This grading system is the result of my experience combining common weighted grading categories (e.g. Homework, Unit Tests, Quizzes, etc.) with Standards Based Grading (SBG), and a Classroom Management (adaptation of Robert Patrick’s D.E.A.). Despite overall positive outcomes, the combination had its drawbacks. Besides, the longer I teach, 1) the less explicit instruction I give, and 2) the more streamlined/simple my practices become. From what I’ve learned from veteran teachers, this is a normal progression for a teacher, but I seem to have skipped about 10 years of trial and error. This new grading system is extremely easy to use as a teacher and extremely clear to understand as a student.
There are only two; Proficiency (90% according to THIS scheme), and DEA (10% according to THIS scheme). See this post for more variations of grading weights. Proficiency is a Standard of attaining levels of communication according to ACTFL’s Proficiency Guidelines. DEA is comprised of habits and routines that make language acquisition possible in the classroom. For Proficiency, I began using Martina Bex’s Proficiency Targets, since she did an incredible job of distilling all that ACTFL info into measurable features of each level. My adaptation focuses on just two proficiency levels per course, and anticipates that a few students will exceed the course goal and reach a third proficiency level. Here’s a screenshot of Novice Mid. Note that meeting the goal is a grade of 85, and a perfect DEA score of 100 adds 10 points to the overall grade. Thus, it’s very reasonable to earn a 95 (A) for meeting the goal; exceeding the goal earns the overall grade of 100 (A+).
– Here are all of my Proficiency Goals.
– DEA is pretty straight forward; you can read about what works in my classroom here.
Set a realistic Proficiency goal for each course (e.g. Novice Mid for Latin I, Novice High for Latin II and III, and Intermediate Low for Latin IV, etc.). Note that ACTFL (chart on p. 13) expects students beginning a language in high school to remain at the Novice level for about two years. You can use a number of assessments (even just class observations) to arrive at a proficiency level, and update each student’s Proficiency grade throughout the quarter. When you create the Proficiency assignment in the gradebook, be sure that the highest grade possible is 90, not 100. For DEA, create the assignment and start each student with a 100, and enter violations daily. My students can earn 5 DEA points back by coming in for a 5min conversation in Latin. They can also reassess their Proficiency grade if they think and/or can prove they are at a higher level. Most don’t bother to reassess, but students, parents, and admin love the concept of reassessment. It’s a safety net.
Update 11.9.15 A common question I’m asked is what to DO once this is all set up. It’s really quite simple; collect assignments and assessments, put them into a physical folder (and add scores to that 3rd 0% weight Portfolio category), and when you see something that’s a solid example of improved Proficiency, update the student’s grade.
The best way to use this grading system would be to manually change the final end-of-year grade to reflect the student’s current Proficiency level. You must check school policies before doing so. I would even be prepared to make a case about how in a proficiency system since students might take the entire year to show mastery, so we should not be penalizing them for lower grades earlier in the year. Also, have your school’s mission statement handy…there’s likely nothing about grades in there, which should give you some leverage. It all makes perfect sense, but a lot of what goes on in schools doesn’t make sense. Still, this is a more forgiving grading system than most even if you must average grades from each quarter (like every school I know of).
“Not everything that can be counted counts…”
Having only two grades in the gradebook once per quarter is unacceptable in most secondary schools. You need to report more scores. So go ahead, give some quick quizzes (e.g. 4 true/false questions about the day’s class, etc.), or even a 100 point Unit Test. Then, create a third Portfolio grading category, and enter the scores so kids and parents can get a sense of “accuracy” and “consistency” (stop, however, and recognize that language students aren’t expected to BEGIN to be accurate/consistent until the third year – Intermediate level). These reported scores won’t be calculated into the quarter grade since you haven’t assigned the category a weight (see below). You can even exempt the scores if you like. In fact, even if you don’t use this new grading system, remember that you can report scores on a number of assessments, but exempt most of them and only use a few to calculate the grade.
Here’s what the gradebook looks like, but be sure to follow school/district procedures for setting up Year, Semesters/Terms (e.g. Yearly calculation of categories, not total points, or adding midterm/final grades, etc.):
Click here to see what this looks like in Canvas LMS
Impact on Grade
Here are a few grading scenarios to illustrate how this system affects a range of student proficiency levels:
Student A meets Novice Mid proficiency, which I’ve set as a realistic goal for Latin I. This student is very active in class with no DEA violations. Sure, she got 3/4 on the first Quick Quiz, and had a 92 on a Unit Test, but we’re not really concerned with any single assessment on one day affecting proficiency. Meeting the goal of Novice Mid is a grade of 85, the perfect DEA score adds 10, which means her overall grade in the class right now is 95.
This student meets Novice Mid, but is less consistent as seen by the reported scores, and hasn’t come in for any conversations in Latin to make up the lost DEA points. You should know that “being prepared” is part of DEA under which completed homework could fall. Student B rarely does homework, but still has a decent proficiency. Meeting the goal is a grade of 85, and DEA is 75 (=+7.5), which means his overall grade in the class right now is 92.5, rounded up to 93. If Homework was a separate category (~15% of the overall grade like most schools), Student B would be bombing that category. His proficiency is right on target which means he actually doesn’t have to be doing that homework. We all know a student whose grade/GPA is negatively affected by refusing to do assigned work. Although this begs an inquiry into the nature of assigned work, remember that if you must give homework, absorbing it in the DEA grading category helps, never hurts, all students.
This student is a true Novice Low. Since the goal for Latin I is Novice Mid, Student C has a Proficiency of 65. Her grades on the reported scores are inconsistent, and she has trouble engaging in language acquisition (perhaps constantly speaking in English to those nearby). Her overall grade in the class right now is a 71 (65 + 6 DEA).
Student D is unable to show Novice Low proficiency all the time, which means he has a 55 (the goal is Novice Mid). His ability to engage in language acquisition is even lower than Student C, and has a DEA grade of 55 (=5.5). Although daily quick quizzes were OK, a low Unit Test grade shows that this student has some trouble retaining over time. Note how low test scores from more students would otherwise indicate that YOU, the expert, did not deliver enough repetitions of the tested language in NEW contexts. Student D’s overall grade in the class right now is a 61 (55 + 6 DEA).
This is a rare scenario, but might occur. The only difference between this student and Student D is that Student F is putting quite a bit of effort into acquiring Latin. His DEA grade is a perfect score, just like Student A who has an overall grade of 95, but since this Student F inconsistently shows signs of Novice Low proficiency (below the goal), his grade is a 55. Overall, he has a 65 in the class right now. The reason this is rare, is because the Daily Engagement Agreements allow for optimal conditions in which to acquire language in the classroom. Repeat, in the classroom. That is, very few students have a high DEA grade and low Proficiency. It’s possible that Student F is going through some stuff at home or at school. Call home, and talk to this kid. He also might need accommodations. A simple solution is to lower the course goal for him from Novice Mid to Novice Low. He is still getting a Latin experience, and you are certainly not teaching with a one-size-fits-all approach…there is nothing wrong with any of that.
– Use Proficiency Goals, and DEA.
– Assign a Proficiency Goal per course.
– Setup gradebook term category weights (Proficiency = 90%, and DEA = 10%)
– Create a DEA and Proficiency assignment (remember, Proficiency’s highest grade possible is 90, not 100) with due date as end of marking term.
– Update DEA and Proficiency grades with any changes.
– Create and report additional as needed (Portfolio category worth 0% of grade).
– Spend your time practicing CI Strategies, understanding what interests your students, delivering compelling spoken and written messages, and not grading countless assessments.
– Update 9.3.15 If you’re not ready for this complete grading overhaul, read about using the Proficiency Goals independently
– Update 1.28.16 DEA is now 50% in my 7th grade Exploratory language classes. You can read about that here
– Update 8.10.16 Many different variations have been collected over time. Find one that suits your needs, or contact me so we can brainstorm and I can add one to the list.