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.


1,106 thoughts on “Step 3 A: Traditional Grading

  1. Lina Akleh says:

    The video and the first workshop I attended showed me an example of grading a test using traditional grading and grading scale of 4,3,2,1,0. I was able to see that the student I graded using the traditional grading scored 65/100, which is a D. Traditional grading doesn’t allow student to see their growth. But when I used a rubric that used 4-points scale the same student scored 2.5, which was the C spot in the traditional grading scale. 4-points scale is really very beneficial for students because it demonstrate growth, shows students that they can grow, they can make mistakes, its not bad to make mistakes and learn from your mistakes, it teaches students that they can do better and take risks in the future.

    I liked the example when he showed that student 1 and 4 started with low scores but end up with high scores and on the other hand students 2, 5 started with high scores and end up with low scores. But as a result of average grading all four students end up with the SAME grade.

    Averaging grades is unfair and subjective. An A student in one class/ school is not equivalent to an A student at another class/school. The A or F doesn’t reflect the learning knowledge.

    In the article It’s Time to Stop Averaging Grades, the author has very valid point of why we need as teachers to stop averaging!! The major element (student) of the experiment is a human being and the factors affecting this element (student) are variables and non predictable. the author said, “One of the reasons we developed averaging in statistics was to limit the influence of any one
    sample error on experimental design. Let’s see how that works in the classroom.
    Consider a student taking a test on a particular topic and in a particular format. The student
    ate breakfast, or he did not. He slept well, or he did not. His parents are divorcing, or they are
    not. He has a girlfriend, or he does not. He studied for this test, or he did not. He is competing in
    a high-stakes drama/music/sports competition later this afternoon, or he is not. Whatever the
    combination, all these factors conspire to create this student’s specfic performance on this test
    on this day at this time of day.”


  2. Shane Riddle says:

    As a high school Algebra 1 teacher, I see a lot of students fail and not care about improving. The articles and videos have made me rethink even more my grading systems. Students are willing to work for points for homework or classwork, but they’re only working for points to off set a poor test grade. Weighting tests higher (or 100%) of grade is a system I’m strongly leaning towards implementing in my class. With opportunities for retests, students can strive for growth instead of points to give a false sense of success.


  3. N Strickland says:

    “No research supports the idea that low grades prompt students to try harder. More often, low grades prompt students to withdraw from learning. To protect their self-images, many students regard the low grade as irrelevant or meaningless. Others may blame themselves for the low grade but feel helpless to improve.” This resonated with me because I don’t believe that kids don’t care about their grades. In fact, I believe that they care so much, that they label themselves based on that grade. How can a gradebook that we’re required to keep and share reflect what a student actually learns and how they grow?


  4. Joshara Fletcher says:

    Averaging implies credibility and objectivity but it is subjective in its cut-off points. For example what is the difference in levels of mastery between a student who gets a 89% and a student who received 90%, yet as the article ¨It Time to Stop Averaging,”states, ẗhe first is an A and the second is a B. I agree that academic grades should really be tied to the studentś current levels of achievement and not where they started or any bumps they encountered along the road.


  5. K. Navarrete says:

    It’s Time to Stop Averaging Grades

    “I was hiding behind one-tenth of a percentage point. I should have interviewed the student intensely about what he had learned that grading period and made an executive decision about his grade based on the evidence of learning he presented in that moment.”

    This resonates because the student asked the teacher to round up in order to maintain his A average in all classes. The difference was a tenth of a percentage that may have been influenced by inconsistency in grading or barriers out of the students control. Sometimes it is easier to go with what the gradebook says, instead of having the student demonstrate earning the difference in grade.


  6. Poly Peralta says:

    The video brings up a lot of ideas that I have been working with over the last couple of years. Point values of questions, what about growth, and helping my student understand what the exam is showing strength/weakness are making me change my teaching and planning time. I have let students drop one exam score/assignment to help show their grade and not having one bad score destroy their overall grade.


  7. C. Mirzoyan says:

    Guskey notes that percentage grading scales make little sense. When the minimum passing grade is set at 60, 60 levels of failure are identified and only 40 levels of success. Grades are more meaningful and reliable when the integer grading system is used.


  8. Paytsar Sasunyan says:

    I never really thought about the impact that getting a failing grade on an assignment after completing 59% of the work correctly might have on a student. As noted in the article, “Nearly 2/3 of the percentage grading scale describes levels of failure! What message does that communicate to students”. No wonder some of them stop trying after awhile!


  9. F. Montes says:

    “Today, schools can choose from more than 50 electronic grading software programs. Because these programs are developed primarily by computer technicians and software engineers rather than educators, they incorporate scales that appeal to technicians—specifically, percentages.”

    Although this seems obvious, understanding that grading programs that have made my grading life easier, really has made students’ grades less fair, is shocking for me to read and really connect with. As an educator, when I want to learn more about teaching, learning, or another facet of education I reach out to other educators, the expert in the field. So why have I been relying on non educators to help me with grading? I have previously used Engrade, and currently Schoology, which have both allowed me to stray away from the 100 point scale and use a Mastery Grading ideology. I’m excited that Schoology now is fully connected to the new standards and grade and assignments can be directly connected with those standards.


  10. Ryan Pool says:

    The video noted that looking at student improvement through out the course of the year. I believe that this is an important consideration. When my students come to me initially, there skills in writing for example may not be where they need to be, but over the course of the year I can continue to see improvement in writing. I struggle in these situations to think that a students grade should reflect an average of all grades, rather than where the student is at the end.


  11. “Assigning fair and meaningful grades to students will continue to challenge teachers.”
    I share the sentiment that this class needs to be a part of teacher formal preparation. The averaging of grades supports the philosophy of a “cookie-cutter” educational system in which standing out as excellent in one area but not being proficient in all areas impacts the students’ self-concept and self-esteem. Sometimes my students realize that a class they are failing is an area they have really grown in but I feel that would be so much easier without averaging grades. In all of these videos and articles, I was the most impressed by the table and discussion on rewarding growth instead of averaging everyone into a “C”. Sometimes a student strong in language may fail to improve his/her communication because of the system that rewards them with a great grade on test one so later on when the material is in their “zone” of cognitive growth the student doesn’t confront the struggle to learn by saying, “I already have a “C”.


  12. Poly Gabriela says:

    We need to stop averaging grades! If we average a single zero in a students grade the effect on the overall students grade is devastating. It really doesn’t matter how many good grades the student earns .Plus this does not inform a student of what needs to be done to improve. The history of giving grades was very informative.


  13. This is all great information I wish I had sooner. What stands out to me is that it is very easy for a teacher to fall into a comfort zone with grading. I feel that at least some of us may have picked up these habits for grading because we learned in this type of environment. Career and Technical Education courses do differ from academic courses in grading because we attempt to certify that a student can perform real job related tasks. We still tend to use the same grading system as academic courses do so we easily fall into the grading and use of zero trap.


  14. Miriam A Gonzalez says:

    Thinking of averaging grades can be morally devastating for a struggling student. Many instances they do not know how they can improve, or if there are other opportunities to complete the material that they are missing. Traditional grading does not account for the growth of an child. Many students that already not motivated to complete or do any work at all might feel helpless, or they can show lack of motivation of even attempt to learn the material or they copy from others in order to pull those grades.


  15. Alexandra Hohmann says:

    Because I am a nerd, I found “The Case Against Percentage Grades” fascinating. I was unaware of the history of giving school grades in America. I found it interesting how the 100 percent scale came into being, around the time that education was moving away from one room school houses to secondary schools teaching multiple subjects. Another point is that schools have maintained this grading system, likely because of the invention of electronic gradebooks. The author states, “Because these programs are developed primarily by computer technicians…rather than educators, they incorporate scales that appeal…specifically, percentages.” I love XKCD (the web comic) and the cartoon is a succinct summary of this section.


  16. Matthew Lee says:

    The content of the cartoon resonated with me the most because of how blatantly obvious it makes the issue at hand. Traditional grading tries to apply a “one-size-fits-all” method of determining a student’s final grade to all students in a class. Of course, however, no two students are the same and every student learns in different ways and at different speeds, so it should be unthinkable to grade every student in the exact same way at the exact same time and expect accurate results. In the cartoon, the average star rating was a 4/5, indicating an average score of 80%. However, none of the reviews actually gave the app a 4/5 rating. Most reviewers gave it 5/5 and one gave it 1/5. This highlights the issue with traditional grading caused by averaging – if a student has an off-day and does poorly on a single exam, such as the final exam, it can heavily influence their overall grade disproportionately to how well they are doing in every other aspect of the class. The text by the cartoon also highlights another issue with averaging – a student’s grade is solely determined by the scores that they get on an assignment, but does not factor in an actual understanding of the content/material being taught. Let’s be honest here – students cheat: they copy assignments from others, look up the answers, and do whatever else is deemed “necessary” to get as many points on an assignment, but not to actually learn and understand the material on the assignment, and can end up with a much higher grade than what they actually deserve in the class.


  17. Hugo Sandoval says:

    “And distinguishing 60 different levels of failure is hardly helpful.” This quote from the article “The case against percentage grades” is the idea that we are not allowing students to receive a passing grade. This is challenging for our students, we must have a grading scale that is proportional to letter grades.


  18. Nicole Niederdeppe says:

    The “traditional” grading practice of the 0-100 scale is really not as traditional nor scientifically accurate as we think. With the advent of online grade books and spreadsheet tools, it was simply an easy way to issue many students grades quickly. Unfortunately, these grades do not accurately tell us (teacher or student) what the student has mastered, which parts of a task they have not mastered, or what the student needs to do to be successful on the task. They are not motivating to the student to improve and rather feel punitive. As Gruskey’s “The Case Against Percentage Grades” points out, “Many educators assume that because the percentage grading scale has 100 classification levels—or categories—it is more precise than a scale with just a few levels (such as Excellent, Average, and Poor). But in the absence of a truly accurate measuring device, adding more gradations to the measurement scale offers only the illusion of precision.” Thus we feel as a teacher that we have accurately assessed the student (e.g. 84%), we are really not saying much– does the student really know exactly 84% of the material? If so, which 84%? Where is the other 16%?
    Thus, the 100 point scale does not really tell us much.


  19. Kenneth Zubiate says:

    As educators, our real goal for our student’s education is to master as many of the standards as is possible rather than reward work habits without considering their progress. Using averages often frames student progress in this way and can lead to a distorted view of how a student is doing on a particular subject or standard. The article” It’s Time To Stop Averaging Grades” makes a great point in saying “We can’t make specific instructional decisions, provide descriptive feedback, or document progress without being criterion-referenced.” If we are going to improve our instruction, our student feedback should be aligned with the goals we want them to reach. If we were getting our student ready for factories, numbers production may mean a lot more. But if we are teaching our kids skills that can open up a wider net of opportunities, we need a clearer picture of what they can do and what they need more help with achieving.


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