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The importance of a syllabus:

Your syllabus is a contract with your students.

It provides the framework for a great learning experience.

It protects them and it protects you.

For example, suppose you mess up and give a major exam that is WAY too easy, and then decide to add another--harder--exam to the coursework to try to bring the average back down.  Is that fair to the students?  No.  It is your job to get it right the FIRST time. That is what you are being paid to do.

Suppose your give a take home test and two students collaborate on it and then when you notice that their answers are identical and initiate the process of giving them an "F" they take it up with the dean and point out that your syllabus said nothing about not being allowed to work together on take-home projects.  So the dean sides with them.  Is that fair to you?  No.

The solution is to use a syllabus that spells out your grading criteria and expectations for the course.

You are looking for a win/win here.  It's good for you and it's good for your students.

I like to give the students a day by day class schedule on the back of their syllabus.  They can use the schedule to keep track of their progress in class.  There is no question, "how they are doing."  I walk them through the entries.  I point out the items that are graded and how many points they will get for each graded item.

When I'm using someone else's curriculum that I'm not used to yet I generally don't put down on the schedule which chapter we will be covering each day. Not that it isn't a good idea--because normally it is good to have a detailed schedule.  I would only be very specific about the schedule if I've taught from a curriculum or out of a particular text book for a couple of semesters and have a feeling for how it flows.  What works best for me as I'm getting used to a new curriculum is to simply write on the board or type on the overhead (projector) which chapters we will be doing over the next few days.  I tell the students at the beginning of the semester how far I plan on getting through the book--that way if they want to "read ahead" they can. 

For many years now I've been using my own curriculum to teach from and it flows like clockwork--so my recent syllabi have indeed listed the exact lesson we are covering each day.

In a message dated 7/17/2009 10:39:15 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time, a teacher asks:

"What are the typical college requirements for grading and/or evaluation?
I want to try something different by placing more trust in my students.
I want to know what the minimum requirements are so I can modify my syllabus."
(Name removed for privacy.)


Dear Teacher,
The real issues regarding grading are how do we use grades to:

1. Motivate our students
2. Fill our obligations to preserve and uphold high academic standards
3. Cover our rear ends.

Trusting students is well and good, per se, but the fact is some of the are not trustworthy and if you give them enough rope they will hang themselves and later accuse you of murder.
So my advice is to be VERY CLEAR about your objectives and how a student can earn the grade they want.
Some teachers are lazy and create a syllabus that is designed to let the instructor procrastinate the crafting of assignments and due dates. Such instructors do not pre-plan assignment due dates or they list assignments but do not describe in specific detail how the assignment is graded.
There should be no ambiguity in their minds regarding exactly what level and amount of effort will produce an specific grade -- from an A to an F. It may seem strange to us but many students want only to achieve an "C" grade. At first this seems preposterous, but the fact is students are busy adults and if they are only taking a class to fulfill a requirement they do not want to spend any more time on that class than they need to fill the requirement. I understand and respect those students. If I were a student and were required to take an underwater basket weaving class and all I needed was a "C" then As a student I'd want to know PRECISELY and CLEARLY how much effort I need to put out in order to get a "C."
If a professor gives me some vague, muddled piece of crap for a syllabus that makes me "guess" and "hope" and "assume" what my grade will be I am going to destroy that instructor in my evaluations of him or her. Then if he or she gives me a "D" when I thought I was going to get a "C" and I have a choice between "appealing the grade" or retaking the class it is a no brainer that I will appeal the grade and drag that instructor through an appeals committee where they will go through heck trying to explain their ambiguous grading system. If I can show the committee that my instructor's grading system is subjective to the whims of the instructor (instead of based on clearly defined objectives) the committee will likely side with me (the student) and tell the instructor to modify my grade accordingly.
Your syllabus is your contract with your students and you will want to make it flexible and motivating but also very clear and specific.

See below for the official grading policy of a typical 4-year university.


Grading Policy

Policy Administrator: Vice President, Academic Affairs
Authority: Executive Order 792, FS 00-07; FS 05-17B
Effective Date: September 1, 2002; Revised July 2005
Index Cross-References:
Policy File Number: UMG05150.htm



A Exemplary achievement of the course objectives. In addition to being clearly and significantly above the requirements, work exhibited is of an independent, creative, contributory nature.

B Superior achievement of the course objectives. The performance is clearly and significantly above the satisfactory fulfillment of course requirements.

C Satisfactory achievement of the course objectives. The student is now prepared for advanced work or study.
Note: The letter grade "C" does not imply satisfactory achievement at the graduate level.

D Unsatisfactory achievement of course objectives, yet achievement of a sufficient proportion of the objectives so that it is not necessary to repeat the course unless required to do so by the academic department.

F Unsatisfactory achievement of course objectives to an extent that the student must repeat the course to receive credit.

WU The symbol "WU" indicates that a n enrolled student did not withdraw from the course and also failed to complete course requirements. It is used when, in the opinion of the instructor, completed assignments or course activities, or both, were insufficient to make normal evaluation of academic performance possible. For purposes of grade point average, this symbol is equivalent to an "F."

CR Satisfactory achievement of course objectives. (Not used in CSUS grade point calculation.)

NC Unsatisfactory achievement of course objectives. (Not used in CSUS grade
point calculation, but is calculated as "F" by many graduate and professional

I The symbol "I" (Incomplete Authorized) indicates that a portion of required course work has not been completed and evaluated during the course due to unforeseen but fully justified reasons and that there is still a possibility of earning credit.* It is the responsibility of the student to bring pertinent information to the attention of the instructor and to determine from the instructor the remaining course requirements that must be satisfied to remove the Incomplete. Agreement as to the conditions for removal of the Incomplete will be in writing, signed by the instructor, student, and the department chair (or designee) and placed on file with the appropriate academic department until the Incomplete is removed or the time limit passed. A final grade is assigned when the work agreed upon has been completed and evaluated. An "I" (Incomplete Authorized) should not be assigned when it is necessary for the student to attend additional class meetings to complete the course requirements. An Incomplete must be made up within 12 months of the end of the term in which it was assigned. This limitation prevails whether or not the student maintains continuous enrollment.
Failure to complete the assigned work will result in an Incomplete being converted to an "F" or "NC" on the academic transcript.

At the time of degree evaluation, the degree will not be awarded if a student has any outstanding "I" grades which, if calculated as "F", would cause the student's grade point average to fall below the minimum level for graduation in any grade point requirement (CSUS, overall, major, minor or General Education).

Incomplete grades are not considered for deletion by the Academic Standards Committee.

*Note: Students in the military reserve whose units go on active duty during or around the final examinations period are eligible to receive an "I" provided they meet the conditions above.

RP Report in progress. Work is in progress on thesis, project or similar course
extending beyond one term. (Not used in grade point calculation.) The "RP" symbol is used in connection with courses that extend beyond one semester. It indicates that work is in progress, but assignment of a final grade must await completion of additional work. The "RP" symbol shall be replaced with the appropriate final grade within one year of its assignment (within two years for master's culminating requirement). If no final grade is reported by the instructor within the time limit, the "RP" will be converted to "F" or "NC" on the academic transcript.

W The symbol "W" indicates that the student was permitted to withdraw from the course after the fourth week of instruction with the approval of the instructor and appropriate campus officials. It carries no connotation of quality of student performance and is not used in grade point calculation .

RD Report Delayed. A grade has not been reported to the registrar due to circumstances beyond control of student. (Not used in grade point calculation.)

AU Audit grade indicates student's status as auditor and does not earn degree
credit. Enrollment as an auditor is subject to permission of the instructor provided that enrollment in a course as an auditor shall be permitted only after students otherwise eligible to enroll on a credit basis have had an opportunity to do so. Auditors are subject to the same fee structure as credit students and regular class attendance is expected. Once enrolled as an auditor, a student may not change to credit status unless such a change is requested no later than the last day to add classes. A student who is enrolled for credit may not change to audit after the fourth week of instruction.

CSU, Sacramento will use a +/- grading system, beginning Fall 1985. (AS 82-45)

CSU, Sacramento will use A, B, C, D, and F grades for lower division courses. (AS 82-63)


A grade correction is possible only in the case of a declared clerical error. A correction in the letter grade must be approved by the instructor of record and the department chairperson by the last day of the semester, either spring or fall, following the semester the grade is posted to the student's record. The definition of clerical error is an error made by the instructor or assistant in grade determination or posting. Under no circumstances, except for completion of work when an "I" was issued, may a grade change be made as the result of work completed or presented following the close of a grade period. Grades cannot be changed to "W" nor can they be changed from a letter grade to Credit/No credit.

A grade correction after the semester following grade award will be allowed only if the course instructor and chair of the department where the course was offered submit the grade change and an explanation for the late grade correction to the Registrar. In the case where the course instructor and/or department chair is unavailable, the department faculty or a committee of department faculty must approve the grade correction. In such a case, a statement of the nature of the exception, the department's method of approval, and the date of approval must be forwarded with the grade correction.


While there is a presumption that grades assigned by faculty are correct, students who believe that a correct final grade has not been assigned may use the Student Grade Appeal Procedure. This procedure may only be used to appeal earned letter or "CR"/"NC" grades and the assignment of a WU grade. Students must start this procedure no later than the beginning of the Fall or Spring semester following the semester in which the grade was earned. The procedure requires that students seek to resolve the matter informally with the instructor of record before initiating a formal grade appeal. Copies of the Student Grade Appeal Process are available at the office of each academic department and the offices of the Vice President for Student Affairs and Vice President for Academic Affairs. See University Manual, Grade Appeal Procedures.


CSUS requires that students process an official drop by telephone, on-line or by petition within published deadlines. Failure to withdraw properly from a course may result in assignment of a "WU" grade in the course. The symbol "WU" indicates that the student did not withdraw from the course and also failed to complete course requirements. It is used when, in the opinion of the instructor, completed assignments or course activities, or both, were insufficient to make normal evaluation of academic performance possible. For purposes of grade point average, this symbol is equivalent to an "F."

Since some students may not be familiar with the CSUS drop policy until after they receive their first "WU," the student may petition to have the effect of the failure removed from the grade point average of the first semester in which he/she receives one or more "WU" grades. The student must obtain a Petition to Discount First "WU" Grade from the Admissions and Records Office or the Academic Advising Center and meet with an academic advisor. The petition process must be completed within six months following the end of the semester in which the "WU" was assigned. This policy applies for the one term only in which the student receives the first "WU" grade and does not apply to grades posted at institutions other than CSUS.

A petition to delete a grade other than an Incomplete or a first "WU" and an Incomplete grade may be submitted for consideration by the Academic Standards Committee for the following reasons only:

To remove penalty grades assigned due to failure to complete a course for causes related to illness. Medical verification is required.
To correct errors by academic departments. Department verification is required.
To correct errors made in registration (e.g., use of wrong class code). The Registrar's Office must confirm this error.
Petitions must be submitted within three semesters from the end of the semester in which the grade was received. After a student's degree has been awarded, petitions to delete grades posted prior to the award of a degree will not be considered.


A grade of "C-" will be considered as a "C" for prerequisite courses, unless a department specifically decides otherwise.

If a department requires a "C" or better in a prerequisite course and will not accept a "C-" grade, then the department must specify so in the catalog course description.

This policy applies only to prerequisites stated in terms of letter grades. It does not modify regulations such as those concerning academic warning, probation, or disqualification that are stated in terms of numerical grade point average. (AS 84-66, PM 85-07)


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