Making the Grade

You've probably already established a grading system for your tests and assignments. And you've probably already discovered how important those grades are to students, parents, and administrators. As you approach the end of the semester, grading becomes one way of determining how successful the rest of the year will be for some students. Examine how effective your grading system is.

Check with your mentor or association rep to see if there is any standardized school policy on grading and how well your grading system fits into that policy.

If you're looking to make some changes in how you assign grades, the following tips can be helpful.

  • Grade books
    Even if you have a computerized grading system, your district may still require back-up records kept in a grade book. If it's possible, have two grade books - one for attendance and one for recording grades.

  • Calculator/computer program
    It may sound pretty basic, but a calculator can take the guesswork out of calculating grades. Better yet, if your school district uses a computer program for grading, the whole job of grading becomes much more objective, dependable, and easier.

  • Percentage system
    Consider converting all grades and numbers to a system of 100. It will make for easier figuring.

  • Numbers
    Consider converting letter grades to numbers. Parents have an easier time understanding a percentage or number total rather than a letter grade.

  • Grading formula
    Determine ahead of time the weight you will give to tests, homework, quizzes, projects, etc. Explain the system to your students and to parents so everyone knows what to expect.

  • Report card comments
    Any time you give an opinion on a student's performance or behavior, expect a reaction from the parents. Try to be as objective as possible by using hard numbers. Subjective comments like, "He rarely does his homework" is too vague. Saying, "He has missed 80 percent of the homework assignments this grading period," can be the beginning of a discussion of the real issue - why he doesn't do his homework.

  • Being positive
    Even though it may be difficult at times, try to include at least one positive comment about each student. Parents are listening to what you say. Starting out with, "She always tries to do well; however. . . " can go a long way in softening the blow of a poor grade.

  • Grade changing
    It happens. You make a mistake in your calculations and you give a student an incorrect grade. Again, if you have hard data and numbers, you have evidence for making the change. However, if you are ordered to change a grade by an administrator and you haven't made an error, contact your association rep immediately.