Friday, January 28, 2011


Grade Appeals

I’m just looking for a sense of the lay of the land. Readers from all sorts of institutions are invited to answer.

How does your college handle grade appeals by students?

Can appeals address judgments, or only errors of calculation? Can grades be changed if the professor objects? Who gets to make the call? Does the system seem to work?

If you’d rather answer privately than comment publicly, I’m at deandad (at) gmail (dot) com.


We have a very detailed and multilayered policy. There is a short list of reasons for which a grade appeal can be initiated, and if none of those apply, then it goes nowhere. Most are fairly objective; some are subjective.

At each layer, if the finding is in favor of the student, then the instructor is asked to change the grade. If the instructor says no, then the student is either retroactively changed from A-F grading to P-F grading and given a P or given a retroactive W (withdrawal). I believe that the instructor can then appeal a few more levels.

Of course there is a different tangle of committees and policies if the grade included an academic dishonesty penalty. The normal grade appeal committee doesn't get those until they've gone through some other committees first.
At my southern (no union) cc:

If the student is not satisfied with an explanation by the instructor of the final grade assigned, (s)he may appeal in writing, within five (5) working days of talking with the instructor, to the first-level supervisor (program coordinator, division dean or VP of Instructional Services). The first-level supervisor will investigate the basis on which the final grade was assigned and render a decision to the student within five (5) working days.

If the student is not satisfied with the decision of the first-level supervisor, (s)he may appeal in writing to the next level supervisor (division dean or VP of Instructional Services) within five (5) working days of receiving a decision from the first-level supervisor. The division dean or VP of Instructional Services will investigate the basis on which the final grade was assigned and render a decision to the student within five (5) working days.

The decision of the VP of Instructional Services is final. No further recourse is available to the student.

If a student desires to appeal a final course grade on the basis of discrimination, sexual harassment, or academic integrity (s)he must follow the appropriate grievance procedures as outlined.
Our grade appeals go to a committee of three senior faculty appointed by, and reporting to, the provost.
Grades at my private, 4-year institution can be appealed for only two reasons:
1. The professor did not follow the grading procedure outlined in the syllabus.
2. The students was discriminated against on the basis of a protected class (age, gender, race, religion etc).

Appeals go to a committee made up of 3 faculty members, one student, and one staff member. Ordinarily, they will try not to actually change a grade to another letter grade, but will instead change grades to Pass, take the class off the transcript altogether, or other alternatives.
Generally our grade appeals go to the dean of the department, who, in all the cases I've had, has just asked me for documentation and then explained to the student in detail why the student is wrong. (I'm pretty careful about my grading and no single assignment ends up being make-or-break, so I've never had a grade appeal succeed.)

In two cases I had the student reject the dean's decision and appeal to the student affairs person, and then get pissed about that and appeal to the president, which isn't actually an official process, they just e-mailed him directly and/or went to his office, alleging horrific misconduct on my part and, in one case, illegal discrimination. In the first case I just kept handing the syllabus up the chain (the student's objection was that she hadn't done the assignments on time, or completed some of them at all, and it wasn't fair for her to be penalized for that EVEN THOUGH there was make-up work available but she shouldn't have to do that because it would take extra time and it wasn't her fault she hadn't done the work. She spent far more time appealing the grade than it would have taken her to either complete the work or do the make-up work.). In the second case (the "illegal discrimination" claim) I just kept handing the student's final paper up the chain, which was not only written at a grade-school level and did not remotely complete the assignment, but was basically a long hate screed against homosexuals and was the kind of thing that campus police was interested in because it was so over the top.

Then they took their "appeals" to Rate My Professors, which now says, over and over with sockpuppet accounts, that I am unfair, unprofessional, and penalized Christians by failing them for following Christ. Oh well.
We have grade appeal committees in the departments. Students have a limited window of time to formally make an appeal, after which time they're out of luck (at least using the formal process - there's always an informal process of dealing directly with one's professor).

The department committee has authority to examine both computation issues and judgment issues, including whether the professor's expectations were clear and/or reasonable. Grades can be changed by this committee against the professor's will. There are higher-level committees that students can appeal to as well.

This formal process is fairly infrequent, both because students rarely know the policy and so they miss the window, and because most student complaints about grades are not well grounded and don't go very far. Actually, I think the former is a problem, while the latter probably just goes with the territory.

Students who win in the formal process at our school tend to do so as a result of some outrageous treatment. For example: professors gave them no feedback, or no instructions, or consistently fail to return assignments (with feedback) in a timely manner so that the student can improve or seek help, or something like that.

Although formal complaints are not that common and they can (of course) involve even the best and most conscientious teachers, I have noticed that the bulk of complaints tend to emanate from the same few professors over a period of years, and many could have been avoided by having a clearer syllabus that specifies expectations, grading policies, exam/paper due dates, etc.
Our policy is fairly simple. Students are obliged to try and work it out with the professor first; if they show up in my office without having done that I send them back. If that fails, the student can complain to the dean and the dean works with both sides to find a solution. If that fails, there's a committee that the student can appeal to, but that hasn't happened in my area for at least the last 6 years (we run about 25,000 grades a semester). The standard for changing a grade without the instructor's agreement is very high (basically fraud or incompetence) and it happens very, very rarely.
Students usually initiate the process by submitting a written request to the VP of Academic Affairs (we are small, approximately 4,000, so VP handles all grade appeals). The exception is an obvious error. If the instructor realizes there is an error or this type of error is pointed by a student, then the instructor fills out a grade change form and sends it to the Registrar's office for correction.

Both judgments and errors are allowed. Both must be properly documented by both student and instructor(s). Otherwise, there is no case.

I am not aware of any cases where the grade was changed against the instructor's recommendations. Our VP takes every appeal seriously and listens to all parties: student, instructor, and instructor's department head. I am sure if there was an obvious violation, the instructor would have to accept the consequences.

All formal appeals I have been involved in were initiated by students who failed the course because they did not complete assignments or submitted poor quality assignments. Some students are not aware of the Incomplete Grade policy and stop attending if there is a personal emergency. In these cases, we obtain necessary documentation and usually assign a W (withdraw). If the student cannot provide an excuse, then his/her appeal is denied.

Yes, our system works. However, the person in charge (VP, in our case) is very important to the process. I can see how the system can be abused in favor of student or instructor if all parties are not involved and there is no thorough investigation.
Our policy is on pages 8-9 of the handbook here: It's too long to post here, but basically there's a very lengthy process in which the burden of proof is on the student and only at the end (after a review by a panel of three tenured faculty members from the discipline or department) can a grade change be forced against a faculty member's wishes.
We have an 'informal' process where the student tries to work out the problem with the instructor, then can go to the Dean, and finally can attend a meeting with the VP of Instruction, Dean and instructor.

Once the informal process is completed, the student then has the option of filing a formal grade appeal, which is heard by a committee of faculty and students. If the student is unhappy with the determination of that committee, s/he can appeal to the President (who I believe has never contradicted the committee finding).

There is no limitation as to the basis for an appeal, but students need to show how their grade was determined unfairly, relative to the syllabus.

This seems to be a good process, and formal grade appeals are quite rare, after the final informal meeting takes place.

On a couple of occasions, the formal grade appeal committee has decided to change a grade against the wishes of the instructor. In virtually every case though, this was because the grading policies on the instructor's syllabus were vague, contradictory, or unclear.
Can appeals address judgments, or only errors of calculation? Can grades be changed if the professor objects? Who gets to make the call? Does the system seem to work?

Appeals at the U of Arizona can only apply to miscalculation or to "facts," which I assume applies mostly to science classes. Presumably, if your prof gets the (demonstrably) wrong answer on a test and you can show it's wrong, you're okay.

Grades can be changed if the prof objects, but only in the event of miscalculation. I'm teaching freshmen comp; if a student has a paper that says "B" but I credited him with a "D," he can bring all his papers to the Dean's office and say, "I was wronged!"

Before he does that, however, he has to meet with me, and if I find that I've made a miscalculation, I can change it before.

The system seems to work, although I've never had a grade appeal actually filed against me. In a writing class, I'm not sure how perceived errors of judgment would go over; I assume that, if the student were unhappy enough during the semester, he/she would be able to go to the writing program supervisors and get their opinions. But I think it would take a pretty determined student to do that, and a student with that much determination would, I hope, focus more on writing good papers in the first place, thus obviating the need to go up the chain of command.
Northern Illinois procedures allow professors to change grades in the event of a miscalculation, but limit appeals to circumstances of capricious grading, under which "departure from the instructor's criteria distributed in writing" work well for deflecting requests for ex-post extra credit as a way of obtaining a grade bump.

The grade appeal policy thus doesn't apply to the most likely situation where a student disputes a grade, namely where a student has fallen a few points short of the cutoff for a grade required to avoid academic dismissal, or earn the last three credits to graduate.
@Anon, 6:31: I'm impressed by how well you've stayed on the high road on that one. A determined harasser is a burden.
Howdy guys,

Here's my story: Did four online course with a community college here in Connecticut while staying in a Veterans home. Now I passed the first two, Art and Marketing, with "B's" (even maxed my Art final with a 100.5), but failed at my Management and Introduction to Computer applications.
The Computer class is 100% my fault, I gave up on SAM2010 system that the college uses. However, in the Management class the problem was that the website did not display all of my assignments, despite using the proper browser and pop up settings. Therefore my grade was "below average". Also in defense of my professor, I failed to comment on the work of the other students' submissions as required due to one of the problems that has me here in the Vet's home. Yet, after looking at my final grade of 195 out of 260 (calculated) it looked like my final score was a "C" or 75%.
I have started the appeal process with both my Professor, the Staff, and the distant learning department as of the 12/29/12, and my question is...what are my chances to get positive approval of my grade in this class due to technical problems on the side of the college?
Thanks ahead of time and Happy New Year!
I really need some advice. Im currently appealing a grade that I got for a masters program. If they do not change my grade, I will not be able to graduate. The school closed down after I got the bad grade. So if its not changed, I wasted 4 years of a degree and 80,000 of debt. I will not be able to get a degree

Here are the facts
1. GPA went down because they gave finals a month apart ( teacher had baby and couldnt give the final. It wasnt fresh in my mind and I failed the final.)

2. This dropped my grade so I couldnt graduate. The school program closed down and I couldnt make up the classe.

3. I was given an independent study at the same time of an internship. I couldnt finish the independent study because it was too much with the internship. The school decided to give me an Incomplete and take it again cause of the situation.

3. I started to turn in assignments and the teacher said I was copying to much and wouldnt accept them. I sent him an email that the work was cited. It showed me that he wasnt reading them. He told me I couldnt cite anymore work.

4. Not one time did he every send me any corrected work until I drove four hours to meet him in his office. (Online class) I was given not clear guidelines. I was redoing
hw all the time without feed back on what to do.

5.I asked him could I turn all the work by the end of the semester and he said, "unless I receive all of the chapter reviews (my homework) well before the end of the semester, I will simply assign an F". He never gave me an exact date on when I should turn all the reviews in. I took that as two weeks before the end of semester

6. Three weeks before the end of semester, I turned assignment in, he accused me of cheating and said he would not accept anymore submissions. He did not follow the policy on Plaigiarism. I lost two weeks of school. A teacher cannot just not accepting work unless he follows the plagiarism policy.

7. he realized that I didnt cheat and said I could turn in the work and grades are due in one week.

8. After turning in ten chapters, he said that he was closing the class down and assigning an F.

9. I will not be able to graduate if I do not get this grade change.

I sent it to grade appeals, the committee voted no. I re appealed because of a violation of procedures. And Im getting a new grade committee this week. Is there any comments or suggestion on how I should handle this.
Question: I am a student now currently attending college. my issue is that and I am appealing it now, is that a lot of things that were on the test were not discussed in class. I apply myself as a student and I have been in college for over a year and never failed one of my classes. many of my fellow classmates are saying the same thing. what do I do in the situation? is it worth fighting for? but however I do feel it's unfair!
Im going up to an appeal based on being accused of co authuring my investigation tells me most appeals do not benifit a student as the burden is on us.without legal rep. I risk being kicked out by binding answer from a college committee...I say if u feel strong...fight but beware of the consequences if u lose.can u handle it and can u prove facts and is the binding decision worth knowing or possibly your career
I believe my fight is worth it becuz I did the work.
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