Effort Based Grading

So this post was prompted by many recent conversations with parents about their child’s grades. We just sent home progress reports and our parents have online access to their child’s grades 24/7. I love this by the way. It got me thinking about my grading policies this year. I posted about last year and the experiment with the 3P grading system. I loved that system, but it took time. This year we moved a shorter class period to allow for some re-teaching time throughout the day and this system needed to be re-evaluated.

Grades have been in the forefront of my mind at this point in my career as we determine how to evaluate kids when their playing field may not always be even. I came to one conclusion that all students can always control their effort. They may need to be taught how to work harder than they had previously but they can always try their best every day. This led me to my system for this year and rationale behind it. I will try to be concise because the blogs I read now deliver things in bite size nuggets and I tend to write epicly long posts.

I read some great articles about grading, here is one(read the comments) and came to a conclusion that grading had become a game. Students knew how to get the grades they wanted without putting forth much effort. GPA’s were inflated because students weren’t putting forth much effort to gain 100’s on assignments. I myself was guilty of this for many years until I was awakened. I knew I wasn’t seeing “A” quality work but was giving “A” grades when a student; followed the directions, completed the work and turned it in on time. I wrestled with this for a while and came to the conclusion this wasn’t helping the students. They weren’t learning to do their best which is something I always asked for but didn’t require on assignments and still gave out 100’s. I was talking but not walking the walk.

So this year I came up with a new system. If a students followed the directions, did the work, and turned the work in on time the grade started out at a 90. Still an “A” for those who got hung up on it. If the work was exceptional than their grade would start at a higher number. I would then grade the assignment and work backwards from the number their grade started. There was some shock and some pushback at first but I attributed that to a few things:

  • The students didn’t like being told their work was average. None of these students in this generation do. This is the golden goal, everyone gets a trophy generation. So this doesn’t resonate well. If the kids know you care then they will be willing to hear the truth based on relationships you have built. You won’t be just,”another teacher who doesn’t like them,” but one who has a relationship, cares and can speak the truth into their live.
  • People will resist when they are called out on something.  When the status quo changes and someone challenges you there will be some resistance. Having some excellent examples to compare their work to every time helped.

We are about to hit the end of our 1st semester and I think some of the students have raised their game. I can see the difference in their work. They are also prouder of the work they do on a regular basis. I see some students struggling to come to grips with some lower grades. They can’t quite pin down why they get those grades but we keep having meetings and some are starting to see the light.

How do you evaluate your students? Is effort a part of it? Please respond in the comments…


4 thoughts on “Effort Based Grading”

  1. When I was in high school, I overheard a conversation between my science teacher and a student. The student was nearly in tears; he had failed some big assignment. He explained to the teacher that he had worked hard and had given his best effort.

    I remember the teacher’s response. The teacher listened sympathetically, then said, “The score is a measure of your competence, not effort.”

    1. I think that teachers have to take this in to consideration when they grade assignments. For some students that C might be the best they can do, but on the other side students can game the system and get an A without any effort. I feel sorry for the student in the story but more the teacher who has an opportunity to help kids shine, find success, and inspire but seems to be stuck on the metrics not the relationships.

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