The Context of Grading

     The role of schools has changed . . .. Our assessment practices historically
    have been designed to promote accountability by separating the
    successful from the unsuccessful learners and highlighting their differences.
    However, given the new mission of ensuring universal competence,
    assessments now must support the learning of all students so
    that all can succeed at meeting standards. The result must be balanced
    assessment systems and a fundamental rethinking of the dynamics of
    assessment in effective schools. (Stiggins. 2006, p. 3)

Why Grade?

  • Before diving into the granular aspects of grading, this excerpt from Ken O'Connor's book, How to Grade for Learning K-12, gives an overarching view around the purposes of grading student work.
    • Why Grade - Ken O'Connor from How to Grade for Learning, K-12

Grading Committee Report and Recommendations

    • Presentation (May, 2015)
    • Handout
    • Grading System Evaluation Rubric - To assist teachers and administrators with evaluating grading policies and practices we have developed a rubric for evaluating how well the grading system aligns with the guiding principles listed above. 
    • NC Educators Code of Ethics - Code of Ethics for North Carolina Educators in its Commitment to the Student states that an educator “evaluates students and assigns grades based upon the students’ demonstrated competencies and performance.”  (Code of Ethics for North Carolina Educators, 1997, Section 1.C.)

Grading Purposes

  • We believe the purposes of grades are to:

    1. Communicate achievement status of students to parents and others
    2. Provide information that students can use for self-evaluation
    3. Evaluate the effectiveness of instructional programs
    4. Use for instructional purposes – clarify learning goals, indicate students’ strengths & weaknesses, provide information about students’ personal/social development, and for some students, contribute to motivation 

    We also use students’ grades to determine promotion, graduation, and athletic eligibility, to award honors, and to report to other schools and prospective employersHigh school grades may inform college acceptance, scholarships and vocational plans.

Guiding Principles

  • Guiding Principles

    1. Grades represent what students know, understand, and can do
    2. Grading procedures allow students to recover from initial failure, e.g. non-graded formative assessments, re-testing (the highest of the grades is counted)
    3. Grading procedures minimize the impact of behaviors, work habits, effort, late assignments, homework, attitude, etc.
    4. Grades make mathematical sense
    5. Grading is defensible and credible

Required Actions

    1. All middle and high schools will use the 10-point grading scale:
      • 90-100  A
      • 80-89    B
      • 70-79    C
      • 60-69    D 
      • < 60      F
    2. PLCs, grade levels or departments must agree on and use the same grading procedures
    3. GPA Calculation change (HS only)


  • As the culture has changed, and as schools and families have changed, homework has become problematic for more and more students, parents, and teachers.  Best practice in homework dictates that it is used formatively with feedback from the teacher, but it is not given a score (Vatterott, 2009, pp. 1 & 2).  


  • “Mathematically and ethically this [practice] is unacceptable”  (Wormelli, 2006, p. 138).  This quote is in reference to giving zeros on a 0-100-point scale.  There are some serious problems with this practice:  (O’Connor, 2009, p. 163)
    • The lack of proportionality between 0 and 60 as the passing score compared to the 10-point ranges of the score points in the grading scale, i.e. 60-69 = D.
    • The devastating effect of such an extreme score if grades are averaged.
    • The inaccurate indication of a student’s proficiency as a result of zeros. 
    • The ineffectiveness of zeros as responsibility-creating mechanisms.  

Standards-Based Grading

Last Modified on June 20, 2018