December 17, 2013


Today I gave out progress reports in my classes. The school sends out progress reports with comments selected from a list, those went out last week, that's not what I gave out today. I printed the list of all the assignments I have graded this quarter and the student's current score for each one. Our quarter doesn't close until the end of January, I handed these sheets to students as a check-in, so they would take some time now to get caught up on missing work. There were plenty of students who took their list, immediately pulled out a pen or highlighter and started checking off things they had completed and marking assignments they wanted to improve. But there were far too many students who refused to look at the sheet, gave a panicked response "I can't have that grade!" or who immediately tossed it in the recycling bin. They know, because I tell them frequently, (including today as I handed out the reports) that none of those grades are set in stone. They can retake, resubmit, hand in late or otherwise make up every assignment we've done this quarter. The grades in the computer and on that printout are a snapshot of what students have demonstrated up to this point. I don't think students think of grades like this. I dare say I don't think many teachers think of grades like this. All of these thoughts, plus the recent discussions we have had on growth mindset, left me with this:

What do you think? What does a grade mean to you?


  1. I love it. Going to show my students. Thanks.

  2. I totally agree with you. This is how I have been using grades/assignments the last two years. The parents still have a hard time with the idea that I don't do "extra credit" just to improve grades. Just re-do what you've already done! Show me what you have learned - how you have grown in that skill. It makes for a bit of extra grading of re-do work but I think it gives students the power to make growth if they are motivated. I will also share your words of wisdom with my students and parents!

  3. This poster makes me happy and I would like a copy for Christmas!

  4. I like this idea. Right now most of my grades for homework/effort are based on completion/effort rather than accuracy in an attempt to help student's cushion their grades. With that in mind, I don't allow late work past a certain deadline (1 week from due date). Even writing that phrase "cushion their grade" now makes me shudder and exclaim "What was I thinking?!" This inspires me to grade a couple of problems from homework for accuracy and allow students to redo until they show them correct. Maybe this well encourage students to continue to improve their skills in order to do well on the tests- then their grades wouldn't need cushioning.

    Thanks, Tina, for pushing me to AHA moments :)

  5. My teacher webpage has a mantra that has ended nearly all talk of grades. Too many students and parents have it backwards. I prefer to focus on the learning. The post reads:
    Students in my classes will ...
    1) create useful records of their learning that benefit their families, community, and world.
    2) focus on learning skills and concepts, not on gaining points towards a grade.
    3) be able to show improvement over time in mastering skills and concepts.

    It convinces both students and parents that if we focus on the learning, the grade will come. What has also helped is to frame assessments based on standards based grading. Successfully completing level 2 problems (working towards mastery) is the equivalent of a 70%. Completing level 2 and all level 3 problems is 90%. Completing level 2-4 problems (beyond the target) is 100%. FYI: I have level 2.5 and 3.5 for a bit of gradation. When assessments are returned the kids don't see a grade; they see a level of mastery. Yes, they easily translate it to a percentage, but the focus becomes to learn to solve the more challenging problems. It's a subtle, but significant shift in thinking.
    Thanks for starting the conversation!