**Update 4.11.16** See this post for some Grading & Reporting Schemes
If you’re one of the “lucky” teachers who has those classically typical, or absurdly unexpected grading restrictions, I don’t envy you! Nonetheless, the key is to find the wiggle room within these restrictions, and focus on delivering understandable messages in the target language (= Comprehensible Input, CI).
2 Grades Per Week
This one’s easy, and it uses a gradebook tactic I like to call “zero-weight.” It’s when you create a grading category that counts for 0% of a student’s grade. This grading category is a “container” that holds scores. Scores from what? Anything. Anything you ever used to assign grades for (that would eventually be averaged) now go into a place everyone can see, but has no effect on a student’s overall grade. DAPS (Department, Admin, Parents, Students) should be fine with this because the scores indicate that something’s going on in your class, and take care of the “how’s so-and-so doing?” What if you have to follow department grading categories?
Department/School-Mandated Grading Categories
This one’s not so easy. Does this look familiar?
Homework – 10%
Participation – 25%
Quizzes – 25%
Tests – 40%
Sure it looks familiar, but there’s no sense to it. When I questioned a category setup like this at one of my schools, the rationale was that “various grading categories provide multiple opportunities to succeed.” OK, but they also provide multiple ways for students to fail, especially when the higher percentage categories usually contain only one or two grades (e.g. that “summative” test added just before the term ends because you realize there was only one other test because of Spirit Week disruptions to your schedule, etc.). They also turn students into hyper-aware amateur mathematicians who find out that they can still get an A or B by not doing any homework, etc.
I contend that “multiple opportunities to succeed” should be provided every day in class, regardless of grading categories. If one student is a clever artist, I should accept their work as evidence of understanding without requiring the rest of the class to draw me pictures. The quiet student who’s picking up the target language should be able to prove their proficiency during a Fluency Write without having to speak to me in complete sentences. Yes, this is a Participation requirement in some language departments. The point here is that language acquisition is too complex to be explicitly taught and tested.
When a department follows the status quo and establishes a grading system requiring specific evidence from multiple categories, that’s when teachers get caught up in creating many different assessments. These assessments take up too much class time, and likely end up promoting the explicit learning about a language instead of the communication and acquisition of it.
The fix for this one requires much discussion and tact in order to create that wiggle room. Try opening the channels of communication by stating that different assessments do not improve acquisition. That is, they don’t ensure any improvement just because they’re there. Once that’s out of the way, your department might be open to ditching the traditional grading category model.
Here’s a post on how to rename some categories while still allotting as much to Proficiency as possible.