Information For:

Give back to HGSE and support the next generation of passionate educators and innovative leaders.

Student Handbook

Student Handbook: Grading

The Grading System

Two grading systems are used at HGSE: letter grade, and satisfactory (“SAT”)/no credit (“NCR”). Letter grades are A, A-, B+, etc., down to D-; F is failing.

  • For Ed.D./Ph.D. students: If a grade below B+ is received, the grades in other courses must be such that the overall average is equal to or better than B+. In order to receive a satisfactory (“SAT”) grade, students are required to produce work of B- or better quality; otherwise they will be graded “NCR” and receive no credit.
  • For Ed.L.D. students: If a grade below B+ is received, the grades in other courses must be such that the overall average is equal to or better than B+ with work of A caliber in a portion of their courses. In order to receive a satisfactory (“SAT”) grade, students are required to produce work of B- or better quality; otherwise they will be graded “NCR” and receive no credit.
  • For Ed.M. and C.A.S. students: If a grade below B- is received, the grades in other courses must be such that the overall average is equal to or better than B-. In order to receive a satisfactory (“SAT”) grade, students are required to produce work of B- or better quality; otherwise they will be graded “NCR” and receive no credit.

If a student is required to repeat a course for academic reasons, the course will count only once toward the degree. Only the higher of the two grades will be used to compute grade-average requirements for the degree. Tuition charges for repeated courses may only be considered once for inclusion in a financial aid budget even if tuition is assessed twice.

To arrive at a grade average, the scale below is applied. Please note: affiliated faculties such as the Harvard Kennedy School and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health assign grades of A+ but HGSE does not.

A 4.00
A- 3.67
B+ 3.33
B 3.00
B- 2.67
C+ 2.33
C 2.00
C- 1.67
D+ 1.33
D 1.00
D- .67
F 0

The point score for all letter grades is divided by the number of letter grades and adjusted for the number of credits (e.g., an 8-credit course counts double, and a 2-credit module counts half). To graduate, the resulting grade average must be at least a B- (2.67 after rounding to two decimal places) for C.A.S. and Ed.M. students and at least a B+ (3.33 after rounding to two decimal places) for Ed.D., Ph.D., and Ed.L.D. students (including Ed.D. students receiving the master’s-in-passing degree). Except in very unusual cases, the associate dean for degree programs will permit a student to take no more than one additional course if such a course is needed to bring the average up to the standard for graduation.

Grade Options

Students are expected to indicate their grade option (letter grade, or satisfactory/no credit) for each course selected at course enrollment. Ed.M. students must take at least 16 credits for a letter grade. If an instructor requires that all students receive letter grades or satisfactory/no credit grades, the instructor’s grading system overrides the student’s preference, if different. Students may change grade options via my.harvard (see the Academic Calendar for fall semester and spring semester deadlines). In cases where the instructor requires that all students be graded with a letter grade or a satisfactory/no credit, it is not necessary for students to adjust their original choices.

Grade options primarily exist at HGSE. While some instructors in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences may state that options exist, the pass/fail option that they refer to is for undergraduates only. Graduate students must accept letter grades in regular courses offered by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, except for some 300-level courses in which HGSE students may receive a grade of “Satisfactory.” Grades issued through cross-registration are recorded as such and are not converted by HGSE.

Grade Appeals 

Evaluation of a student's performance in each course is the responsibility of the instructor of record for that course. Normally, the instructor's decision is final. After an instructor has submitted the final course grade for a student in my.harvard, a subsequent grade change may be submitted along with a reason for the change. If the grade submitted initially was incorrect due to a mathematical, administrative, or other clerical error, then the grade change will be posted immediately. If the grade change is submitted for any other reason, the HGSE registrar will refer the grade change submission by the faculty member to the academic dean for review.

If students have questions regarding a grade, they are encouraged to follow up directly with the instructor for more clarity. In some cases, a clerical error is realized. In others, the instructor needs to explain the rationale for that grade (assuming no mistakes were made). However, a student who feels that a grade is unfair has the right to appeal formally to the academic dean. This appeal must be filed within one week from when the grade was submitted to the Office of the Registrar and must include a memo outlining the grounds for appeal with specific examples supporting the claim that the grade was unjust. Ordinarily, the academic dean will resolve the appeal based on available evidence. However, the academic dean may refer the appeal to the Committee on Rights and Responsibility if they deem that the initial evidence points to breaches of the HGSE or university academic or community standards.

Incomplete Grades and Coursework Extensions

Incomplete (“INC”) grades are granted to students only at the discretion of the instructor. Students should not expect to receive an INC automatically if coursework is not completed on time. In cases where students have failed to submit all course assignments by the end of the semester, the instructor will determine whether the grade will be INC, NCR (No Credit), or an appropriate letter grade.

If an instructor is willing to grant a student an INC grade, the instructor will assign a grade of INC and list all the requirements to complete the course, as well as a specific due date, in my.harvard. The student will be notified once the grade of INC is assigned, and that action is needed. The student must then acknowledge the terms of the contract by going to the To-Do section of my.harvard and following the procedure there. In order to enroll in courses for future courses, the contract must be acknowledged. Exception: if the coursework is to be completed within ten days of the end of the examination period, no contract is needed. The student will be given a ten-day “extension” to finish coursework. Note: May graduates are expected to finish all coursework on or before the end of the spring exam period.

If a student and instructor submit an Incomplete Grade Contract, then the maximum amount of time a student may be given to complete coursework is one term. For example, if a student receives an INC in a fall course, then work for that course must be completed during the spring term and submitted by the first day of the summer term. Likewise, if a student receives an INC in a spring course, then work for that course must be completed during the summer term and submitted by the first day of the fall term. Even if the student’s registration status during the term is leave of absence, the student must complete coursework during this time frame. Note: although a student may be given a maximum of one semester to complete coursework, the student may be given an earlier deadline by the instructor. In all cases, the deadline on the contract is considered to be the official deadline by which the student must complete work for that particular course.

If the student does not complete coursework by the deadline designated in the Incomplete Grade Contract, the INC becomes a permanent grade (“INP,” or permanent incomplete), NCR (no credit), or letter grade, unless the student has petitioned successfully for an extension. In this instance, the student's original choice of grade option (letter grade or SAT/NCR) may be overridden by the instructor. Extensions to the incomplete contract are rarely granted and, if so, only with the agreement of the course instructor (who must be a current member of the HGSE faculty). Appeals for extensions must be submitted in writing to the associate dean for degree programs prior to the deadline for completion of work with the course instructor's signature and the date by which the student will be submitting the remaining coursework. 

If Ed.M. and C.A.S. students receive an INP in a course that is needed to fulfill academic requirements, they must petition the associate dean for degree programs to be allowed to take a substitute course. Ordinarily, such permission is granted for one course only. Upon graduation or termination of degree candidacy, any outstanding INC grades will be converted to INP grades. 

Grades of Incomplete will be replaced with final grades as soon as grades are submitted by the faculty member in my.harvard. It is important for students to verify their grade appears in my.harvard if they wish to graduate in the semester in which the coursework is completed. Students may not register for a new semester with more than one Incomplete.