Grading Policies

Course Grades

The following grades for Graduate School of Education courses will be entered on the student’s record at the close of the term.

A                4.0
A-               3.7
B+              3.3
B                3.0
B-               2.7
C+              2.3
C                2.0
C-               1.7
D+              1.3
D                1.0
F                 Failure
I                 Incomplete

All courses are graded according to the preceding chart, with two exceptions:

Instructors of practicum and fieldwork courses in Education may submit a “Pass/Fail” report as the final evaluation of the course performance of students enrolled in the Graduate School of Education. These courses include EDUC 515 and 555.

Instructors of internship courses EDUC 975 and 976 may submit a “Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory” report as the final evaluation of the course performance for students enrolled in the Graduate School of Education. Note: Ph.D. students may not count coursework with a “Pass/Fail” grade toward degree requirements.

Satisfactory Performance

All students in the Graduate School of Education are expected to maintain a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0 for all courses applied toward degree requirements. Students who fail to maintain this minimum standard of satisfactory performance will be placed on academic probation for the following semester. Failure raise the cumulative GPA to a 3.0 at the end of the semester on probation will result in termination from the degree program.

In addition to the grade point average requirement, continuation in all degree programs of the Graduate School of Education is dependent upon maintenance of satisfactory performance through all phases of the program as judged by the student’s advisor or dissertation committee.  Final determination of satisfactory performance rests with the Committee on Degrees.

Student Evaluation and Grade Inflation

Student evaluation is the prerogative and responsibility of the faculty and an important educative act.  Each student is entitled to the careful and timely review of his or her academic work.  Grades are the means by which such evaluations are efficiently communicated to external groups (e.g. doctoral admissions committees, fellowship committees, employers) and, most importantly, to the student.  The compression of grades in the upper range (grade inflation) has occurred at many colleges and universities and the phenomenon is particularly prevalent at highly selective institutions.  There are, of course, circumstances in which grades may be somewhat skewed toward the upward range such as independent studies or small advanced doctoral seminars.  Further, some faculty members use the “mastery” approach to teaching, providing students with feedback and the opportunity to rework certain assignments for a higher grade.    Nevertheless, without variation in grades, it is impossible to differentiate between “distinguished” work (the criterion for an A in graduate grading system at Penn) and “good” work (the criterion for a B.)  Grade inflation is problematic because it unfairly penalizes students whose exemplary work deserves to stand apart through the recognition of an A.  Inflated grades also can mislead students and give them an unreasonably optimistic assessment of their performance.  At Penn, the expectation is that grade distributions in courses fall predominantly in the A to B range and that the notional mean of most courses (excluding small seminars and so forth and subject to the professional judgment of individual faculty members) is a B+. 

Satisfactory Progress

Lack of significant progress in completing degree requirements for two consecutive years (exclusive of time when on official leave of absence) will automatically terminate candidacy or eligibility to apply for candidacy if not already attained. Satisfactory progress is evaluated by the student’s advisor or dissertation committee. Students should take the initiative in providing advisors with evidence of continuous progress; in the absence of such evidence, advisors may apprise themselves of their advisee’s status each term and refer a student to the Committee on Degrees if satisfactory progress is not maintained. Final determination of satisfactory progress rests with the Committee on Degrees.


Students are expected to complete all coursework during the semester in which a course is taken. However, faculty members may give a grade of Incomplete to a student who is unable to finish course assignments by the end of the term. No GSE instructor is required to give grades of Incomplete. It is up to each faculty member to decide if and when Incompletes will be given. When an Incomplete is assigned, both the faculty member and the student must comply with school regulations governing the timely completion of coursework.

All incomplete coursework must be turned in by the deadline for registration to take either the master’s comprehensive or doctoral preliminary examination. If a student subsequently receives a grade of Incomplete in a course taken in the semester preceding the semester in which the master’s comprehensive or preliminary examination is taken, all outstanding work for the course must be submitted to the instructor within the first week of the semester in which the exam is to be taken. Any grade of Incomplete appearing on the transcript at the time either the master’s comprehensive or preliminary examination is taken will become a Permanent Incomplete and may not be removed from the record. Exceptions to this policy may be made by petition to the Assistant Dean.

One-Year Time Limit

Students have one year from the end of the term in which a grade of Incomplete is assigned to finish all coursework unless:

  • the faculty member has informed the student in writing of a shorter time frame within which the outstanding work must be submitted; or
  • the student has been granted an extension of the one-year time limit by the Assistant Dean, upon recommendation of the faculty member.

Procedures for Completing Coursework during the One-Year Extension Period

Students must give the faculty member at least three weeks to read late assignments and submit a grade. More time may be required by individual faculty members, particularly at the end of the semester. It is the student's responsibility to find out how much time the faculty member requires to review course work and submit a grade.
The student may not expect a faculty member to review his/her work during the summer unless a prior agreement has been reached between the student and the faculty member.

Once the student submits all outstanding coursework to the faculty member for review, the faculty member evaluates the student's academic performance and sends a signed, dated change of grade form to the Student Records Office for processing.

The Registrar’s Office must receive the change of grade form by the end of the academic term that is one year from the term in which the course is taken. Furthermore, the Student Records Office needs one week to record and send the change of grade information to the Registrar’s Office.

If the student follows the timeline for submitting work, but the faculty member is unable to meet the Registrar’s deadline for having a grade recorded, the student will not be penalized with a Permanent Incomplete, and an extension will be granted.

If a student fails to follow the timeline for having coursework reviewed by the deadlines, the faculty member and the School have no obligation to submit a grade by the Registrar’s deadline, or to grant a further extension. Refer to the policy on Incompletes listed above.

Permanent Incompletes

Any Incompletes (I) that are on a student’s transcript for one year or more become frozen by the Registrar’s Office as Permanent Incompletes (I*). The Registrar automatically changes I to I* after the end of the semester that is one year from the term in which the course is taken. For example, a grade of I given in fall semester becomes I* after the end of next fall term. There will be no refund of tuition for courses that are recorded as I*. Any required course that shows a grade of I* must be retaken at the regular tuition rate.


Exceptions to the School’s time limit on Incompletes are granted to students only with written recommendation of the faculty member and approval by the Assistant Dean for Academic and Student Affairs. Extensions are normally approved only when the student is experiencing a personal or family medical emergency or an ongoing debilitating condition, when the student is called for military duty, or when the faculty member does not submit the change of grade in a timely way. While other circumstances will be considered on a case-by-case basis, students should be aware that exceptions are not normally granted when the student reports that family or job responsibilities prevent him/her from meeting academic obligations. When extensions are granted, a new time limit is established by the Assistant Dean for Academic and Student Affairs in consultation with the faculty member.

GSE Student Academic Grievance Policy

A GSE student who wishes to register a grievance regarding the evaluation of his/her academic work or a matter related to the program or a course should discuss the matter with the faculty member and then, if not satisfied, the Program Director and then, if not satisfied, with the Division Chair. If the grievance is not addressed, the student should then discuss this issue with the GSE Assistant Dean for Academic and Student Affairs.