Sunday, December 15, 2013

Harvard’s Grading Rubric. From the NYTimes.


A longtime government professor at Harvard lashed out Tuesday at what he deemed a system of rampant grade inflation after learning that students are receiving mainly A’s.

— The Boston Globe, Dec. 4


From: The Dean of Harvard College
To: The Faculty

In light of the controversy regarding so-called grade inflation, please take a moment to review the grading guidelines rubric, reproduced below:

¶ The A+ grade is used only in very rare instances for the recognition of truly exceptional achievement.

For example: A term paper receiving the A+ is virtually indistinguishable from the work of a professional, both in its choice of paper stock and its font. The student’s command of the topic is expert, or at the very least intermediate, or beginner. Nearly every single word in the paper is spelled correctly; those that are not can be reasoned out phonetically within minutes. Content from Wikipedia is integrated with precision. The paper contains few, if any, death threats.

A few things can disqualify an otherwise worthy paper from this exceptional honor: 1) Plagiarism, unless committed with extraordinary reluctance. 2) The paper has been doused in blood or another liquid, unless dousing was requested by the instructor. 3) The paper was submitted late (with reasonable leeway — but certainly by no more than one or two years).

An overall course grade of A+ is reserved for those students who have not only demonstrated outstanding achievement in coursework but have also asked very nicely.

Finally, the A+ grade is awarded to all collages, dioramas and other art projects.



  1. I like the description of one kind of A- term paper: "An A– term paper might offer an original analysis of a complex topic, but exist only within the imagination of the instructor or the student, or, in some rare instances, both." I've spent weeks on the cusp of receiving one of those, and sometimes even, according to the student, received it (but somehow the file wouldn't upload, wouldn't open, turned out to be another copy of the proposal, etc., etc., etc.). My imagination must, however, be somewhat deficient, since I have generally found it hard to fully believe in such projects.

  2. From the original: "The B grade may be awarded as a joke, before being replaced with a higher grade, so long as the instructor has checked with the registrar that the student’s psychological profile permits practical jokes of a cruel nature. "

    Nathaniel Stein appears to have extensive teaching experience.