I use numbers to grade students, on a 100-pt scale. So for essays, simply turning in a complete assignment on time means the student is guaranteed 50 points for an F. Good essays earn points beyond that. This seems pretty standard. (Dissenting opinion)

But for attendance, I go the other way. Everyone starts out with 100 for attendance, and I subtract 2 or 3 points for every missed class (e.g. 15 weeks, 2 classes a week, 30 classes—subtract 3 points per class and give them all ten free points). So students can actually get below a 50 on attendance—e.g, missing 20 of 30 classes earns a 40. Is this fair?

I think I’m actually okay with this model—after all, the students didn’t actually show up—but curious how others handle it. But I don’t know what to do about exams.

My exams use a mix of “subtract down to zero” and “F for effort/turning it in/just showing up” grading. Things like Matching Quotation to Author go down to zero. Short essay questions tend to get half-credit for writing even a sentence (which seems deeply unfair to those who skipped the question instead of spending two minutes on it). I don’t know how to resolve that one. Should stressing for three hours earn you the “points for showing up” F, as producing 5 pages of typed text does?

Any advice? Any anecdotes on how others handle this?

PS. Numerical grading meets an excess of tech geekery: I once wrote an AppleScript to answer questions such as “if this exam essay is worth 120 points, and I judge it to be of B-minus quality, how many points would that be?”