Keeping Homeschool Grades
Whether to collect and post grades in the homeschool is a reasonable question. And plenty of homeschool parents are asking it these days.
Whether you decide to keep grades in your homeschool depends almost entirely on you unless you live in a state that asks to see grades at the end of your school year. As long as you have some system of tracking progress that others can understand if they need to, you're probably all right. If you live in a state that requires portfolios and you submit examples of your student's work with smiley faces on them, then you may not need a percentage grade for the school district official to see that your child is learning.
Some states require that you keep your yearly grades on file. In this case, the law requires you to report some kind of final assessment. You may use the grading system or a detailed description of your child's progress. Your state homeschool association should know what's required and the best way to meet the requirements.
If grades make you feel better, use them. Because the point is to understand the material enough that the child gets the right answers, some families have a standing do-it-over rule: If the problem or answer is incorrect, talk about it and then the child does it once more.
Put the pros and cons on the scale. You never know. The concept of grading may seem unsavory in your mind, but grading may turn out a straight-A student.
- Grades give you a concrete measure.
- Grades tell you how much material the student actually mastered from the information you exposed him to.
- Grading every single scrap of paper becomes overwhelming.
- Grades assign a number to everything. How can you put a number on effort?
Grading your children
Grades give you good information if you correctly structure the test or quiz. If you create a quiz that covers subject material that even the dog could pass with flying colors, then all that your student's quiz paper tells you is that he knows as much, or perhaps more than, the dog. Quizzes like this pad a transcript and make the student look good on paper, but they tell you absolutely nothing. As the tutor who teaches this stuff to begin with, you should be able to glance over the quizzes and tests and get a good grasp of what your student does and doesn't know.
How can you tell if you're creating a good, sturdy test? Some dos and don'ts:
- Only ask for information that has been actually discussed or read. Asking about the engineering behind the Roman Coliseum when you didn't cover that topic isn't fair.
- Ask reasonable questions. Demanding to know the obscure person's name found on page 294 of the state history text does nothing but infuriate your child.
- Include important points about each section or chapter.
A good guideline, if you're the one creating the test, is to ask your student what you would want to remember after reading a chapter in the text. Then incorporate that information into a variety of question forms. Although simple quizzes can be all true/false or all multiple choices, a good test uses a smattering of both — plus a question or two that requires a written answer. Requiring older students to put their thoughts into words, rather than simply identifying the correct answer on a page, encourages them to actually think about the material covered. Elementary students may actually do better with oral tests that don't require writing the answers. Talking to the student about what she read or the project she completed and writing down her answers, gives you just as much information (and sometimes even more) without asking her to structure several paragraphs that outline her knowledge. Think of it as an essay in the air.
Some commercial textbooks come with review questions and tests that are deplorable from a testing standpoint. If you read through a test that comes with your textbooks and it makes no sense to you, feel free to skip it or modify it. (If you get your books from a particular school or satellite program that scores all your child's tests and you happen to disagree with the test wording, give your umbrella school a call and talk to them about it.)
Figuring the grade
Grades aren't impossible to figure out with a good calculator or sharp pencil, but plopping percentages onto papers does take a moment or two of concentration. If your student is beyond the smiley-or-frowny-face grading method, you probably need to incorporate percentages and letter grades into his life.
One way to figure grades is to keep a calculator handy. Divide the number of problems correct by the total number of problems, and you have a percentage. If your page has 14 problems and your student got 12 right, divide 12 by 14 to get a percentage correct of 86 percent. If your student always gets every problem correct, of course, then she consistently gets 100 percent at the top of her pages with no division necessary. Few of us, however, are fortunate enough to have this problem at our houses.
An easy way to keep grades (unless you have a computerized planner that does all the work for you) is to assign quizzes and tests worth a multiple of ten points: 10, 20, 30, and so on through 100. Then you can use the following grading scale:
- 90 points up to 100 points = A
- 80 points up to 89 points = B
- 70 points up to 79 points = C
- 60 points up to 69 points = D
- 59 points and below = uh oh
Using the ten-point plan and the percentage division together works something like this:
1. Your student takes a quiz worth 20 points. Either the quiz itself has twenty questions on it, each one worth a point apiece, or it has ten questions and each question carries a worth of two points.
2. She gets 18 of the 20 correct, which gives her 90 percent (a low A). To find the percentage, divide the total number of available points (in this case 20) into the number of points correct (18), which yields the percentage (90).
3. You enter that percentage as a 90 in your plan book next to Quiz Chapter Three or whatever you decide to call it. (This is your school.)
4. Through the semester, you continue to enter quiz and test results into your planner. You score and tabulate each quiz or test in exactly the same way.
5. At the end of the semester, you add up all the percentage scores (90, 70, 100, 85) and divide them by the number of quizzes and tests you offered. In this case, you'd divide the total by four. The result is your final grade for the semester. You take that percentage, which, in this example, happens to be 86.25, and plug it back into your grading scale. The percentage 86 falls between 80 and 90, so the semester grade is a B.
To make things fair, you may want to count each test score twice (also known as weighting the test) so that it actually counts more than your general quizzes. Otherwise, a student who blows a quiz or two yet aces the chapter test may be in trouble when he actually learned the material. Another option is to only construct tests and not use the periodic quiz checkup at all.