Grade Policies

Holistic Grading

Ordinarily, the papers in this course will be graded according to a grading rubric, which is essentially a scoring tool. You will receive a blank copy plus an explanation early in the course, so you know what to aim for.

Rubrics, however, have a built-in problem. They are made for papers which are pretty much OK in most areas, but what about a paper with one major, overshadowing problem?

If I strictly apply the rubric from English 100 to the first case, the student could end up with an 80%. The rubric for our course wants to award 85% to the second student, and most rubrics don’t know what to do with the third.

How I will actually grade

For most papers, I will read them and mark them rather strictly according to the rubric. I do reserve the right, however, to apply the “Dentist’s Office Criterion.” When you are waiting for the dentist, you often pick up a magazine and read an article or two. You are not doing careful marking or criticism, but you do usually end up saying, “That was a pretty good article” or “Wow! That one should never have been printed!” When I run into a paper that is not described very well by a strict rubric score, I will write a narrative explaining the grade and assign a grade that does not match the rubric. I am asking the overall (holistic) question, “Was this any good?” (By the way, this also explains why, when you submit a revised paper and say, “Look! I fixed three commas! Can I have a couple of extra points?” your grade probably will not change.)

The Barrel of Sewage

In the real world, there’s a “barrel of sewage” rule. If you have a barrel of sewage and add a cup of fine French wine, you still have a barrel of sewage. If, on the other hand, you have a barrel of fine French wine and you add a cup of sewage, you now have a barrel of sewage. In the same way, if you have a badly-researched paper that reaches false conclusions, good structure and spelling will not save it. It is still a bad paper. On the other hand, if your facts and conclusions are good and your style is beautiful but you cannot spell, it's a bad paper.

The views and opinions expressed in this page are strictly those of the page author.

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or approved by Ashland University.

Revised 12/26/21 • Page author: Curtis Allen • e-mail: