How to Evaluate Students Without Using Grades

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Although grades are a main area of concern throughout school, they aren’t the only way of measuring a student’s academic progress! Here are ideas to consider on how evaluate students without using grades.

1. Amount of improvement. When evaluating a student’s progress, we want to keep in mind where they’re coming from. Although a “passing grade” may seem like the minimum requirement, achieving this can be a huge accomplishment for many students – especially those struggling in challenging subject areas. If a student was failing a math class last semester but is now passing with a “C”, their improvement should be considered a sizable gain. Grades should always be evaluated in the context of an individual student’s achievements!

2. Speed of improvement. A student’s rate of improvement is also an extremely important factor. If a student’s class performance has drastically changed in a short time span, this should be considered in both positive and negative circumstances. A rapid improvement is often a great sign that something has finally “clicked” and the student has now gained a deeper understanding of the material. On the other hand, a sudden decrease in grades should be examined carefully, as there may be other factors at play besides academic skill. In these cases, it’s best to talk to your child’s teacher and/or doctor.

3. Level of effort. If a student is putting in a large amount of effort, their accomplishments should be noted even if a score isn’t as high as they’d hoped. For example – let’s say a student has been getting D’s and below on their history exams because memorizing dates is challenging for them. After making flashcards and studying every night for a week, the student gets a C+ on their next exam. This is a huge accomplishment, and we want students to recognize the fruits of their labor. This is what we’ve often referred to as a growth mindset – when students are able to see the direct results of their efforts, they are further motivated to keep working hard.

4. Participation in class. Class participation is a huge indicator of a student’s success. In many schools, students are given a separate grade for participation. Students that are more engaged in classroom activities are more likely to gain a deeper understanding of the material they are learning. Like putting in a decent effort, raising your hand to ask questions will also help your grades. Teachers will notice students that put extra effort towards class participation, and are likely to consider this when grades are due.

5. Attitude towards school. If a student has a positive attitude towards education and school in general, that’s always a good sign. Many students struggle simply because they dislike school – often due to repeated struggles and a feeling of hopelessness. When students start improving, they gain a more positive attitude towards academics and their own abilities. A student’s feelings about school is often a large indicator of their self-confidence, and we all want our kids to have a positive outlook towards their own academic success.

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