Not Including Classwork and Homework (Formative Assessment) in the Grade
Danny, middle school humanities teacher
“I stopped including students’ classwork performance in the grade. I let them know that we do classwork, and I expect them to do it, because it will help us practice and prepare for the test. They do it, I give them feedback, and that’s it. No one’s copying off each other, and I save myself lots of time that I used to spend entering every classwork assignment every day.
“I used to think classwork should be part of the grade. Now I don’t because when I think about classwork, it should be like a safe zone for students. Put yourself in that situation. Let’s say the classwork was learning how to cook lasagna, and I don’t know how to cook. The teacher’s giving me all these ingredients, and I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m not going to show mastery that day on an exit ticket. It’s going to take me time, it’s going to take me practice, practice, and more practice, but I’ll be able to cook it when the “test” comes. Classwork is a safezone for students to practice the material, so when it comes to actually testing them, they can do it.
Nick, high school science teacher
“I don’t include classwork or homework in the grade. I had a conversation with my students about it when I introduced it—about how classwork and homework are means to learning the materials which they will then demonstrate on the quiz and tests. Student reactions were very mixed at the beginning, but they admitted that they treat a lot of classes as a game, where you figure out what things you need to do to get a certain grade and you accumulate points by doing the right things. It’s much more straightforward in my class. We can get away from all those games and we can focus on learning. We can focus on improving your understanding of the material. When I said that exact thing in my sixth period class, one student blurted out, “I like this way of grading,” and I said, “Me too.” What surprised me is that it’s the students who always get A’s who were the most skeptical and resistant to the change, because they do all their homework and behave well in class, and do whatever the teacher says, and they rely on the behavior-type points to maintain their grades, and now I’m holding them accountable for what they know, not how much they do what I say.
Jillian, middle school math & science teacher
“I’ve significantly lowered the percentage of what homework is worth. Before homework was worth 25% and tests were worth 60%. Now homework is worth 5% and assessments are worth 80%. Students were just doing homework for the points and to help their grade, rather than doing it because it helps them in their learning. Now they start to realize there is a purpose to homework. They see problems show up on the exams and they think, ‘Ok, maybe I should do more of the homework problems. It’s not just so I can get points.’ I’ve seen them do more homework this year than in the last few years.
Kelly, middle school Humanities teacher
“I used to be kind of afraid that if I didn’t count things for grades, specifically things like group work, homework, or classwork that students would lose motivation and not want to do it. And then not do it. But now I’ve come to realize that students will be motivated to do the work if it’s structured properly. If they see the value in doing it. And that’s kind of the biggest shift that I’ve really made. What changed my thinking was that I have better participation now and homework completion than I did when I was counting those things for grades. I mean that’s pretty compelling evidence.
Sarah, high school special education teacher
“If you’re grading all the small stuff, it just becomes so massive and overwhelming for the teacher as well as the student, making sure that every little thing is in. The question is really: ‘Can you master this skill, or have you mastered this skill?’ rather than ‘Did you fill out a worksheet?’ The worksheets are important because they help build toward the test, but it takes the stress off of the student and off of the teacher. The stress is not on are they a good student because they’ve finished all this work. Instead I’m really looking at how well do they understand the concept, and I can really focus more on what they need.
Temy, high school science teacher
“I made the announcement at the beginning of the quarter: From now on we’re only grading you on your assessments. That’s it. And students were very happy with that. But some of them said, ‘Oh, what do you mean? I don’t get credit for my work?’ I had been counting homework for 10%, but for those students, that’s a really important 10%. That normally saves them when they don’t do well on the assessments. That 10% normally allows them to copy homework, or get help from someone else, or just follow all the directions, but still not learn anything.
Theresa, middle school English teacher
“There’s a lot of stuff I don’t put into the grade book now, but it was kind of a slow progression where at the beginning of the year I still had a homework category, but this quarter I’m not including any homework in their grades at all. Instead I’m having a lot more conversations with kids about the purpose of the homework. I’m as still assigning homework, and they still need to go home and study and they still need to be reading independently. But I remind them how I’m assessing: I know that you studied for the spelling test if you do well on the spelling test. I know you did your spelling homework if you do well on a spelling test. I know you’ve been doing your independent reading if you manage to put together a book report at the end of the month. I’m really kind of pushing the homework piece to being: Here’s the reason why you’re doing it and I’m not going to actually grade that. It’s not going to become part of your grade. I’m instead going to grade what you learned from doing the homework.