The bottom line for 2014

The class average: 88% (B+). Four of the 14 students with an A are four scored >100% through extra credit. In the absence of extra credit, the highest score would have been 98%.

Of the 198 students who started the semester, 186 made it to the end in the sense of getting a grade for the course on their transcript. Of those 186, 38% got some kind of an A, 71% got a B+ or better, and 90% of students got a B or better. Compared to last year, fewer A’s but way more A-‘s and B+’s. This despite the fact that this year I abandoned the non-merit based extra credit I uneasily dispensed in previous years.

It is difficult to calculate the impact of my final exam cock-up. It looks to me like one person passed who might not have otherwise done so, and undoubtedly some others went a grade higher than they deserved (Merry Christmas). But not many. The difference between the 100% I gave out and the 80-85% that would likely have been the class average exam score is 15%. The exam is worth 20% of the final grade – so the average contribution of my largess is just 3%. Not much in the scheme of things, and less than bribery I used in previous years to encourage students to come to class and fill out the end of course questionnaire. And like that bribery, the cock-up gave me a grade buffer. I could say to students wanting me to bump them up a grade that they were only close because of my mistake.

Of course, there is simply no way to know what to make of this grade distribution. Am I setting the bar too low, too high or just right? It is one of the mysteries of high education.

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