Alternatives to Traditional Grading Methods

MP900399577.JPGSometimes letter and number grades are not the most effective method of assessing student success. Here are some different ways to help measure if the students in your classroom are learning what is expected of them...

Checklists/ Rating Scales

Teachers develop checklists and rating scales that reflect the goals within the class subjects they teach and evaluate each student according to the mastery of the benchmarks; they may be marked as “not yet evident,” “beginning,” “developing,” and “independent.”  Terminology can be tailored to each individual class, teacher, etc.

Anecdotal/Descriptive and Portfolio Grading

Portfolios are a great way monitor and assess student growth.  Teachers write descriptive comments regarding the student’s skills, learning styles, effort, attitudes, growth, etc., as well as strategies to improve growth, or things that have been particularly helpful to the success of the student in a particular skill.  Portfolios can also serve as motivators for student effort, because both the student and the parent can physically see student progress. 

In the “real world,” most job performance is measured by observation, record review and progress monitoring.  The same can be said for the classroom.  Here’s a suggestion from a blog on Have a notebook that is designated just for anecdotal purposes; have a blank page for each child.  Always carry a clipboard with you, (or have a designated place on your desk), and have sticky notes with you.  When you see something noteworthy about a student, jot it down.  At the end of the day, place the notes on the student’s page in your notebook, or make notes on their page.  Make sure you also take time to discuss these with the student (and the parent at conference time).

Individual Learning Projects with Rubrics

Projects-based self-directed learning can encourage students to be motivated to analyze, assess, and reflect on their own personal successes.  Rubrics are a wonderful way to give teachers a more objective way to evaluate student performance, process and progress, not only on the final product.  When making rubrics, make sure they are specific; there are examples of premade rubrics on

Allow for Mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes; one bad grade does not often reflect accurately on a student’s typical performance.  Toss out the lowest quiz or homework grade; give 6 quizzes at 20 points each and only count the 5 highest; keep the best 9 of 10 homework assignments.  Most students will be less stressed knowing that one bad grade won’t affect their final average.

Multiple Grading

Consider grading in the areas of ability, effort, achievement, etc.  Include a listing of the three grades for each content area, or compute final grades on the “weight” you have put on each area.

Project Completion

For some students, just completing a large project is a major accomplishment.  Try giving two grades: one for the quality of work and one for how much of the project is completed.  Also, for projects that take a long time to complete, grading a project from its beginning stages can help to ensure that the student is on the right track; “staged grading” often helps motivate kids to produce a better end product.


Sources for the above information, and places to look for more ideas:

*For great information regarding grading students with special needs, check out; this research from U-W Platteville is very informative and helpful.