Sunday, October 20, 2013

My Grade Book: Tracking Progress, Not Product

This year I am trying out a new way to set up my grade book. My goal is to better see the progress my students are having in the class, identify areas where they are being challenged and provide extensions when they are showing mastery.

My grade book last year looked something like this:

Formative Fractions:
Quiz Sept 15 (/12)
Formative Percentages:
Quiz Sept 30 (/15)
Test Oct 6 (/35)
Student X
7 = 58%

Knowledge: 2/3
Thinking: 1/3
Application: 2/3
Communication: 2/3
12 = 80%

Knowledge: 3/5
Thinking: 3/3
Application: 4/5
Communication: 2/2
29 = 82.5%

Knowledge: 13/15
Thinking: 6/7
Application: 5/8
Communication: 5/5
In Ontario, each of our assessments are broken into four learning categories; Knowledge, Thinking, Application and Communication (Achievement Charts). Even though with this method, I am able to see that my students greatest area of challenge is in the application area but I can not be specific with my feedback about what concepts, or steps they should take to improve. I can only be general or have to sit down and go through the assessment with them to identify how they could improve. I found that a week later, I would only know that I would need to help this student with their application questions, but I would have no background as to specific concepts, or past areas of concern to adjust my teaching methods. 

To help give a better picture of each student and their progress and growth, I looked to Standards Based Grading for support. My school does not grade using this method, but I thought that if I used it in my personal grade book, it would help provide more meaning to my grades and therefore impact my teaching. My school grade book still looks like the one above, but now my grade book for each unit will look like the following:

Diagnostic9abcd4b,7a,b8a8b7b53, 4a
1st AssessFormative1ab1c1d1b2
2nd assess
3rd assess
First NameLast NameAlgebra AwarenessAdd and subtract fractionsMultiply fractionsDivide fractionsConvert improper to mixed fractionsCreate equivalent fractionsOrder rational number
VG - formative
VG - formative
G - mixed challengeG - issue in boxes
VG - formative
StudentBGuess and checkVG
This was the first few columns and refer specifically to specific concepts. As you move further along in the grade book, it then shows results for applications of rational numbers from word problems etc. 

With a lot more lines, it looked more confusing and more work, but I feel it provides a deeper picture into each of my students. I have put more emphasis on the concepts, taken directly from the curriculum, and now break up my assessments into these rather than the other way around. I have also indicated what question on each assessment referred to each concept. This way I can also ensure that each concept will be assessed multiple times and that students have been given feedback. Now a story can now be told about each learner:

Student A:
  • From her diagnostic, Student A showed that she was comfortable with adding and subtracting fractions even when there was an improper fraction involved. However, she showed that she needed improvement in multiplying and dividing fractions as well as the rational number on a number line. Specific support was provided for these areas, and with the second assessment she has shown improvements. The student can be congratulated specifically on her improvement in each area.
Student B:
  • From the diagnostic it was aware that this student already had the skills in these areas. Throughout the following class activities, she was encouraged to challenge herself with Blue or Black level activities. In her following assessment she continued to show a very good understanding of the concept and she will be encouraged to explore these ideas further with individualized questions. 

For me, it helped to see if students were continuing to struggle on a specific concept and more direct instruction or support was necessary. Also, I am able to say to Student A:

 "I saw that you have made a great improvement in your dividing fractions. Thats great! What did you do to make those improvements?". 

By identifying their specific achievements, I hope that we can celebrate together, but also reflect on their process. How did they improve in this area? What strategies did they use? What resources? When a student sees that they are the ones that made that improvement, I am hoping I can refer back to it when they may come across a challenge in the future. Also it allows me to celebrate each student because each one will hopefully show a progress on one concept even if their overall result is not displaying this. 

If you have a way to break down your grade book into specific concepts that is working for you, please let me know. I am hoping to make changes throughout the year to something that communicates the learning process.


  1. Hi Ruth,

    We had a speaker in September that spoke about this and you might find his book useful. This is his website: . We have started the transition in my division and it is definitely a new approach. We are moving into the parental education component next.

    - Marcie

    1. Hi Marcie,

      Thanks for the website. I will see if I can get a copy of his book to look over. Do you know which one is the basis for your schools transition or are they all focusing on his general method. I would love to hear how your school and parents are transitioning with the new program.

      - Ruth

    2. Hi Ruth,

      We read 2012 -" Fifteen Fixes for Broken Grades: A Repair Kit" CANADIAN EDITION, Pearson, Toronto, Ontario as a whole faculty read this summer and he came to speak with us in September. There are many examples included in the book from Canadian schools that he has worked with. If you cannot get your hands on it, I can mail you my copy. Try the OCT Library for other resources as well - I have had good luck with that and they mail them to you with return shipping labels for free!

      - Marcie