Evaluation: How Grading & Record-Keeping Fit into the Picture
If you flip through your planner, you’ll see that you have evaluation space, but you also have spots – both in the weekly spreads and at the end of each semester – to record grades. So, how do grading and evaluation go together?
To Grade or Not to Grade
The first question you need to answer is whether or not you actually want to keep grades. On the one hand, grades are a very tangible way to keep track of how your student is doing on a day-to-day basis. That can be incredibly helpful when it comes time to do a six-week evaluation!
On the other hand, grades aren’t always the full picture. If your student has a bad day, they might not do well on a math lesson. But you know that they were really just not putting their all into the lesson because they could actually explain the concept in their sleep!
Other times, a student can get all the right answers, making a 100% on an assignment, but not at all understand why they did what they did or how it all connects to the concepts they’re supposed to be learning. In this case, that perfect grade is incredibly misleading.
Ultimately, daily interaction with your student is the key. When you pay attention to what is and is not understood and when you are aware of the impact of days when your student is really struggling, you will best be able to assess your student’s progress.
That being said, there are times when grades are necessary, no matter what your daily evaluation preferences are. If you live in a state that requires reporting, you will need to keep grades. And if you are teaching a high schooler, grades are necessary for building a transcript.
But for general evaluation of progress, grades are a tool of preference.
Combining Grades with Benchmarks and Evaluations
If you do decide to use grades, the Grade Logs at the end of each semester can be a helpful tool for recording weekly progress that you can then refer to when it’s time for six-week evaluations. If the grades are a solid and clear indication of how your child is progressing in each subject, simply enter the grades, then use those to get a big picture of overall progress as you fill out your Evaluation worksheet every six weeks.
If there are additional notes that need to be made, simply use the Progress & Accomplishments column on the Grade Log page to make those notes, making sure to date them so you know exactly which week they fit with. Another option is to make evaluation notes on the weekly spreads, then simply put a star or asterisk on the Grade Log to remind you to return to that week’s spread to review any comments you may have made. You can then consolidate these notes into an overarching assessment during each six-week evaluation.
The final consideration is less about grades and more about work samples. What do you keep? And for how long?
As with grading, this will be a combination of personal preference and state requirements. Your goal in record-keeping is two-fold: meet state requirements and record tangible progress from the beginning of the year to the end and from one year to the next.
Much of this can be accomplished simply by being diligent to complete your six-week evaluations! But, sometimes we do want to keep additional samples, just to have those examples that we can show to our children to help them see how far they’ve come.
Here are a few tips to help you know what to keep:
For handwriting, creative writing, projects, etc., keep representative samples from the beginning of the year and then every 6-9 weeks throughout the year. Use these to measure progress and for year-to-year comparison. As you get solidly into a new year, you may choose to simply keep one favorite from the year before.
Is there an art or science project that was fun but is too cumbersome to store? Consider taking pictures! You can either print the pictures and keep them in a folder or you can simply store them digitally on your computer or in the cloud. (Hint: This can work for the worksheet samples as well.)
If you do decide to keep physical copies of worksheets or projects, use a very defined storage space to keep you from saving too much. Choose a tub or a crate that matches the maximum amount of space you want to devote to record-keeping. When that space is full, go through and purge some of the things you’ve kept (or convert them to digital storage by taking pictures) to make room for the next round of records.
Ultimately, how you choose to evaluate and keep records is very much a matter of discovering how to best blend personal preference and state requirements. With a little experimentation and practice, you’ll discover what works best for you!
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