The 100-point scale is unbalanced. This is a fact. It allots 60 points to failure and just 10 points between each other letter grade.
But there’s another problem with the scale. When teachers use it, they rarely make a true evaluation of student work, instead getting distracted by mathy math. Consider a common teacher practice of taking off points…
A teacher reviews student work and starts taking off points—for whatever—subtracts them from the total possible, then that product of division is the student’s grade (e.g., -2, -1, -2, on various items = -5 points out of 20 possible = 15/20, or grade of 75). “What’d you get?” “I got a 75.” That’s a typical, right? Well it sucks. All the teacher did was look at what was not correct, and the result of some math is what the student (and teacher, and admin, and anyone at home) are left with, a 75. Although we think we know what that number means in education, it conveys very little about what the student knows or can do, and even less about what the student can do to improve. It’s just a number without anything specific attached to it. From the teacher’s perspective, there’s actually no evaluation of something other than the student knowing or being able to do 75% of it, maybe. The teacher’s focus was on the item-level, only concerned with individual incorrect responses. That’s unhelpful.
Enter standards & simple 6-point scale (55, 65, 75, 85, 95, 100)!
Although I’ve now begun using the terms Standards-Based Experiences (SBE) or Standards-Based Assessment (SBA)—because grading is whole other thing—let’s reimagine the scenario above in terms of standards, which eliminates the need to take off points altogether…
Scenario 1 Reimagined
A teacher reviews student work to determine how they’ve met the standard. The result is a met/not met evaluation, and everyone knows where they stand.
That’s it! It really can be that simple. No points, just meeting the standard (grade of 95), or some level of not-yet-meeting the standard (e.g., mostly there = 85, not quite = 75, pretty far away = 65). The teacher reserves that 100 for exceptional whatever, and the bottom 55 for lowest level of whatever, or not providing evidence.
Want an upgrade?
Give the student the criteria (e.g., rubric), and have them self-assess & grade.
Want an super upgrade?
Don’t worry about grading specific assignments at all, instead planning standards-based experiences (SBE), like games and activities or even labs, and assessments (SBA), such as The Monitor Assessment, then have students self-assess & grade at the end of the grading term (and/or progress report time). That’s it.
Now go and focus on teaching and learning because you don’t have to worry about grading anymore.