Grading loophole leads to boycott of final exam, 'A's for all students

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Inside Higher Ed (via Jonathan Turley) has a great story out of Johns Hopkins University, where a combination of (a) an unusual grading policy with a loophole, (b) a remarkably united class of students, and (c) a cool professor, resulted in all of the students in the class getting an "A" on the course's final exam.

In his "Intermediate Programming", "Computer Science Fundamentals," and "Introduction to Programming for Scientists and Engineers" classes, Professor Peter Fröhlich uses a grading curve in which each class's highest grade on the final counts as an A and all other student scores are then adjusted accordingly. For example, according to Inside Higher Ed, if a midterm is worth 40 points, and the highest actual score is 36 points, the person with the 36 gets 100 percent and everybody else gets a percentage relative to it.

Sniffing out a loophole in Fröhlich's system, the students collectively organized a boycott of the final exam when they realized that if the highest grade in the class was zero, then every student would receive an A. One of the students explained that tools such as social media were critical to obtaining and tracking all of the students' buy-in to the plan. To be sure, the students hung around outside the classrooms to make sure that everyone honored the boycott (and everyone did).

To his credit, Fröhlich honored the loophole in his grading policy, and awarded everyone "A"s. He applauded the students' ability to collaborate as they did to "achieve something that individually they could never have done." He has, however, changed his grading policy going forward to state that if everybody in the class has zero points, then "everybody gets 0 percent." 

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