Agh! Grading – Trying to Manage the Scary Beast

assignmentI heard the discussion yet again today. It almost always gets heated. You’ve had them. I know you have.

Topic: Grading.

What is a grade actually for anyway?

While I don’t claim to have all the answers, I have a few that have worked for me.



Here are some thoughts that may help you on your own journey of deciding how your gradebook might look. (I’ll try not to rant, but I might.)

A grade should be representative of a student’s learning over a period of time (usually a six or nine weeks). If that is the case, taking off a bunch of late points because a student is disorganized shows not the student’s academic ability but rather their organizational ability. This thought, however, is somewhat idealistic and not always realistic. I still must find a way to hold students accountable for being responsible, lest they take advantage of me and never turn anything in on time. In my gradebook, I actually had a category called Professional Ethics and Responsibility. This category is where I would put in grades to reflect if a student was turning his work in on time. I also included a grade, or two, reflective of the student’s ability to be responsible–not only with the iPads but also with classroom procedures and norms. The grade counted as 10% of the overall grade. This would not by itself fail a student, but at worst it could drop his grade an entire letter grade. One thing that changed my thinking was the idea of practice (otherwise known as formative assessments). I still don’t understand why other educators haven’t had this Aha.

I know when I am learning a new skill, I want to be able to practice–free from judgement–so that I might build some confidence before I am formally evaluated. The same is true for kids. We should give them opportunities to practice and build confidence. If we create an environment for our students to practice without judgement but with feedback, we might think twice about what we put in the gradebook.

Transparency is important in grading, too. I wanted students and parents to understand the skills that were being taught not just a final score. In order to provide more clarity, in the gradebook I would include in the title of the assignment the skill that was being addressed (characterization, inferencing, critical reading, etc.). Then, in the description of the assignment I would include a bit more information about the specific assignment so that the student might remember exactly what the assignment was. This cuts down on arguments about what was and what was not turned in as well.

Did you know that most online gradebooks have an incredible ATTACHMENT feature? With relative ease, I was able to post rubrics and even the actual assignments directly linked to the assignment in the gradebook. Some parents (and students) love this!

I don’t know about everywhere else, but in my district discussions about grading have been a source of heated conversation for a while. Now, as an instructional coach I hear similar questions all the time:

How can we continue to hold students accountable for their learning all the while creating a grading system that is truly representative of a students mastery of a subject?

Certainly I don’t have it all figured, so I invite you to join in the conversation and post a comment about your thoughts on grading. Love it? Hate it? How do you manage it?

Photo credit: woodleywonderworks / / CC BY



2 thoughts on “Agh! Grading – Trying to Manage the Scary Beast

  1. […] “grades” given were at the very end of the semester.  This meant that what little formative feedback was built into the course wasn’t seen as valuable–by the students nor the other […]


  2. […] I found it in Amy, right here on this blog.  She writes powerfully about formative assessments in this post.  Her thinking mirrors […]

    Liked by 1 person

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