Step 3 A: Traditional Grading

Read The Case Against Percentage Grades by Thomas Guskey, which provides some historical background on grading and discusses some problems with percentage grades.

Read It’s Time to Stop Averaging Grades by Rick Wormeli, which explores reasons why averaging grades is problematic.

Watch this short video and jot down notes collecting evidence or comments which resonate with you. (Note: if the video above does not load properly on this page, try using the link: )

Take a moment to answer the poll below.



In the comment section below, cite a piece of evidence from the above readings, video, or cartoon which resonated with you and elaborate on how or why it resonated with you.


1,415 thoughts on “Step 3 A: Traditional Grading

  1. San Fernando High - Mettlen says:

    The article stated, “Rather than argue about minimum grades or zeros, an easy solution to this dilemma is to do away with percentage grades and use an integer grading system of 0–4 instead. In such a system, improving from a failing grade to a passing grade means moving from 0 to 1, not from 0 to 60 or 65.” This really resonated with me because students don’t have such a huge hurdle to overcome as they do on the 100 points scale if they earn a 0. It gives our students a fair chance to overcome their mistakes.


  2. Andrea Smith says:

    One area that resonated with me was found in the article, “The Case Against Percentage Grades.” Near the end of the article the author spoke about a fair and meaningful grading scale. This would include thoughtful and informed decisions made by the teacher, including not only grades, but examination of the tasks, or standards given to the student to perform. Another area that resonated with me was from the other article called, “Time to Stop Averaging Grades.” It said students are not statistics. A teacher must support the work/social emotional life of the student.



    When I was initially trained on the 4, 3, 2, 1 Progress Report, we were told to leverage student grades against progress in meeting the standards in each domain. I believed that this was to be determined at the end of the grading period, so averaging scores never made sense.
    From a Growth Mindset perspective, improvement needs to be validated. We learn from our mistakes!


  4. I do all my work and I still don’t know anything is the comment that resonates with me, because it reminds me of many of my students that really are trying but not to learn, to get a grade. What I have found with these students is there attitude is totally focused on the grade and not on learning so when the end comes and they get the grade they wanted and strived for they forgot that the first purpose of the class is to learn how to do something or about something.


  5. Brie-anna Molina says:

    One reading that resonated with me was the case against percentage grades. When we use percentages for class grades, especially for classes that give homework, we can end up with students who get a “passing” percentage while having never passed a test or vice versa fail the class because they did not do the homework but they perform highly on the exams. Neither of these scenarios seems like an accurate or fair grade for the student. Even if one adjusts her class, as I have, to effectively eliminate homework and focus on in-class assignments and assessments, are those things assessing the same skills or in the same way? While I don’t and have never graded a single assignment on a percentage basis, I think it is important that the article points out how difficult/impossible it would be for a teacher to objectively identify 100 individual variations/delineations of a single assignment (especially without any kind of rubric or clear learning objective).


  6. Irineo Yanez says:

    The piece of evidence that resonated with me in the readings was from “The case against averaging grades”. Guskey made a great point in saying that a percentage scale identifies 60 or more levels of failure and only 40 of success. This means that two-thirds of the of the percentage scale describe failure. This makes sense because a four point system gives more opportunity for success.



    Comparing both articles, “It’s Time to Stop Averaging Grades” and “The Case Against Percentage Grades”, I found a few good key points. First, statistics can manipulate results and that is to say that it can be the deciding factor whether someone gets into the Ivy League of their choice or having to retake their GRE again. What I liked what Mr. Wormeli says in “It’s Time to Stop Averaging Grades” here is that teachers tend to hide behind the math, using it as the basis for determining test scores or even final grades. Many times, this greatly impacts the students negatively and can push them to stop taking risks or even trying altogether to work on their skills.

    In “The Case Against Percentage Grades” I was shocked to learn about the history behind what created these percentages. Grading wasn’t even an actual process of teaching until the late 19th century, and most teachers were able to talk about progress face-to-face with parents. I know this has to do with the growth in student population and education mandates, but to make the switch from talking about progress to handing a grade where you explain that 0-50% is an F and unless they got between 90-100% they get an A, can be jarring to parents and students alike. The fact that the percentages are skewed because it makes sense to computer techs and not teachers, should not be a factor in grading a student. Test results and even classwork points do not always show growth or learning. I know that I tend to informally assess students when I see them struggling with tests, and most of the time, they can explain the content to me. These ‘typical’ grading modes need to be revolutionized if we want to see change in our education system.


  8. Rasheda Young says:

    The article, “The Case Against Percentage Grades,” resonated with me because I was unaware of the history of grading in this country; to be honest, I never thought about it. I had no idea that percentage grading was a source of controversy at the turn of the twentieth century and was challenged, only for the method to return due to technology! I think that this should be taught to prospective teachers during their undergraduate studies so that incoming teachers have an idea as to what grading methods are effective or not, and why.


  9. Loyda Ramos says:

    Both articles resonated highly with me, there are so many problems with traditional grading practices.
    As Guskey mentioned in his article, Percentage grading has been around since the 1800’s. I agree with Wormeli’s argument that averaging grades is extremely subjective. One example that resonated with me was that one student, when averaged receives and A letter grade while the other student receives a B letter grade. For example, one student scores 89.5% which is rounded up to a 90% and yet the student that receives 89.4% will be rounded down to 89% by one tiny percentage point! There is a huge difference between the letter grade A and letter grade B in not only a student’s confidence, but also in their GPA.

    While I agree with both Guskey and Wormeli’s arguments, I may have to play devils advocate here.
    I feel that this grading practice has been around for so long! Dissolving the practice of percentage grading may be very difficult because it has been the norm for so long. Even if we were to change our grading practices to fit Mastery learning practices, our students may be set up for failure in the future. Here’s why, when they are ready to enter college, their colleges and even their professors will most likely use percentage grading. When they are ready to enter graduate school, the student with the percentage of 90 will be admitted into the program rather than the student with a percentage of 89.

    My concern is that while there are many problems with grading using a percentage scale and then averaging grades, our students will eventually run into this problematic grading practice when they enter the real world. What is the true solution? Goskey suggests a point scale system, yet I believe that we should somehow get our students used to both grading practices to have some balance in preparing them for the real world.


  10. Felipa Cepeda says:

    “I do all my homework. I participate in class. I organize my binder. I still don’t know anything.”
    We have been rewarding “good student behaviors” not student knowledge and performance. This puts me into a different frame of mind when thinking about grading students and considering those behaviors in a different way.


  11. M. Seestedt says:

    The Case Against Percentage Grades by Thomas Guskey speaks to the current grading system that many teachers use in their classrooms to evaluate student learning. Most teachers grade on the percentage grading scale. Guskey introduces the issues with using this grading scale.

    This video resonated with me because I have always had difficulty with using a percentage grading scale because I have always thought it was unfair and did not show me what my students were learning and it does not encourage our students to try to do better or challenge themselves.

    Guskey mentions many problems with traditional grading and these issues seem to foster fixed mindsets. One problem is that a student will, “learn mistakes are bad, so I avoid taking risks in the future, I seek out easy assignments, and I don’t challenge myself.” Therefore, students will not be willing to go above and beyond their comfort zone because they will be afraid to look like they aren’t smart.

    Another issue Guskey mentions is that students “can’t demonstrate growth.” So even if a students shows improvement any low scores they may have received can hold them back from getting a passing grade.

    These issues resonated with me and have influenced me to reflect on my grading in my classroom.


  12. laurenvaron says:

    There were many topics that resonated with me. In The Case Against Percentage Grades, I found it very interesting to read about evolution in the history of grading. In the 1800’s teachers used narrative reports describing skills students had mastered and those which needed more work. But with the growing number of students, teachers slowly shifted to using percentages in different subject areas. When research pointed out the subjectivity of percentage grading, teachers moved away from this grading. However, in the 1990’s online grading software has led to a resurgence of percentage grading. I hope that the research being presented to teachers now will lead to a shift away from percentage grades again. Rick Wormeli poses a great question, “Why don’t we choose our grading philosophy first, then find the technology to support it rather than sacrificing good grading practices because we can’t figure out a way to make the technology work?” While using technology to average grades can be convenient, the video points out a number of issues with traditional grading. One of the biggest issues I found was that percentage grades don’t show growth. I want to encourage my students to learn and growth throughout the year, not teach students that their grades from the beginning of the semester will hold them back.



    A few things resonated with me from the articles and the videos. I found the history of grading informative and interesting, and it gives me insight on how traditional grading came to be-and why to change it. I liked that initially teachers gave narrative reports based on the mastery of the skills and material and that parents were told what their kid needed to work on to become proficient–incredibly helpful information and truly gives a snapshot of ability at that time. Now, it is points and letter grades that are set arbitrarily on a 100 point scale and it really hit home with me that you cannot really say in any distinct way, the difference between 87 and 86 would be, and yet, we have that grading system. The video provides great points about how our current system does not challenge students or invite them to take risks in their learning-so devastating for potential advancements because mistakes are considered punishment and recovering from a bad grade is incredibly difficult. I think it is hard that traditional grading does not take into account the growth of the student over time and does not show what the student can do to improve.


  14. Rick G says:

    The video resonated with me.most because its grossly oversimplified logic merely show that a single assignment provides inadequate information for both the students the teacher. In the case of an essay, a letter grade alone without a rubric of scoring guide (marked appropriately) shows only a general idea of accomplishment it is the specific and detailed response that provides the needed information to improve. While the presenters attitude toward grading reflects his bia against percentage grading, he offers no solution.


  15. Jenny Burman says:

    “Always” is a problem. The video and articles hilights the monotony of our current grading practices. Over a hundred years ago, Starch and Elliott’s study identified how subjective grading can be. As educators we need to be able to reflect and refine. We have been grading the same way for too long. When Wormeli says, “The only reason our electronic gradebooks average grades is because someone declared it a policy,” He means we have not been thinking critically about grading. If we expect our students to become critical thinkers we must practice the same. In other words we’ve been jumping off this hyperbolical grading bridge because Teacher Johnny, and teacher Susy jumped off the bridge. We need to change the way we work to assess students because “always” is not good enough.


  16. Alexandra Castro says:

    The video resonated with me because I agree that traditional grading based on an averages is unfair for a student because it does not show growth. Traditional grading only compares a student to the total population in a specific grade with an specific test; for example a math chapter test, or a written narrative essay on a topic. The test is not repeated again to measure growth; another test is given on a different topic, or another chapter math test. A student learns at a very early age that grades or points are subjective and unfair. Students do not want to do more challenging assignments because of their fear of obtaining more lower/failing grades. On their other hand, if a low grade is given there is no opportunity for student to retake the test and improve on it, or re-write the paper again with constructive criticism to write a better paper. Teachers need to give more criteria of how students need to improve on a paper and have an opportunity to submit it again for a higher grade.Teachers sometimes reward or hamper students according to their predetermined percentage grades. If a student has a final grade of 93.34% and according to the teacher an A is 94%, the student asks for his grade to be rounded up and teacher does not granted it because of a .64 difference. It does a great damage to a student who is graduating, and missing out of an acceptance to a more prestigious university. If teachers only knew what is at stake, they would think twice about their traditional grading system.


  17. Jill Hagan says:

    Two specific points resonated with me. The first one that made me think was from the Case Against Percentage Grades by Thomas Guskey. He stated, “The result is a scale that identifies 60 or more distinct levels of failure and only 40 levels of success. In other words, nearly two-thirds of the percentage grading scale describes levels of failure! What message does that communicate to students?” It really did not make sense that there are 60 ways to fail, but only 40 to succeed. That reinforced the thought that it isn’t safe to make mistakes or try something new, which is NOT what we as teachers are going for. It’s better to try new things and possibly fail on something, than to just do what is safe for more points.

    In the video, he stated that one of the problems with traditional grading is that students become afraid to make mistakes and not to take chances. I agree with that. We need to make safe spaces for students to try new things and not play it safe. I’m still learning about mastery so I’ll be interested to see how the four-point system will work.


  18. Brenda Casanova says:

    Something that really resonated with me from the readings and video was that they all raised different issues around traditional grading. For example, in the first article the author stated that, “nearly two-thirds of the percentage grading scale describes levels of failure! What message does that communicate to students?”. This resonated with me because it made me think about the messages we are sending students through our grading practices. I think about how these practices might discourage students from trying again or from wanting to take risks. I liked how the video mentioned that some of our traditional grading practices might actually cause problems for our students because they might not know how to improve, demonstrate growth, take risks, learn to make mistakes, and they might feel that numbers and letter grades are subjective and unfair. This really made me realize that these traditional grading practices might perpetuate oppressive practices and contribute to a hostile learning environment for them because they are more afraid than encouraged to learn in the classroom. This made me think about ways in which I can holistically and meaningfully assess the work that my students are turning in as well. It also made me reevaluate the types of assignments that I want to assign this upcoming year.


  19. Noe Solares says:

    In the Case Against the Percentage Grades, Thomas Gusky explains how using the percentage formula in the attempt to assign accurate grades, not only are the grades not accurate but they are also unfair to the students. The main reason most teachers use the percentage is that of the use of computer grading programs that are designed to use percentages. Unfortunately, this practice has had an effect on students’ daily performance at school; they are motivated by how many points they are getting when they do a particular assignment. If they are not getting credit for the assignment, they don’t want to do it.


  20. Angelique McNiff says:

    The article “It’s Time to Stop Averaging Grades” discusses why obvious tituar issue: grade averaging. It mentions the myriad issues with averaging old scores and new ones, unfairly punishing students, and leading to a lack of growth. The statement, “The only reason our electronic gradebooks average grades is because someone declared it a policy—not because it was the educationally wise thing to do—so the district uses the technology that supports that decision. Why don’t we choose our grading philosophy first, then find the technology to support it rather than sacrificing good grading practices because we can’t figure out a way to make the technology work?” resonated with me as I took this class to not only learn more about Mastery Grading but to also reconcile Mastery Grading with Schoology LMS, which currently still averages grades in the Mastery Grading Setting. The systems still seems a failure at present incarnation and as school begins I wonder if what we are taught the 3rd session can overcome this in a manner that students and parents can understand. Colleagues who have attempted full Mastery Grading with Schoology LMS have found it burdomesome and confusing for parents and students. If we truly desire to make this change our mandatory LMS must work with us to do so.


  21. AmberK says:

    The idea of averaging does have an impact on your grading, especially if you have a fixed mindset. Often times, Student A may start off the year performing well but as the year progresses they start to improve their scores. Averaging does not show that improvement as everything is cumulative. Students begin to think that making mistakes in the beginning are bad and avoid taking risks so they seek out assignments that aren’t challenging. This is not developing a growth mindset. If a student is peforming low in the beginning and starts to show growth, the grades should reflect that.


  22. Sophia Kang says:

    The two articles, especially the one titled “It’s Time to Stop Averaging Grades” bring up important points about the subjectivity of using math and percentages in the classroom. To elaborate, some students receive an A in the class for receiving a 89.7 percentage (rounded up) while a student who falls short by .3 percentage points, rounded down, receives a B in the class. However, these types of calculations are unfair given that our students are not computers but students who are expected to show mastery of content. An idea suggested in one of the articles resonated with me–How about instead of hiding behind the shadows of math, test students on a case by case basis? The second article also mentions that teachers are often demanding students to demonstrate mastery at exactly the time the teacher demands. I like that the 1-4 integer point scale leaves less room for bias.


  23. Michael Dang says:

    Referencing the comic shown above, traditional grading simply does not provide an accurate portrayal of a student’s learning. It makes no sense as teachers to reproduce a practice that fails to honor and encourage student mindsets towards their own growth and education. With imbalanced percentages carrying a lot of weight, students that do not demonstrate understanding may receive an A because they conformed to a teacher’s expectations on work habits and cooperation. While these are important, they do not reflect a student’s actual academic understanding.


  24. S Duran says:

    I hear the same thing from my “good” students, I still don’t know much about the subject. The grade earned on an assignment based on a percentage scale that uses averages, may not reflect what the student is learning. Also, the percent scale does not inform the teacher on the specific progress a student is making in the class, or on the misconceptions.


  25. Sonya Kinsey says:

    The video resonated with me with the potential problems addressed, in the traditional grading system. As educators, we have to have a grading system that is fair and promotes accuracy.
    Students need the corrective feedback and various opportunities to show the growth/mastery in a subject, without learning that mistakes are bad, leading to not being a risk taker in the future.


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