Saturday, October 27, 2012

Grades - How do you do it?

I have been teaching self contained classes for 14 years, and "grades" have been a source of constant distress.  Districts require us to give them, but have never given us a method on how to take them and make them meaningful to our students learning.  I have had many methods of creating grades in the past, including guessing, a system where all kids getting an 80 the first nine weeks, an 85 the second, etc, and just giving letter grades of A.  None of these really communicate what the kids progress is though.

Last year I finally came up with a system that provides the most appropriate grades I think possible.  It grades students on their progress on IEP goals.  It is quite a complicated system, but once you set up your spreadsheet, you just plug in the information and go. . .

I start by creating a spreadsheet (I use Excel) with each objective separated by subject area.  I make sure they have all four core subjects, then I plug the other objectives (rec/leisure, daily living, communication, etc) into the other two class periods I teach (this year skills for adult living and personal management).  I put in the Goal title, the objective purpose and then a short snippet of what the actual objective is.  After each subjects objectives, I put a column for the goal/subject average.  I like to color code each subject/goal area for ease in finding objectives as well as for helping to create the grade.
Here is the beginning of a spreadsheet. . .

The next step is plugging in dates.  I average each weeks data for each objective and input that weekly average into the sheet.

After this, I enter a field for the average of each objective's weekly data for whatever time period is necessary for a grade (progress report, report card, etc)

The next step is CRUCIAL. . . you have to enter a field for the mastery criteria of each objective.  This is critical because you want to grade kiddos on their progress towards mastery of the objective.  If mastery is 3 of 5, then all 3's would mean they have a 100 in that objective. . .

Lastly, you enter a field where your grade is created. . .

Ok, for the formulas. . . Hopefully you know how to get an average. . . to get a grade for each objective, you take the average and divide it by the criteria for each column.  To get a grade for the entire subject, you average together each objective in that subjects grades. . .
Here is an example of this in action:

The formulas in Excel automatically create the grades.  I do have to go back and change any grade over 100 (when a kid is exceeding criteria set on their objective) to a 100 so that it does not raise their overall subject grade too high. . . Here is how that looks on the above data:

So, in this example this student has a 100 average in behavior, a 96 in Self-care (those grades are then averaged to a 98 and put in as the grade for Personal Management), a 55 in ELA (which I put as a 70 on a report card - none of my kids ever fail a subject) and a 100 in Social Studies.

That's how I do my grades.  Like I said, the setup can take a long time.  However, once it is set, you don't have to do anything but put in your weekly data.  If a parent asks how you got a students grades, you can show them the child's data averages and how they relate to the criteria set.  I have had parents hug me and tell me how much they love this system!  I know that it eases my conscious and makes me feel better about my ability to look at progress and measure it in number grades!


  1. Hey there! Thanks for following my blog! I love all of your workbox activities!
    I am so excited to meet another sped teacher!


  2. Yay, so glad you found me! I'm currently reading a blog post you made about word work using nuts and bolts. I LOVE "collaborating" with teachers around the globe! It's great to find others who are passionate about teaching kids and willing to share their resources! I look forward to seeing what all you are up to this year!

  3. Thanks for your post about the grade. So happy to find another a special ed. teacher. I'm your newest follower.

  4. So glad you found me! Just checked out your blog and I'm YOUR newest follower too! :)

  5. It's great to find new, upcoming bloggers. I am your newest follower!

    Also, I have nominated you for the Liebster Award! Check out my blog for all the detailss!

  6. Hi Erin, I also nominated you for Liebster Award. Looks like someone beat me to it! ; ) Come on over to my blog and check it out.

    ?Resource Room Rules

  7. I also have a tough time with grading as well. I teach Kindergarten and I have a cluster of students on the Autism Spectrum. In Kindergarten we don't have numerical grades to go by, so our report cards consist of: "exceeds standard", "meets standard","beginning standard", "Not meeting standard". There is no guide in our district either. I end up loathing report card time.

    What's Working This Year?

    1. Grades are one of the things I have struggled with the most over the years. This system is the only thing I've found that makes me feel like I'm not just making up stuff! :)

  8. I love your blog and as many others have, I nominated you for the Liebster Award! No worries, I am glad I found your blog and that I am now a follower. We have a Consortium within our district and our school is next door so many of us have mainstream students. I currently have 2 autistic students. I will be visiting your site often!

    1. Kim, so glad you found my blog! I need to check into this Liebster Award. How exciting to get recommended. As you can tell, I've fallen off the blogging world for a couple of months, but I'm trying to get back now. Thanks for the feedback!