College life: On final grading

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By Darren Johnson
Campus News

Here I sit, inputting final grades, as you can see in the screen shot above. I have three of my four classes from this fall semester tallied. The grades need to be in by this weekend, and I am ahead of schedule.

There’s a pile on my desk of final assignments. One of them I input the wrong grade for, momentarily, scoring it a 92 instead of a 276. I’d forgotten that the final was on a scale of 300 for a few seconds.

In popped a student, staring at her cell phone in dismay. She’s an A-student, and her final grade was an A, but she was in shock. They see what I type into the computer right away. I explained that the number I typed in was just a placeholder. You see, assignment grades we have to put into a system called Blackboard, but final grades go into an incompatible system called Banner. It’s inefficient, but lot of colleges do it this way.

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Upon hearing the news that her final grade was indeed an A, her eyes left her phone and her face lit up with a smile. She left with a skip in her step.

Then, seconds later, I got an email from a student who also saw that I had input a 90 vs. what should have been a 270. “What did I do so horribly wrong?!” she wrote. I apologized that I had yet to use my elementary school times tables and multiply the nine by three and add a zero. Maybe I should have taken Common Core back then?

She wrote back thanking me for fixing the error and wishing me a happy holidays. More exclamation points.

I’d made the mistake of allowing an option for the six-page final for students to add two pages on what they had learned from the course this semester, and many of them took me up on it. But the two page additions are pretty useless, in that none of the students were going to be hypercritical and tell me what’s wrong with the course. Surely, there are some things wrong with it, but their grades are on the line — and this is a PR course after all. They’re not stupid. They were glowing.

In any case, I have one more course to grade. It’s for a night course that only meets once a week. Only a dozen students, and half of them are easy to grade — some solid A’s in there — but this class overall may have been the least organized of my four classes.

Meeting just once a week, and at night, when they — and I, after having taught all day — were tired, made the class hard to win over. Plus, we only met 15 times while my other classes met 30 times. Only meeting once, early in the week, made it hard to stay on them, and their work, overall, was not as strong as the work from my other class with the same course number that met twice a week, during the day. That’s all my fault.

So a couple of the students from that class have given me sob stories — which I have accepted — and their work will be late, so I have yet to submit the grades for that class.

At least next semester I have all standard classes, and I will have many of the same students again. There’s time to turn things around, for those who found themselves a step behind this past fall; including me, at times. The spring brings us new opportunities.


And that’s the last word … for now.


Darren Johnson runs Campus News and teaches communications courses. He has an MFA in Writing from Southampton College and has authored thousands of things.