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Sharing assessment & grading strategies that help students learn

Pretend you are your school's Grade Coach (if there was such a thing) and your job is to help teachers ensure that the grades assigned in their class represent a student's level of mastery.

A teacher has come to you to ask for advice about his grades.  He shows you the following list of assignments and scores:

Homework Topic A: 10/10

Quiz 1 Topic A: 40/50

Homework Topic A: 10/10

Classwork Topic A: 0/20

Homework Topic A: 0/20

Quiz 2 Topic A: 50/50

Classwork Topic A: 20/20

Homework Topic A: 10/10

Quiz 3 Topic A: 0/50

Quiz 3 Topic A RETAKE: 40/50

Homework Topic A: 5/10

Quiz 4 Topic A: 45/50

Notebook Check: 10/30

Test Topic A: 95/100

Review Game Extra Credit: 5/0

Homework Topic B: 0/10

Quiz 1 Topic A: 50/50

Homework Topic B: 0/10

Classwork Topic B: 20/20

Homework Topic B: 0/20

Quiz 2 Topic B: 40/50

Quiz 2 Topic B RETAKE: 50/50

Classwork Topic B: 20/20

Homework Topic B: 0/10

Quiz 3 Topic B: 35/50

Quiz 3 Topic B RETAKE: 50/50

Homework Topic B: 10/10

Quiz 4 Topic B: 30/50

Notebook Check: 50/50

Test Topic B: 90/100

Review Game Extra Credit: 3/0

Progress Report Signed: 0/10

For this activity, pretend that the assignments and scores listed above represent the entirety of the course.

What would you say to this teacher?  How would you suggest the teacher use this data to determine the student's level of mastery or learning?  You have complete freedom to do anything or suggest anything.  For example, you could recommend that the teacher:

  • Change point values of some or all assignments
  • Use category weights
  • Not count certain assignments
  • Convert to only letter grades
  • Convert to only percentages
  • Add additional assignments that would provide different or additional data
  • Replace scores on some assignments with scores on others
  • Allow retests or retakes on certain assignments

There is nothing you can't recommend to this teacher.  The goal is to make sure the grade represents learning.  What do you suggest?

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-Don't grade HW; consider giving just a "check" if students complete their HW

-Notebook checks don't reflect a student's mastery

-Retakes should replace the original grade if the goal is mastery

-A signed progress report shouldn't be reflected in the grade (consider giving just a "check")

I agree with the general observation that the assigned points are skewed. The summative assessment should far outway any lesser activity. I, too, have always had trouble with a notebook check being used as a major assessment grade. A flipped classroom speaks to the importance of work at home. Busy work is undeserving of any credit, but work at home that enhances the learning environment in the classroom has worth.  I believe that retests should require effort from the student beyond just taking an assessment again. I can continue to acknowledge growth in learning, but I am an English teacher who needs to go beyond multiple choice to truly assess what my students have learned. My day only has 24 hours, I have to retest judiciously or it impacts my effectiveness in the classroom. 


  • Don't grade HW. Try to get your students to believe that HW is for their benefit. It is practice that is important for their learning.
  • Use your test and quiz grades to determine your students' level of mastery at the time you fill out a grade report. Don't feel that you must include every grade to calculate an overall average. For some (hopefully most) students, their test/quiz average will be a measure of mastery. But for those who show great improvement over time, you can modify the grade accordingly.
  • Assign grades for assignments that show your students have mastered the goals of your class. Don't assign grades to assignments that do not.

Long time ago, notebook checks were a freshman team thing.  Although it was a good way to help students keep their work organized, it surely did not do anything for mastery grading.  I will always remember a student of mine who struggled with organization.  He rarely did homework, he never had his notebook, yet he aced every test.  I quietly decided that notebook checks should not be graded because it brought his grade down significantly (the notebooks checks were worth big points back then).  Glad to read that many others agree with this now.  Having said that, I do believe that helping students create a system to get them organized is very important and will serve them well now and in the future.

As many have said, I believe the notebook grade to be an invalid score/grade as it does not demonstrate learning in any way. It is fine to note such things in your grade book for the purpose of feedback, but nothing more. It concerns me that the child does not seem to deem the homework practice necessary, which would prompt me to conference with the student and/or parent to discuss the underlying reasons. I believe that homework is an important piece in the learning process and could be made more meaningful to the student so that he/she completes it more consistently. Perhaps completion of said practice might help the student to avoid taking so many retakes. 

1.Consider retakes as opportunities to demonstrate mastery.  The first attempt scores should not count towards their grade. (Do you give re-takes for every assessment?) 

2. Is homework practice or to show mastery? Should hw be graded?

3. Extra credit "inflates grades".  Think if  there is a need for extra credit in your class.  If so, how much extra credit "points" should you give in a semester? 


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