How Many Grades?

Posted by Kara Parker on April 27, 2012 in 4 Assessments, Most Popular

A few reflection questions about your class:
How many grades does each student have for one semester?

Has a student ever got an A in your class that could not use the language? Or failed because of missing class work?

How much time do you spend grading a week? Compared to planning?

Have you ever entered students’ final grades and realized how they match, or don’t match, their current grade?

My district specialist gave us the book Ahead of the Curve: The Power of Assessment to Transform Teaching and Learning (Leading Edge (Solution Tree) to read during the summer. One chapter addressed grading. Do your grades reflect what a student can do (and how well) in the class? This hit me! No! They don’t! My grades represented what they turned in instead of their ability. So I wanted to change this by using more proficiency-based grades and make my school happy. We have Infinite Campus (which I’m not a fan of) so I needed to simplify because I do not like using it.

I created a paper for each student. I did it this way because I can copy this for a parent or the student. If you like your grading program, just set up something similar. This is a sample of what I’m trying to do this year. My real ones are not this neat. 🙂
20120427-180553.jpg I use this paper to keep notes about what I gave them and the max possible score.

So for each unit, they have:
1. The stamp sheet (a completion check of the unit goals during class)
2. The Real World homework– I copy it on the back of the stamp sheet so I only collect one paper from each at the end of the unit
3. Two performance-based proficiency assessments– I’ve been trying to give one interpretive and one presentational or interpersonal. Sometimes they choose if they want speaking or writing so I note that on their sheet
4. The final assessments and/or IPAs
5. Blank spots in case I add a project or sub work

That’s it! At first I was worried that students would slack in class. Yes, that happened, but it quickly changed after they couldn’t do the proficiency assessment.

Here’s an example of a student’s page:
When I have to enter a grade in Infinite Campus, I average the grades. Usually I don’t need a calculator.
The stamps (class work) are one category weighted as 10%.
The Real World (homework) is weighted as 10%.
The unit assessments are weighted as 40%.
The end of course Finals are weighted as 40%.
If I didn’t have to follow these category guidelines, I’d only count the end of course final assessments.

I inform students and parents (and administration) that their grades only change at the end of a unit. So far, knocking on wood, I have not had complaints about this.

It was a big scary change at first. “If I don’t grade it, they won’t do it!” Well that is not true. And I’m happier because I grade less, but I give more feedback.

What do you think???


41 comments for “How Many Grades?”

  1. Andrea says:

    I really like this! It scares me to make such a big change, and scares me to give less grades (though I love that you can use more of your planning time to PLAN). I need take some time this summer to think about how I can make my grades proficiency-oriented rather than a reflection of work completion/word memorization. Thank you for sharing how you do it!

    How many weeks do you typically spend on a unit? How do you handle failing students who need to improve their grade?

    1. Kara says:

      The book is what convinced me. I even showed it to my admin so they didn’t think I was being “lazy”. It was really scary! But I think students are trained to be grade focused instead of learning focused.
      Last year I had a student that “figured out” that she didn’t have to do the class work. I told her it was true, but I worried she would not be able to do the assessment. She said she would so fine. She did nothing in class the next week. Then when she got the assessment, she said she messed up. From then on, she did the prep work. As a teacher, it made me realize even more how important it is to not give busy work and tie every activity to the goal. My students see value in the activities. No lies, some refuse at times. I try to give an alternative and talk about the importance of the activity.

  2. Megan Green says:

    Thank you so much. I love this idea! I have been so unhappy with the amount of Spanish my students are speaking, and their grades really aren’t reflective of their abilities. Could you give me an idea of what a typical class period looks like?

    1. Kara says:

      yes! That would make a great post. Give me a few days to get that organized. Also I had a previous post called “My biggest teaching mistake” that talks a little about that.

  3. Miss Ivonne says:

    As to the Stamp Sheet, what do you do when the student loses their Stamp Sheet? I have students who only still have their heads because, fortunately for them, it’s attached. I have given one student three and four copies of assignments because they lost it or spilled something on it or are OCD and can’t stand that every letter isn’t perfect on the sheet and she wants to re-copy it. (Kara, you know who THAT is!)

    1. Kara says:

      They get a new one and redo them. Usually they only lose them once. 🙂

  4. Martina Bex says:

    I agree with most of what you are doing here! I spent sooooo much time on stupid grading during my first year of teaching, but I eventually realized that it really doesn’t matter if kids get grades for every assignment that we do. I try to do one listening, one speaking, one reading, and one writing grade for each unit that we cover. That way, students can see how their proficiency in each skill area is developing as the year goes on. We do approximately three units per quarter, so my goal is to have three grades in each category per quarter. Since speaking assessments are so time-consuming to administer/grade (even if you do recordings), I’ve begun using speaking assessment cards (in this post ) for that score. The only thing that I’d change about your system is to change the categories. As they are now, they are really just telling you what kind of a student your students are: are they good at completing classwork? good test takers? diligent about their homework? It does not give information about what the student can do with the language, which is the whole point of performance based assessment. I still determine 10 percent of their grade based on Citizenship (work completion, participation, behavior, attendance, etc.), but in an ideal world (like…Colorado? some school district has this system) students would receive a pure performance/standards grade and a second pure work habits/citizenship grade, because otherwise we must try to communicate two entirely different things with the same number (or letter, as the case may be). Scott Benedict ( has been immensely helpful to me in my critical analysis of my grading policies. I highly recommend his webinars and materials!! It’s different than any class I have ever taken, but I have found that my students’ grades correspond with their class performance better than ever before–I don’t have excellent students that have A’s even though they are just proficient or even below proficient in the language, and I don’t have students with incredible language abilities whose grades are low because of a few missing or incomplete assignments. At any rate, love what you’re doing and definitely love the log sheet for students to keep track of their grades. I’ll be copying that for sure 😉

    1. Kara says:

      Thanks for the resources! However I don’t see how it is based on completing work. The Unit stamps are the unit goals (We have a post about it). They are demonstrating that they can complete AT proficiency level. The ‘homework’ is still proficency-based too (Real World homework post). Everything is connected to a goal (speaking, reading, writing, listening). How is that only completion? True, they have to complete it to show what they can do. Something I didn’t address in this post is the amount of FEEDBACK I give during the unit. The assessments is the only time I write down their proficiency grade because it’s like riding a bike: do you want to be graded on the first time you ride, or after you have practiced? That’s why I wait until the end if unit to give that grade. Eventually I plan on dropping the stamps and homework grade, but I had to keep my school happy.

      1. Martina Bex says:

        Got it! I misunderstood what the stamps were. I apologize!! I would be annoyed at me for lecturing about things that I already know and do 😉 Hope you can forgive me for not doing my research before I start typing! The stamp sheet is a very cool idea! Our district is starting to work on more clearly defining goals for each level, and I think that this would be a great strategy for teachers to use across the district to allow flexibility in instruction but still in alignment with the rest of the district. I definitely agree about the bike metaphor. It helps me understand why you weighted your finals so heavily. Have you ever seen Kelly Hughes’ bike prezi? . What do your finals look like? I’d love to see an example of how you pull everything together for the end of the quarter (or semester?)!!! And are your goals determined by the district?

        1. Kara says:

          No problem and actually thanks! I spent my morning coffee really thinking about them. I really want to get rid of that grade now. 🙂 I don’t give a participation/attendance grade so I feel that the stamps “encourage” them to participate and make up work when out. I don’t actually grade the work, just that they can do the goal. The finals are not shareable because they come from the district. They look exactly like our unit assessments except they cover all topics. The goals were written from a cohort of teachers that was formed by the district.

  5. spanishplans says:

    Bookmarking this post. Hoping to incorporate it in my class for next year. Looking forward to lots of changes.

    1. Kara says:

      Good luck! I love it and would never go back.

  6. spanishplans says:

    Couple of questions, as I am trying to plan ahead for next year.

    You said that students only receive grades at the end of the unit. So what would their grade include? For example, at the end of unit 1, would they have 4 grades entered?

    I am assuming you have a sheet like this for each semester/trimester?

    1. Kara says:

      I have one sheet for the semester/trimester. Each unit has 2-4 grades depending on what I assessed them on. I try not to over-assess. Then I average the scores. I’d like to give a grade only based on their final assessment grade. This is in the works for my school.

  7. spanishplans says:

    Also, how do you grade for the listening? What types of activities do you use? Are you just scoring it based on the comprehension row of the performance assessment rubric?

    1. Kara says:

      This one I’m really dropping the ball on. I put it as a goal for next year. For reading, I made a little rubric to use that had: I understood MOST / SOME / VERY LITTLE / NONE of the reading. Then assigned A / B / C / D with it respectively. I didn’t fail anyone who didn’t try. This is in no way perfect. What do you think? Any ideas?

  8. Julie G. says:

    Hi, Kara! Thank you so much for sharing this! This is EXACTLY what I have been looking for! A few questions though: 1. How do you give your presentational speaking assessments? (During class time, one-on-one? Recorded in a language lab?) 2. I noticed that you have grades such as novice low, mid, and high. To get high score, do they have to give the optional, additional information? And I assume that the novice high is 100%, novice is 90%, etc? 3. In addition to the scenarios, are there rubrics as well? Thank you so much in advance!

    1. Kara says:

      I have most of these answers:
      1. I have them record each other using the iPads, camera, Flip cameras or whatever is around during class. There have been a few cheaters, but I ask them to just redo it. Also I learned that it is so important to have new speakers evaluate their own language.

      1. Anonymous says:

        Hey Kara! We are going to be using Audioboo to have students do speaking assessments on the Ipads. Is this the app your students use, or do you have a different app that works on the Ipads to have students record each other? Thanks for the help!

        1. Kara says:

          Thanks for the suggestion! I’ve only used the video camera.

    1. Kara says:

      There is going to be some restructuring at our district. I want to suggest to you to download these assessments and documents soon because I think this site may disappear. :/

  9. Tammy says:

    I am re-reading posts during the Big Storm (no power outages here, thank God) and I have a question regarding the sample “Student Paper” Notes. I noticed under Unit 1: Reading Score you have 10-8 = NH, 7-5 = NM, 4-3 = NL, 2-0 = U.

    Are you assigning points to in order to determine the level?

    If so, do these numbers correspond to the JCSPS Performance Assessment Ruberic (there was an example w/pts. in another post)?

    Also, is the “Final” listed on the sheet a semester final? Do you weight this at 40% (as mentioned in another post)?

    Taking baby steps, but I am getting there! Thanks for all your encouragement and patience in explaining your methods.

    1. Kara says:

      Glad your safe! Assessing reading and listening is an ongoing search for me. I dedicated a whole summer grad paper on it and still working on it. Last year, I created a range of correct answers that would fall into each category. Jcps does not have interpretive specified. Yes, my 3 finals equal 40% of their overall semester grade. I would make them more, but I have district/school guidelines on how much I weight them. I want their ending proficiency level to be their grade, even if that means dropping their lowest Novice low grades from the beginning. Baby steps!!! Don’t feel like you have to switch everything at once. It happens naturally with reflection and time. Keep asking the tough questions!

      1. Tammy says:

        It seems that if we (teachers) focus on profiency levels as their final grade, then points for stamps, real-world hw, “buying your participation grade” are mute.

        A student could earn “500” pts, perhaps equating to a “A” but if they only perform at Novice-Mid, then their final grade would still be just a C.

        My husband pointed this out to me as I was entering points for stamps & real-world hw into my grading spreadsheet for unit 2. He asked, why are they worth 5 pts… Why not just 1 pt each? He said the pts are arbitrary and it would be easier if they were just 1 pt each. Why do you have pts at all?

        So, it i started thinking, If we have to use points, then how can we equate these to profiency level in order to reflect a true grade? Some posts discuss this, but I remember one that said that the pts assigned to the Ruberic actually lowered the student’s grade (think the example showed 77%). If the final grade is based on their profiency level, then what are the points really for? Just more time out of a teacher’s schedule to post them into a spreadsheet. They are most relevant to make administrators, portfolio reviewers, parents, and some students comfortable.

        I was going to change the grading (I have a stmt in my syllabus that I reserve the right to change the syllabus at anytime to best meet the needs of the class), but decided to discuss pts vs proficiency level with some of my students. They feel that points help keep them accountable and on-track to meet deadlines. Moreover, they feel points are necessary to “motivate” less ambitious students as well as to make reviewers and parents comfortable.

        *So, after some reflection, I think I am going to give two grades this year: Points earned and proficiency level.

        Now I understand your comments in another post about wanting to do away with points altogether, and just use the Final assessments 🙂 Will we ever get to a truly “profiency-grade system? Only with more teachers like you and Megan sharing your methods and shifting the current paradigm. Thank you for staring this blog, or I would still be in the dark.


        I am not clear what you mean by this “Last year, I created a range of correct answers that would fall into each category” ? Is that where the “Reading scores” came from on your planning sheet? If so, is this a general score guide or do you create one for each assesment?

        Is this why you created your own Interpretive Ruberic?

        1. Kara says:

          I hear ya! I HAVE to have the other categories per district guidelines. I make the “point” work worth very little on purpose. Sometimes it may lower a student’s grade by a letter grade if they are on the border line. I too wish it could be the final only. One day!

  10. Julie says:

    I am using this summer to plan my first steps in transitioning to a proficiency-based classroom, and am struggling with the grade components and weights.

    I am considering abandoning the traditional grade components (25% HW, 30% projects, etc) for more authentic representations like those Martina Bex uses (25% Writing, 20% Speaking, 25% Listening, 25% Reading, 5% Culture, 5% Citizenship) or those that Scott Benedict proposes (50% Speaking/Writing, 30% Reading/Listening, 20% Vocabulary/Grammar, 10% Culture).

    If you were not tied to your school’s imposed category guidelines, would you use categories at all? What’s your overall opinion of breaking down grades in these ways?

    Thank you for all of your posts and ideas! I am so excited (and anxious!) about implementing such an unfamiliar system!

    1. Kara says:

      Yay for you! My goal is that grades should reflect what students can do with the language, not with what they turn in. With no limits/ perfect world: I would base their whole grade on their finals. Have you ever noticed that students usually get a similar grade on their final as their current grade anyways? More realistically, I would create a finals category worth 70% of overall grade and divide the rest on categories based on the units I teach. Within in those categories I would include all assessments. Then students will know how well they perform on a topic. My only concern about the examples you listed is the lack for interpersonal activities. Where does that go? I know they are difficult to do, but SO crucial for real world communication.

      1. Kara says:

        Also I wonder why “culture” is separate. Does that mean it is not in the target language? I feel like those should go together. Same with the vocabulary category. Why would speaking be worth less than writing? I guess I need to read up on why they do that.

  11. KristiBean says:

    I really want the focus in my class to be on proficiency, I LOVE the stamp sheets and so do my kids! The problem is that the administrators at my school require us to have 3 grades per week entered into our gradebook for all of our classes (even though every other week, we only have the class twice : ) and 1 of the 3 must be a formative assessment. There is no fighting this, believe me, I have tried! So what would you recommend in that situation?

    1. Kara says:

      Maybe divide the stamp sheet into 3 parts? Where it only covers the goals you did for that time period? End that time period with a performance assessment as a formative assessment.

      1. KristiBean says:

        Oooh, I like that idea! When I ask here, I’m told to “just grade the bell-ringers and exit slips”. without any suggestion as to what type of bell ringers I could do that will actually show proficiency…

  12. CASIPHIA says:

    This sounds *heavenly* I hate grading!!! I want them to learn, not to just get an “A” and have good test-taking skills! I want them to apply their knowledge!!!

    1. Kara Parker says:

      I use to feel guilty-ish about this, especially while watching an English teacher grade. Then I met a different English teacher that did standards-based grading. She helped me along and now I can see that feedback and working toward a “project” shows real learning that they are proud of too.

  13. Bret Russell says:

    Ok, I’m still a little confused. At the top of your paper it says IA, this is not the unit or section? You put all 3 units and the final covered for a semester on one paper? So if I am understanding, you are only putting 15 grades in in one semester?

    I am unfamiliar with infinite campus, do you not have to put in an requirement of grades per week? Do you not have to do this only because you showed the book to your administration?

    You collect all the work, stamps and real world, at the end of the unit? Do you add the reading or speaking as you do it in the stations? I would really LOVE to try this, but I need to make sure I am understanding all the elements!
    Thanks so much for your help and clarification!

  14. Kara Parker says:

    Hi Bret! Let’s see if I can clarify this… This posts represents one of my first steps to standards-based grading. I should do another post soon all about how I’ve completely changed over. (One day!)

    “1A” stands for Spanish 1, Semester A. That paper represents ALL the grades for one semester, only 15.

    Grade requirement: Depends on the school. At this school when I did this post, it was required that our online grade books reflected the students’ current grades at the end of every week. It did not require that we had to ADD new grades, just be up to date. I changed their grades at the end of the unit, but most of the time the grades were the same because I graded based on proficiency standards. So this worked system worked there. This sheet was for me only.

    I would do checks during the unit and jot that down in pencil (“As of today, you should have 7 of the 15 goals completed. Please check in with me so I can see your progress.”). If a student was really behind, then I could catch it before the end of the unit. For the most part, I collected everything at the end of the unit. The reading and speaking from the stations… if it completed a daily goal, they would get a stamp on the stamp sheet sometimes. We used most of the class activities as PRACTICE and FEEDBACK opportunities. The unit assessments was when I assessed and entered a grade.

    I’m adding some hyperlinks into the post to clarify the grades that I took.


  15. Cristi says:

    I have been considering proficiency grading for awhile and I just can’t wrap my head around how to keep track of it all. Do you have a specific time in class when you are checking things like Real World Homework and stamp sheets? And if a kiddo is not proficient and they get more time, when and where does that take place? How are you able to check that each kid can do all 20 some goals in a unit. All I can envision is a flipped classrooom in which I am constantly checking and stamping things. Also, what program do you use to create all of your eye-catching documents?

    1. Kara Parker says:

      Cristi, easy part first… we use Apple’s Pages and Keynote, but any program can be used to make what we do. Next easiest question: they make up anything after school or during independent choice time. Hardest part because there are so many ways to do it: (I will say that I’m working on a post now that will talk about how I grade now, which is streamlined more than I wrote about here.) I love stations and that helps me to do more one on one feedback/stamping time. (I don’t do the flipped class because it doesn’t fit my students’ home-life culture.) If needed, there are times when they are doing independent work that I will check Real World activities or goals. I don’t worry about stamping all the goals. They can even stamp their own or each other. That sheet is just a way to track progress during the unit. The assessment will be what really shows their prof level. I’ve also found that it’s worth having a class period before the unit assessment where they can work on what they need to, catch up on anything, show Real World homework and do some reflecting. I’ll try to give more details in the new post!

      1. Cristi Satterstrom says:

        Thank you! I am going for it this year! I just love all your stuff!

        1. Kara Parker says:

          Do it!! Honestly trial and error is the best way to see what works with your students and your style. That’s the great thing about teaching: if it doesn’t work, change it up!

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