There is a Better Way to Grade!

young reader  by Francisco Farias Junior

Have you ever wondered if there was a better way to grade your child?

Assessment has two purposes. The main function of assessment for you as your child’s teacher is to pinpoint what your student knows so you can teach her the next step. The main purpose for your student is so she knows where she is in relation to what needs to be learned. (It is not so she can compare herself to all of the “lesser” students, or to compare herself to all of the “smarter” students.) 

Since assessment in the homeschool is such a natural part of teaching that teaching and assessment are often intermingled — traditional “tests” and grades may not be necessary.  

There are reasons to expose your children to more formal assessments. Eventually they may enter a traditional education system, even if it is in college. But I suggest that this does not have to be the norm in your home. Two or three such tests a year are probably enough for this purpose. 

Formal Assessments can Affect Self-Concept 

The traditional letter grades give negative and inaccurate messages to young children. (You’re smarter/better than the others. You’re not as good as the others. The letter grade is the goal.)

Here is what I did to get around that.  I homeschooled in the 80’s. I was a pioneer and our school district required a lot from us. We had to submit our curriculum to the school board for approval — including a bibliography; we had to present in person each year; and meet with the homeschool rep in the school district quarterly with our evaluations. 

The superintendent was very happy with my assessment method. 

 I assigned three numbers to each topic, concept or fact set we were working on. When our quarterly evaluations were due to the district — these numbers reflected accurately where my kids were in their understanding of their subjects without negative labels: 

  • (1) Introduced
  • (2) Partially mastered
  • (3) Fully mastered

It was a long list, not just the five subject report cards schools do. For example, if we had worked on ten skills in math, each one was on the list with its own number. To satisfy the school district evaluation system, I added percentages to those numbers at the top of each evaluation sheet in a “key,” just to identify a range they could relate to : (1) 0 to 49%, (2) 50% – 89%, (3) 90% to 100%. No actual percentage was attached to the individual skills, only the numbers 1, 2 or 3. My children were allowed to fully master a subject before moving on. 

“Grades” and Motivation

Do you see how that changes the perception of “grades?” You can tell your child that number 2 is when you’re working on understanding and mastering the concept or skill. When you get to number 3, you’ve got it and we can move on! There is nothing in this system that says failure.  The message it gives your child is he or she has to keep going until the skill is mastered. It also tells him he is able. Nowhere is the label “C” student, or “B” student, or even the superior title of “A” student attached to his identity. Instead he is learning that if he works hard, he can do it!

Children who believe they are able are naturally motivated! Success breeds success! 

I’m curious to know what strategies you use? 

About Christiane Marshall (35 Posts)

Christiane homeschooled from elementary to high school. She holds a Masters of Education in Curriculum & Instruction, and a Master's of Education in Special Education. She has taught in classrooms and tutored for more than 15 years -- and has an addiction to learning about new developments in brain research. For more information be sure to visit her site.

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