Monday, March 1, 2010

When should you give homeschool grades?

Today's Blog Cruise question is, "Do you give grades?"

In short, yes...but only when it makes sense.

In our early years of homeschooling, I never gave grades. It simply didn't make sense. Grades are a measurement of how a student is doing with his or her work. I knew exactly how my student was doing. Since I live in a state that has no reporting requirements, there was no reason for a grade assessment for the elementary school years. Furthermore, if they weren't doing well, my kids did the work over again until they achieved mastery of the subject. Did this mean that they got an A on everything? Grades early on made as much sense as holding a parent-teacher conference with myself.

There comes a point, however, where grades start to make sense and have a purpose.

Grades as a Gauge, But Not a Record

I don't often give quizzes or tests for work that is done under my direction. I occasionally do give a grade value, not for record keeping, but as a learning tool. Now that my oldest understands a grading system, I do sometimes tell her what grade she would get if she were in school and had a teacher that only had her work on the paper to assess her knowledge. Sure, I understand that every single math problem that was incorrect was a silly error and that my child may actually understand an "A's worth" of material. But, a teacher with many students can only evaluate what is on the paper based on the percent correct. I will sometimes give my student a paper back with the percent correct calculated and the corresponding grade. I still make them rework the material until correct, but this gives them an idea of what grade they would get on the material first time around in a different environment. I don't record these grades, they are simply used as quantitative feedback for my student.

Preparation for the Future

As my kids get older, I wanted to them to understand the concept of grades and outside evaluation. As a result, I put my daughter in an online graded class when she reached 5th grade. I wanted her to get a feel for being on someone else's schedule and criteria, including evaluation based on tests. Since then, we've continued some sort of outside class every year. For the last two years she's had two outside graded classes. Next year, she'll likely have three. My youngest will start with the online graded classes a bit later, but he will have them before high school. I think it is important that students experience this in middle school or earlier, when not doing well under the system is met with fewer consequences.

In college, you can't take tests over and over until you learn the material. You get one shot and that is it. Showing what you know is a skill to be learned. In my homeschool, receiving outside grades is more for preparation of the system in college than it is for assessment. An added bonus is that I have documentation of grades given by someone outside of our family.

Grades in High School

I personally think it is important to have at least some sort of outside class where someone other than the parent is giving a grade. But what about Mommy grades?

Once a child starts hitting high school material, regardless of age, I pay close attention and keep enough records to give a grade for that particular work to include on a transcript, if needed. At high school age, I will be giving a grade on all course-work each year. It is simply a necessary step if you have a college-bound student; you must translate your student's high school career onto one-page transcript in a language (grades) someone else can understand.

Here is the thing about Mommy grades, though - I've been told they simply don't hold a lot of weight with college admissions. Yet, they need to have them in order to give a GPA. The criteria for what grade to give is going to have to be determined. It doesn't necessarily have to be based only on tests, but grades given do need to be earned and a fair assessment of what your child has learned.

I was recently told that 2/3 of a decision in college acceptance for homeschoolers is based on standardized test scores. Whatever grade you give, it should be in line with standardized test scores or the grades given will be heavily questioned and hold even less weight. Grades are only part of the picture, but you can't necessarily leave that part blank. I do know one mom whose son had many outside grades available and she simply listed any work done under her supervision as "to mastery", using only outside course work for a GPA. Under most circumstances, however, Mommy grades are a necessary part of the college application process for homeschoolers.

While grades don't make sense to me in early grades and I try not to make them a focus of our homeschool, there is a time and place for them.


TOSHeidi said...

You always have such intelligent answers to these questions!

Debbie said...

Great Explanation of Grading and the how and why.

Fellow TOS Mate

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