In the comments to an old post, someone asked how (or if) I went about changing students' grades. Obviously, it's much, much, much too early in the semester to even think about the vague possibility of doing something that bears a passing resemblance to assigning a grade--but still, it's a good question.
When I agree to change a student's grade, the following circumstances normally apply:
- The grade is already on a cusp;
- The student makes a strong case that I've omitted something from the calculation, whether tangible (an assignment I forgot to record--in which case, there's no need for further argument) or intangible (usually, strong contributions to discussion sessions);
- I myself feel a little uncertain about the grade.
In other words, the student has to demonstrate that somewhere, somehow, I made a mistake in the calculations. As it happens, that's the only justification we're allowed to cite when requesting a change. I'm not interested in "what other students got" or, worse, "I always get an A for this sort of work!" To be blunt, students don't know "what other students got"; they only know what several friends in their immediate vicinity may have received from other faculty, none of whom happen to be me. Skimpy anecdotal evidence does not an argument make. If other students really are receiving A-range grades for barely intelligible prose, then, well, I'm sorry to hear that--but that's not exactly a good reason for me to discover the virtues of conformity, is it? All that aside, since I too only have anecdotal evidence about what students earn from my colleagues, I prefer to confine my attention to the internal consistency of my own grades.
As for "I always get an A": have students ever considered the possibility that we might be able to verify that claim? Even if the student normally does earn A-range grades, it's quite possible that different classes, different assignments, or different disciplines will generate different results. I normally did well in my English courses at UCI, but that didn't stop me from earning a B- on my first exam in CR100A--or, for that matter, flunking a physics midterm. Students who do well in courses devoted to one genre have been known to collapse in courses devoted to another; students who can handle twentieth-century literature find themselves flailing around desperately when it's Chaucer at issue; students who write strong exams can't always write papers of a similar quality; etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. And we've all had "A students" whose grades suddenly tumble under the pressure of work, sports, or personal problems. I can only judge the work I find lying in front of me.