Instead of letter grades, my students receive an abbreviation of one of the following terms on their assignments. Some are entered in the gradebook (summative), but others are not (formative). Formative assessments are given during the learning process and are a way for me and my students to see how they are progressing. Summative assessments at benchmark points in the learning process to see how well the material has been acquired. Most of the wordage and philosophy comes from Kelly Daugherty’s presentation that she shared with the TPRS group before school began last fall.

Advanced: I am confident and am reaching for the next level.

Proficient: I am confident with the material we’ve learned and can comfortably work with some new information.

Developing: I am comfortable with familiar and basic tasks and information, but struggle working with new or unfamiliar information and tasks.

Emerging: I am uncomfortable completing the task without help. If someone is there to talk me through it, I can be successful.

Beginning: I need help to understand how to accomplish the task.

My students have agreed that they much prefer the terminology to the letter grade, especially when they receive a “Beginning” (formally known as “F” for “Fail”). It communicates to them that the process has not ended with them as failures, but rather is just beginning and is hopeful.

19 replies on “How we talk about grades

  1. This is incredibly helpful for teachers moving towards a more proficiency/standards-based grading approach. You’re an excellent educator — it’s hard to say just how many of your ideas I’m stealing this year! 🙂

      1. Thank you so much! After 20 years of teaching, I have new fire with this TPRS approach! I find your site informative and motivating! That you so much for all your great ideas and links. I am in the processing of transforming my classroom to reflect my new TPRS approach, and that includes many of your fabulous posters! Smiles!

      2. Did you ever get a chance to add the subject pronoun posters? I know this is an old reply but thought I’d ask! 🙂

      3. Hola Martina,

        Yes, I have a new classroom and would still LOVE to have your wonderful subject pronoun posters!
        Let me know if this might be possible! Gracias!

  2. Just a quick question about grading… when you give a reading assessment, for example, how do you translate their performance to specific proficiency level. If it’s a 5 question assessment and they miss 2 are they automatically at the “Developing” level? Or does it depend on the question and their responses? That’s the part that seem a bit unclear as the language in the proficiency targets seems to lend itself more to speaking, writing and listening than reading. Thanks!

    1. Great question. It depends on the questions and their responses. I try to include a ‘challenge question’ on each assessment that requires students to apply knowledge that they should have acquired to a new context. If they can get that question right and all the other ones, then they get an Advanced. If they miss that question but answer correctly everything that they should definitely know, then Proficient. Developing if they seem to get all the main stuff but make a mistake or two that show that they have missed something that is somewhat important. It all comes down to strategic question writing! Learning about QAR and being mindful of it when writing questions has helped me a lot in that area.

  3. Hi Martina! Thanks for your suggestions here. At the end of a course how do you determine what letter grade to give to students based off of your information in your grade book? In an ideal world this proficiency based grading would rock but for high school transcript I need a grade for colleges. Thoughts? Thanks for all of your wisdom!

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