'Round-Up' Controversy Unfolds Over A Student's "A" Appeal

Key Takeaways

  • It’s important to establish and maintain fair and consistent grading practices.
  • While some educators believe in rounding up grades, others stand firm on their grading thresholds.
  • Adjusting syllabus cutoffs or assignments may mitigate such grading issues in the future.
  • The subjectivity and precision in grading can play a significant role in whether or not to round up.

James Thompson, an academic lecturer, is caught in the web of a student’s grade dilemma. The student earned an 89.7 in his class and requested it to be rounded up to 90, an ‘A’ grade as per the class syllabus. While James has already distributed grades to all his students and surprisingly assigned more A’s than anticipated, he finds himself in a quandary. His syllabus clearly states that an A grade begins at 90 without specifying the need for a perfect 90.0. He posts his thoughts on social media and receives a lot of responses from the teacher community. 

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Christopher Smith believes in fairness, proposing that if a single student’s grade is to be rounded up, the same practice should apply to everyone in a similar situation. 

“When I come up against a situation where a round or a minor tweak can help one student pass, as long as I then apply the rounding or minor tweak to every student in the relevant situation, then I’m being fair to everyone,” he explains. This sentiment is echoed by Megan Lewis, who confirms that providing such allowances to all students facing this predicament can ensure fairness in grading.

However, Prof. William Parker presents a contrary perspective. Having navigated the education field for over 20 years, he never encountered the need to round up grades, even amidst intense pressure. 

“That is a big obligation at my uni which has A+ down to D, each with its own GPA value. I never opened this Pandora’s box in 20+ years and hopefully never will. Haven’t had a complaint in more than a 15 years, when we used Excel to calculate grades. Only once did someone raise a stink about rounding, just before the pandemic, and it was to pass the required course I teach. Even then I didn’t cave,” he credits his simple life to his strict adherence to the grading norms, free from the complications of ’rounding up.’ 

On the other hand, Sarah Collins finds the prospect of rounding up grades quite logical. She recognizes that while the difference of 0.3 is insignificant to an educator, it can be consequential for a student. 

That 3/10 of a point is effectively meaningless to you but meaningful (even if in a small way) to the student, to me it’s a no-brainer. I think it’s awesome that you incorporated the feedback with an open mind!” she applauds James’ willingness to consider this possibility, demonstrating an open-minded approach toward grading.

Dr. Michael Johnson opts for a more secretive strategy, rounding up all scores ending with 0.5 and above without revealing this policy to students. Similarly, Linda Martinez avoids declaring whether she rounds up grades or not, believing it to be a matter best left undisclosed to curb continuous queries from students.

“I recently told students that I wouldn’t specify if I round or not because there will always be someone close to the line, either the official grade line or the rounding cutoff. I said if I’m going to do it I’ll just do it and there was no need to ask,” Dr.Martinez explains.  

Elizabeth Davis raises an important point on the correlation between the number of points the 0.3 percent constitutes in the class. She believes that the grade should not be rounded up if these points represent a whole assignment’s worth. However, if these are only a few points lost sporadically, she is open to rounding up, acknowledging the subjective nature of grading.

The debate extends further with Prof. David Bennett’s view, which differentiates between the importance of an A and B grade and the insignificance of a mere 0.3% difference between a student scoring 89.7 and 90.

Finally, Prof. Mary Williams suggests a more flexible approach to such issues. She advises making future syllabus cutoffs or assignments more challenging and allowing discretionary grading. She emphasizes that fixed-difficulty assignments are hard to maintain, and this approach can ensure better adjustment for class performance variance.


The grade debate, as highlighted by the case of James and his students, brings forth the complexities of the grading system in the academic world. The decision to round up grades or not is subjective, depending on the professor’s philosophy, fair treatment of all students, and the precision of their grading practices. While some educators favor rounding up grades considering the potential subjectivity and measurement errors in grading, others emphasize sticking to the grading thresholds to maintain fairness and order. Adapting the syllabus cutoffs or the difficulty of assignments for future classes could be a possible solution, providing educators with a degree of flexibility.

However, it is crucial to remember the potential significance of these decimal differences to the students. While seemingly minuscule to some, these fractions might mean the difference between an ‘A’ or a ‘B,’ impacting a student’s academic trajectory. Therefore, educators should make these critical decisions with discretion, empathy, and fairness.

Related stories:

What’s the Most Stupid Things You’ve Had to Write on an Assignment? – Revelation from Professors

Email from a Professor Says “You Should Be Better” – How to React?

A Candid Look at Professors’ Struggles with Unprofessional Emails from Students

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