I have several favorite parts of Homeschooling for College Credit that find myself pulling from time and again! Each month I’m sharing those with you – I hope you enjoy today’s excerpt. It is from Chapter 7: Transcripts and Record Keeping
Awarding Letter Grades
Many families (including mine) don’t issue daily grades, fancy report cards, or calculate grade point averages (GPA) each semester. We simply “do school,” and I expect my teens to do their best, if not on the first attempt, at least on their second. Wrong answers are re-worked, poor essays re-written, and difficult lectures are re-watched. This approach is the hallmark of many homeschooling families.
Letter grades almost always make homeschooling parents uncomfortable, mainly because the methodology of calculating a grade runs counter to how many homeschools operate. It’s easy enough to calculate the number of vocabulary words missed or answers on a quiz, but calculating a course grade requires depth. If you plan to calculate a GPA for your teen’s transcript, and it is typical to do so, we’ll need to put your discomfort aside and assign course grades. I appreciate that a college admissions representative may assume we parents have “grade bias” toward our child, but the parents I meet almost always tend to grade much harder than a paid teacher.
Paid teachers, whether in high school or college, are required to construct a very precise rubric. They carefully assign points and percentages to activities (attendance, quizzes, essays, exams, etc.) and grade within that rubric. Parents, I’ve found, are pretty tough graders. I think it’s the nature of homeschooling to be a tough grader because we see our teen’s weaknesses in every subject up close and personal. I might grade my son’s essay, but I know he can do better, so I give him a B. On the other hand, my struggling writer just wrote a three paragraph paper for the first time in his life. It took him weeks, and I gave him an A for the effort I observed. That’s not how a paid teacher grades. Paid teachers grade a math problem right or wrong. An essay argues a point, or it doesn’t. In short, we are biased. So, rather than hide from this fact, we should embrace it. We should recognize that we see a lot more than a rubric. We also see the time invested to produce the work, we see the enthusiasm, we see character, we see laziness, and we see the potential. It’s possible to produce a well-written paper about a topic we are uninterested in. It’s also possible to love a subject deeply and still not measure up to what an “A” student may achieve. We can’t completely separate ourselves and be objective. So instead of being objective, try to do your best.
General Guidelines for Assigning Grades
1. If you’re going to use letter grades, use A, B, C, D, F not a home-made letter system. Don’t create a complex system of P= proficient, S= satisfactory, etc. Even if you use your own letter system at home, convert to a standard A–F scale for the transcript.
2. Minus and plus grades are fine, but they make calculating GPA twice as difficult. It’s a personal decision.
3. If you absolutely refuse to issue a grade, from which a GPA can be calculated, simply provide a pass/fail system on the transcript.
4. Stick to one method all 4 years of high school. If you start 9th-grade using letter grades, but decide later to go to a “pass/ fail” system, then go back and simply record all passing grades (A, B, C) as “pass” rather than having a mixed system on the transcript. Additionally, if you start out using pass/fail and switch to grades, try your best to convert the earlier grades into letter grades for ease of understanding and consistency.
5. Resist the urge to raise or lower their letter grade based solely on an AP, CLEP, or DSST score result. Remember that in public and private schools, AP scores are not part of the AP course grade.
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