Dear PHYS 121 Students:

I have just posted "Midterm Letter Grades" to SIS for students in the
course. Here are some reflections on how the grades were calculated
and what these mean.

(1) Students ask, "Mr. Covault, how do you calculate the mid-term
    grades?" My short answer is:  "I make them up."

    A little longer answer:

    Mid-term grades are:

     --> Advisory ONLY. They give you a clue as to how you are doing.
     --> Temporary.  They will go away forever when we issue your
         final letter grade for the course.  They will never appear on
	 any permanent record or transcript.

     --> By definition wildly inaccurate.  In principle we are
         half-way through the course.  In practice, student have
         submitted only a fraction of the work that the semester grade
         will depend upon.

    Here's the thing.  There are two ways to "interpret" the "meaning"
    of a letter grade:

         (a) We can say "The midterm grade represents the grade based
             on the work that I have submitted thus far in the class."


         (b) We can say "The midterm grade represents a prediction of
             what grade I am likely to earn for the semester if I
             continue at the same level of performance."

    You might things these two ideas are the same, but they are not.
    Here is why:

    The midterm grade calculated and presented to SIS depends on only
    TWO exam scores, the First Hour Exam that students completed way
    back September and (just now) the Second Hour Exam.  These exams
    are only worth 15% of your grade.  So compared to the work
    students have submitted for homework and labs, it corresponds to a
    comparable portion of your semester grade.  However, by the end of
    the semester, exams will count for 60% of your semester grade.
    And in terms of predictive power, the first two hour exams are
    more predictive of how you will perform in future exams than are
    the homework and/or lab scores.

    In other words, the one thing students can do to really improve
    their letter grade in the course at this point is perform well on
    future exams.  But we have only preliminary information, on how
    students are doing with exams.

    What to do?  Well we basically "invent something" that corresponds
    to a midterm letter grade that is a compromise between (a) and (b)
    above.  It is somewhat (but not perfectly) indicative of students'
    performance in the class so far and it is somewhat (but not
    perfectly) a predictor of what letter grade students are heading

    We calculate it this way:

        15% depends on your First Hour Exam score
        30% depends on your Second Hour Exam score
	25% depends on your Homework scores for HW #01 thru #06.
	30% depends on your midterm lab percentage score

    Note that we include Pre-lecture, Online and Written Homework.
    Note that we do NOT throw away the lowest homework score (as we
    will for the final semester grade).
    We take the scores in each of the three categories, scale them to
    the percentages given and total to get a 100-point scale.  You can
    calculate your own "Weighted Preliminary Midterm Score" by the
    following procedure:

    Step 1: Take your First Hour Exam score (out of 100) and multiply
            this by 0.15.  You should have a number between 0 and 15. 

    Step 2: Take your Second Hour Exam score (out of 100) and multiply
            this by 0.30. You should have a number between 0 and 30.
            Add it to your result from Step 1.

    Step 3: Add the TOTAL of ALL homework points (Pre-lecture, Online,
            and Written) for Homeworks 01 through 06, multiply this by
            25 and then divide by 90. You should have a number between
            number between 0 and 25 Add this to the results of Step 3.

    Step 4: Take your lab percentage score (out of 100) and multiply
            this by 0.30. You should have a number between 0 and 30.
            Add this to the total above.

    You should have a number that scales from 0 to 100.  We calculate
    "approximate letter grade cut-offs" based on weighted average
    scores for the exams, homeworks, and labs for hypothetical
    students with exactly borderline scores in each category.  The
    letter grade numbers boundaries look like this:

       84.6 or better = "A"
       65.7 or better = "B"
       51.7 or better = "C"
       40.1 or better = "D"

   Important.  These "cutoffs" are not just simple percentages of
   points found on Canvas.  They come from WEIGHTING the Canvas scores
   as described above.

   Note: Last week Thursday October 26 we posted "preliminary"
   mid-term grades based on the First Hour Exam only. Now that the
   Second Hour Exam is graded, we have updated midterm letter grades
   as of Monday October 30, 2017. 

(2) Students ask: What if my midterm grade is based on a
    wrong/missing/incomplete score reported on Canvas?  What can I do
    to "fix" my incorrect midterm grade?

    So first of all, the midterm grades are not really "fixable"
    because they are not "real".  Except for the possibility that you
    (and/or your advisor) may get a less-than accurate impression of
    where you stand in the class, there is no consequence to having
    the "wrong" midterm grade.  Remember, mid-term letter grades are
    unofficial, temporary, and advisory only.

    However it is VERY IMPORTANT that any incorrect scores in Canvas
    be corrected so that every student can ultimately earn the correct
    semester letter grade for the course.

    So if you see an INCORRECT OR MISSING SCORE on Canvas please
    follow the procedure listed in the FAQ for Question 10.

    Question 10 (A-E) tells you the exact procedure to have your
    homework, lab and exams scores corrected.  It tells you what to do
    if a score is missing or wrong.  It tells you how to look for
    "orphaned" (non-name) homework that might belong to you.  Students
    are asked to follow the procedure carefully and exactly.  There is
    no time-limit.  We want every student to have their grade
    calculated based on the correct scores.

(3) What if the midterm letter grade posted to SIS is different from
    the grade I determine when I calculate my score?  What should I

    See FAQ Question 10E:

(4) The midterm grade is low.  Maybe I should drop the course?

    Likely you should NOT drop the course.  See FAQ Question 12: