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This lesson lays out guidelines to follow when writing grading policies. It focuses on adherence to standards, grade weighting, offering answers in advance, and defining activities to be graded.

Grading in the Classroom

Most of us haven’t been given a letter grade since our classroom years. As adults, our bosses don’t hand back our reports with one of the letters ‘A’ through ‘F’ scribbled at the top.

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Instead, meetings are held, and conferences are had. Areas that need improvement are highlighted, and areas that hit the mark are saluted. In this way, we know what is expected of us and we are prepared to get our jobs done.Sadly, this is not how it always goes in education. Despite recent leaps taken to improve the educational system within our country, some teachers are still merely scribbling down an arbitrary ‘A,’ ‘B,’ ‘C,’ ‘D,’ or ‘F’ with little adherence to any sort of solid grading policy. With this, students are left in the dark and educational progress is halted.To combat this, today’s lesson will take a look at some guidelines that every educator should take into account when developing a grading policy.

Of course, there are many, many, many things to consider when it comes to grades, but for the sake of time, we’ll hit on a few that are usually deemed the most necessary.

Adherence to Standards

First and rather obvious, grading policies must adhere to district standards. To put a colloquial twist on this one, make sure your grading statements and practices match what the big wigs have decided on.

If your district mandates that an ‘A’ begins at 93%, then your written grading statement should include this information. If the top of the food chain directs that alternative assessments are to be used in place of traditional assessments, then your grading policy must also follow suit. To refuse would only serve to confuse, even frustrate, your students.

Graded & Weighted

Second, grading policies must differentiate between what is graded and what is not. In other words, they must answer the age-old student question, ‘Is this gonna count?’ For instance, if formative assessments factor into your grading, students need to know. Speaking simply, these are tools used to monitor student progress during instruction, things like classroom discussions or journal entries. If these count, then your grading policies must be written to reflect this.

There is no room for surprise when it comes to the grade book.Along the same lines, grading policies must include a weighting system. They can’t just say what counts, they need to say how much it counts.

Familiar to most, this is known as weighing, or assigning higher value to certain graded activities. For example, some educators believe traditional assessments are the most important tools in their evaluation toolbox. Therefore, tests and quizzes make up 75% of their final grades, while things like class participation, homework, and writing prompts are left to share the remaining 25%.

Others feel the opposite.To say the least, there are many differing opinions on how activities should be weighted. However, despite whether you are traditional assessment gal or an alternative assessment guy, one thing remains – your grading policy must include your weighting system.

Logistics

Last for our discussion today, your grading policies must include logistics. In other words, they have to include the nitty-gritty rules associated with student evaluation.

Grading policies need to explain in writing and prior to instruction what you will and won’t accept. An effective grading policy will answer questions like, ‘Will you accept late work?’ and ‘Will you allow for retests?’ What about missed work? How long do students have to make it up? What happens if a student’s grade is borderline? Do they get the ‘A,’ or do they keep the ‘B+?’ Even more important, what parameters will you use to make this call?Like I said, a well-thought-out grading policy will answer all of these questions in advance. Not only will this keep student frustrations in check, it will also allow you, as an educator, to be objective. If your policy states that you do not accept late work, then you don’t accept Sarah’s even though she’s one of your favorites. If your policy allows for retests, then you let Joe retest even though you know he simply blew off the first try. Like we said earlier, there should be no surprises when it comes to the grade book.

A well-written grading policy keeps things cut and dry.

Lesson Summary

Every educator must develop a written policy that explains their grading procedures. These policies should adhere to the following guidelines:Grading policies must adhere to district standards. Your policies must fall in line with those of your educational institution.Grading policies must also differentiate between what is graded and what is not.

It must be made clear if things like formative assessments, tools used to monitor student progress during instruction, will be factored into your grading.Furthermore, grading policies must include a weighting system. Students must know how you are weighing their work. What system are you using as you are assigning higher value to certain graded activities?Finally, a written statement regarding grading policies must include logistics. Students must know in advance your standards for accepting things like late work and missed work, or how you will deal with borderline grades.

These statements must supply objective answers to questions. Taking it a step further, an effective grading policy must answer these questions before they are even asked.

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