Final Grades: A Definitive Guide for Homeschoolers
“Relax. Look around. Make a call.”
― Jocko Willink, Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win
May… that time when you can almost smell the excitement in the air. The kids are ready to put down their pencils, finish their exams and start their summer break already! Truth be told, I know the parents and teachers are, too. Just one thing stands between them and sweet, sweet summertime: issuing final grades.
As time progresses in your homeschool, you may find that final grades can be a source of discomfort for you. If you aren’t a teacher by trade, you may find yourself clinging tightly to how you remember your school grades being issued, and trying to figure out how to recreate that. Or maybe you’ve been laid-back about grades but now you’re looking to prepare a high school transcript–the time where grades really do become essential for your student.
Here’s the good news: you are in control of your homeschool and how grades are assigned! The process of issuing a final grade is an opportunity to see what has been accomplished and figure out what where your student needs growth.
So don’t worry, I’m here to help out as you think through how to handle grading. And I do encourage you to think through if, when, and how you assign a final grade!
I want to walk you through three steps:
Things to Consider when Assigning a Final Grade
How to Assess Your Students for a Final Grade
Practical Ways to Come to a Final Grade
THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN ISSUING FINAL GRADES
Grades are not always essential–but they can come in very handy. In some states they are, of course, required of homeschoolers anyway. So deciding how you want to handle grading is an important process to at least consider.
If you decide to grade, then please hear this as it is very, very important: Grading is always, always, always somewhat subjective. That’s because every teacher has the option to weigh things differently as they determine grades. Even when a teacher decides that only, say, test scores count toward a grade, they are subjectively deciding NOT to give weight to daily assignments, participation in class, or growth in character traits like determination or perseverance.
Additionally, if you consider how school systems work, then it’s important to remember that many times teachers are expected to “pass” a certain number of students, regardless of what their work actually shows in terms of learning. So one teacher might “ding” kids for not participating even when they know the material, while another might help raise grades by assigning more weight to completion of daily assignments over test scores.
I say all this to help you allow yourself the freedom to choose how you grade your students. You took a big step in deciding to homeschool your kids. In doing so, YOU gave yourself the ability to take charge in how you grade them, too!
Hopefully, just thinking through all of this will empower you to decide the goals you have for your students and assign grades accordingly!
Remember, you are your homeschool’s teacher and you get to decide what to measure.
HOW TO ASSESS YOUR STUDENTS
Generally, there are two ways to handle assessing your student for a final grade: Assessing for Mastery and Assessing for Goals and Objectives.
1. Assessing for Mastery
This one is relatively straight forward. Did the student demonstrate on assignments and tests that they know the material they have been given? Here, you use straight data and
With Saxon, you would use their scores from their daily math work and tests to do this. You might choose to weight them equally so mixed practice and tests carry the same weight in your equations. Or you might choose to put more weight on tests and less on the mixed practice. Again, it’s up to you!
2. Assessing for Goals and Objectives
With this method of grading, you set up expectations for your student and let them know what you are looking for in terms of their progress. Whatever aspects you want to evaluate, you include. Just make sure they are aware of what you are looking for!
Rubrics work great for this. Of course, completion of assignments and tests would go on there. You may also choose to include (or not include) neatness in writing, attitude, showing work, and checking work as part of this rubric.
Formula for Figuring out a Final Grade
So, how do you do it? This formula for figuring out a final grade should help. Since you have the power to decide how you want to do it, running numbers like this can give you the confidence to make the best choice for your homeschool.
Let’s say your student has the following averages:
Mixed Practice – 87%
Tests – 96%
FINAL GRADE USING EQUALLY WEIGHTED MIXED PRACTICE AND TESTS
Let’s say you want the Mixed Practices and the Tests to have equal weight (50/50). Here’s how you’d do it:
[(87 *.50) + (96 * .50)] = 91.5
FINAL GRADE USING DIFFERENT WEIGHTS FOR MIXED PRACTICE VS. TESTS
But let’s say you’d like to weight tests a little more than mixed practices. In this example, you’ve decided you want mixed practice to be worth only 30% and tests to be worth 70%. Then we would need to factor that in.
[(87 *.30) + (96 * .70)] = 93.3
The averages stay the same, they are simply multiplied by the percentage weight you choose to give each variable. Got it? Great!
(Need help finding those averages? It’s easy if you’re using Online Grading! Just log in to your parent account on the site, click on your picture on the upper right hand corner, then click “Reports.” You can then filter by Student, Course/Textbook, and Dates. Click “Get Report” and you’ll see all the information you need.)
I hope you find this method of thinking through your approach to grading helpful. I hear from way too many parents who just don’t know how to come up with a grade that accurately reflects their student’s work. This should help you see that there are, in fact, good ways to come up with an honest assessment of what your child has done this year.
One thing I’ve learned from talking to parents like you and from homeschooling my own child: Not everything that’s valuable is measurable. Not even close! A final grade doesn’t always tell the full story, but you can get close if you take charge in what you count toward it. Hopefully, these suggestions will help you to do what Jocko Willink says up there: Relax, look around, and make a call that helps you and your child see all they have achieved this year!
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