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How should I give high school grades?

Heart of Dakota Dear Carrie Grades Grading
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Dear Carrie

How exactly should I give high school grades?

Dear Carrie,

I have questions about how “exactly” I should give high school grades for the Heart of Dakota World Geography guide. I’ve read on the Heart of Dakota message board how some are using online assignment tracking programs for keeping records, and others are making a copy of the WG Introduction and using the suggested grading pages from the guide. We’ve been homeschooling from the start, but this is our very first year of high school. So, I want to make sure we’re doing everything right. Our state doesn’t require much from us. However, I know later for college I’ll need to show good records for transcripts to prove what he’s learned. I’m in the process of making myself a plan book of sorts to keep organized. I’m planning on including pages to record his grades. So, my question is, “How exactly should I give high school grades?”

“Ms. Please Help Me Give High School Grades”

Dear “Ms. Please Help Me Give High School Grades,”

I think one thing to weigh as you are keeping grades is your own comfort level in how much documentation you feel you need in order to accurately give a grade. This will vary from person to person. What one person considers a necessity will quickly become an overwhelming burden for another. So, it is important to find your own personal comfort level. By giving you the parameters for grading and showing how each grade is derived in the World Geography guide’s Introduction, we have given you clear guidelines to prove how you arrived at your grade for any school district or state advisor that may be looking over your high school plan. This lends credibility to your grade and is actually what more advisors are concerned with, much more so than desiring to see your record-keeping in the day-to-day.

Colleges are more interested in ACT and SAT scores than in viewing your grade book.

Another very important thing that I will share is that it would be very unexpected for a college to ever ask you to show your grade book or prove how you arrived at your grade for any course. Instead, no matter what your transcript grades are, they will be viewed as less important than an ACT or SAT score, simply because your child was homeschooled and colleges need a comparison grade (which is what the ACT and SAT provide).

Other times, colleges may have an entrance exam for certain coursework to help in proper placement. This is also an equalizer. Before we get too worried about this though, it is good to remember that ACT and SAT scores carry a lot of weight for all students applying to college, whether they are homeschooled, privately schooled, or publicly schooled. This is because it is a comparison score where all students have taken a similar test in a similar stage of life.

Focus on your teaching, and keep your grading process streamlined.

With all of this in mind, I typically try not to complicate the grading process too much. Otherwise, I bog down in the process (and miss the teaching because I’m overwhelmed with the grading). In the end, your time will be better spent teaching and guiding then recording results. You may find that some of the extras you’ve designed give you comfort in the beginning and then are no longer needed as you proceed.

You don’t need to spend countless hours on your record-keeping, when it is likely that no one but you will ever look it over. Instead, you should focus on the teaching and keep your grading process streamlined. You will have more than enough completed work from your child to show, should you ever actually be asked to prove what your child did. An advisor will never ask to see your grade book. Instead, if proof is needed, an advisor will need to see the work your student has done.

Remember, you are a teacher, and your best time is spent teaching.

To help you as you ponder what record-keeping route to take, think about teachers in a classroom. Imagine how teachers keep grades for 150 students or more a day. Then, implement something reasonable like that in your own home. Do not make more work for yourself than is needed. Remember that you are a teacher, which means that your best time is spent teaching.

I use the grading sheets in the Introduction, and I spend my time helping each student meet a higher standard of work.

I do not use anything beyond the grading sheets provided in the front of our World Geography Guide. You may or may not be comfortable going that route. I encourage you to weigh what benefit hours spent creating grading sheets gives your child? For me, I require my sons’ work to be excellent, and if it is not, I make them redo it. This means that instead of spending time completing a grading sheet over each piece of work, I am spending time sitting with each child going over each part of their assignment and helping them correct it to meet a higher standard of work.

I employed this same strategy in the classroom during my teaching days in the public school. Over time, my kiddos begin working at that higher standard, simply so that they do not have to go back and continually redo. I do not spend time keeping a first and a second grade for their work and then averaging the two. Instead, I simply have them redo to fix it right away.

Effort is worth something too.

Admittedly, each child’s “higher standard” will be different based on what that child truly can and cannot do in a particular subject area. But effort is worth something too, and it definitely plays a role. If the subject is a true area of struggle for your child, you will know it going into the subject and it will reveal itself to be so as you progress through it. At that point, effort can make or break a grade bringing it up some or lowering it down some. Some subjects like math and grammar are very easy to grade. Others that are more subjective are subjective no matter how many grading sheets we create or complete. In the end, a certain amount of every grade is a judgment call. This is one area in which you will become more comfortable the more years you teach.

Remember to teach first and track last.

So, there is my take on the matter. Just remember that you need to teach, facilitate, and guide to be a teacher. Otherwise, you have become a tracker instead of a teacher. While tracking is one part of teaching, if you become too extensive of a tracker and the teaching time is lost, you may quickly find that you burn out. So, remember to teach first and track last. The tracking is just a reflection of your time spent teaching and guiding. It is meant to jog your memory as to the quality of the work or to give a quick check that the work was completed to an acceptable standard. You will find your comfort level in this as you progress!



This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Shannon Randolph

    Do you grade children (in the same guide) differently based on ability. I have a very bright child who ended WG with straight As. I expected her best and graded accordingly. When my son (with mild learning disabilities) does WG, should I hold him to the same standard for grades or grade according to what his “best” is?

    1. Hello! I spoke with Carrie about this, and she said she did note weighted percentages and the general impact of effort in the Introduction of each high school guide. However, she also said if a student is struggling and not completing what he/she is supposed to be completing well as noted in the suggested grading, the grade must reflect that even if effort has been good. So, for example, a student completing less than the written work assigned would not earn an “A” based on simply trying hard. Hope this helps!

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