B, and so on.


My own curve was designed around two parameters: i) the class average would equal 75% (which is the mean of a normal distribution from F (50%) to A (100%)) and ii) the lowest scorer would earn a 60%. Here is my equation:

It’s not as complicated as it appears prima facie (i.e. at first blush)!

And here are the variable definitions:

  • x = your raw score (i.e. number of correct answers / total number of questions)
  • x0 = the average of raw scores (for the first test) = 0.4332096475
  • y0 = desired class average = .75
  • (y1 – y0 / x1 – x0) = coefficient required to move the lowest score to .60 = 1.016981132
  • f(x) = your curved grade divided by 100 (so if you earned an 87, this would equal .87)

You can find your raw score by plugging these numbers and your curved grade into the formula above. There are a few features of this curve worth noting:

  • It will not lower anyone’s grade.
  • The curve tends to benefit students disproportionately. Usually it benefits lower scorers more than higher scorers. For this particular exam, the curve wound up benefiting everyone about the same.

You can redeem a significant portion of missed work points by turning in work late. During my first notebook check, I checked for:

  • Notes on everything up to that point
    • e.g. grammar rules, rhetorical devices, persuasion (premises, ethos, etc), in-class exercises such as putting Paine’s Liberty or Death into your own words and breaking down the premises in Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence
  • Assignments which demonstrate bona fide effort (i.e. multiple paragraphs of serious work), e.g. Jefferson provides evidence to support which premise in the Declaration of Independence?

I’ll collect notebooks again next Monday. This time, I will look for i) notes since the last notebook check and ii) your rhetorical analysis of Paine’s The Crisis. If I find that you made up missing work, I’ll award redemption points.

Many of you also missed points for IXL skill mastery. I last checked this Friday and awarded full redemption points for late work (20 work points per week; 4 IXL assignments; 5 points for each skill with over 80 Smart Points, even though I asked for 90…Proverbs 16:32). For the list of IXL assignments to make up, scroll down to earlier posts.

To view your progress on IXL skills, go to the Language Arts tab at the top and then click Grade or Topic. To make your life easier in the future, I’ll assign skills from only one grade or topic per week.

Lastly, you had work on Again, those assignments can be found in earlier posts. I’ll check completion of that sometime in the future.


I was an unexceptional student for most of my academic career. When I decided to change that, I sought out systems for active learning. I signed up for word-of-the-day emails from dictionaries and news blasts from mainstream newspapers. If you’re interested in doing the same, I’d recommend emails from’s Word of the Day and Daily Bit of News (a news aggregator that summarizes each day’s top stories). I’m subscribed to these and half a dozen others—you’re never too old to learn!

If you’d like this extra work to count for your grade, consider doing IXL or practice in your spare time. You’ll do better on our exams and, if you’re lucky, finish some work before I assign it. For, I recommend the word lists on my Materials page.


Phew, this was a long post. Please let me know if you have any questions by contacting me at or through Remind. Can’t wait to learn again with y’all on Monday!