Grading: A Zero-Autonomy Quick Fix

After reviewing my NTPRS 2018 presentation with someone earlier today, I stumbled upon a way to demystify the concept while also providing an option for immediate implementation without ANY changes to those pesky school-mandated, unchangeable grading categories (if you’re in that unlucky situation). In each grading category:

  1. Create assignments that do NOT count towards the final grade (usually a check box)
  2. Create ONLY ONE assignment that DOES count towards the final grade
  3. Use a—ANY—holistic rubric to arrive at that grading category grade

This achieves the same result from the 0% “digital portfolio” category—the thing I’ve been telling people about for a few years—used when you have more autonomy over the gradebook; all of the assignments in each category (which have no impact because they’re not included in the final grade) are used as evidence to arrive at that final number. Now, you can apply the concept no matter how crazy restricted your grading system seems!

Oh, and someone asked what to do if learners don’t self-assess for a few weeks, and DAPS (Department Leaders, Admin, Parents, Students) get nervous there’s no grade (because all those assignments in the gradebook aren’t counting except the one you created for the rubric, right?). Just do what everyone else does in the annoyingly pointless 100-point scale system by assuming an A (e.g. starting Math class with a grade of 100, not 0 like if we had RPG experience points), starting the year off by giving every learner that 95, and then lowering it—maybe—once they self-assess weeks into the school year.

So, here’s an updated rubric, shown below, to use if you have a ton of grading categories, but don’t want to overload learners with that self-assessment part, giving them like 10 sheets to fill out. In this example, there are 4 grading categories (the criteria of which all taken from the Input Expectations rubric, and older Proficiency rubrics), corresponding to common categories, such as Formative Assessment, Participation, Homework, Summative Assessment, though you could add more if you had to (just make new rows and smaller font).

New Rubric

9 thoughts on “Grading: A Zero-Autonomy Quick Fix

  1. Pingback: Grading & Reporting Schemes | Magister P.

  2. Hey Lance – thank you so much for sharing this. You may want to reword the F portion.

    Last year I used your philosophy of weighting everything 0 except for the mid-term and final. I think it worked well proficiency-wise, but this year I really want to grade kids on – what do we want to call it – behavior, participation, classroom listening skills. I really see that people process at different speeds and would rather grade them on their – yes, classroom behavior, if they are doing what they can to acquire and not interrupt others acquiring – and their proficiency should line up with their attention to acquisition combined with processing speed, right?

    So do you think we should really include the last line of each grade rubric which grades their comprehension, since some kids are slower to it? Or do you think in a certain amount of time everyone should pretty much be able to get to the same place, proficiency-wise?

    Gracias! Laura Beaufort, SC


  3. Thanks for the explanation Lance. I can use the Input Expectations rubric.

    Being lazy here, but do you have a letter you send home explaining your grading system?

      • You are awesome! Thank you for all you do for language teachers. I love your streamlining approach to everything. It feels right.

        Having blogs such as yours (and the others you have listed) to study has allowed me to be the kind of teacher I want to be and to love my job – not to be overly dramatic or anything. Beginning of year adrenaline…

      • Sí señor! I have been a disciple of yours and all the bloggers in your margin since the end of my first year teaching (Realidades I) and my students freaked when I asked them to read Pobre Ana. They couldn;t do it. That spring I happened upon an article by Krashen in the Washington Post. I went immediately to a Blaine Ray seminar and never turned back. It has been six years and so fun following the developments in our field and the generosity of all the gurus.

        I am a particular fan of the minimal planning, minimal grading philosophy that you and many others embrace. It really leaves me room in my brain to just be with the kids and communicate.

        Will be waiting for your syllabus update – school starts Monday!! Best wishes for a great year…Laura in SC

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