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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Do you grade based on effort or only on accomplishment?

Do you grade based on effort or only on accomplishment?

Related Tags: Special Education
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The GenEd teachers at my school say only accomplishment should be reflected in grades. Most of the SpEd teachers say effort, even effort without accomplishment, should get a good grade. Grades are, at best, a fairly arbitrary system of communicating anything. Is your B the same as my B? What is a B, anyway? Two students: 1) Sue is a high-ability student who doesn't try hard, does not do her best work and earns a B; 2) Mary is a low-middle ability student who works her tail off and earns a B instead of her usual C. Are these Bs equivalent? Does the grade communicate anything about the student? Should Mary get a better grade than Sue because she tried harder? Which student's behavior better reflects the values of our schools? Of our society?

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crystal's picture
Autism Facilitator

My classroom is self-contained and I still had to send a report card home. Every time I sent it home I had parents who would apologies that their student did not get the high grades. This year I finally got it approved to write into the IEP that the traditional report card does not reflect the progress this student has made. I then send the goals home and a blank report card except the attendance part filled in. My parents no longer have the education gap pushed in their faces. It works for my room.

Julia Stephenson's picture

My name is Julia, and i am a recent college student majoring in Special education,. i have an autistic brotherthat goes to special education. i had been in special Education classes myself. My teachers graded me on my effort, accomplishments and how much work i did. As soon as I began 11th grade i had to graduate from the special education classes with an IEP as well, as go to a special Education GED preparation classroom to try and earn my Ged.

I had to take a practice tests and I passed. The Lady who administers the GED tesets hasd me waiting since June to take the tests, and i still do not have one. I have beedn a Honor-roll student in 3rd, 4th,5th,8th,10th,11th,and 12th grades. My opinion is the lady who administers the tests hates me just becuase i was in Special Education and making honor-roll. so I think she is ignoring My GED exam.
Also I am recently in my second semester at a comunity College trying to earn my Ged.

My point is Special Education students are being underestimated because Most of them may know the work. Different states should grade solely on what the students are doing.if you know the children know what they are doing and they are not doing it, lower their grades until they improve

Debra's picture

What do you all think about Pass Fail do you think this type of grading is fair, point of this my son was high honor roll his grades slipped and now they want me to do the pass fail, am like no!!!!! they only slipped to B's not D's and F's!

Linda's picture

I write my plans to include several different grading situations. For example group A might be expected to do ABCDE to receive an A.
Group B may be expected to do ABCDEFG to receive an A. If a child meets the expectations he receives an A. Also certain children not just groups have a separate set of expectations all tied to the same big goals. One child may need to be assessed all just depends on the children in a class. Effort brings a good grade. Lack of effort does not.
Also when teaching a unit, it can be taught on one level, but the work should be on separate levels...wherever the students are at. An example might be writing conventions. Some students may be expected to capitalize beginning words, I, and punctuate at the end. Others may be expected to capitalize proper nouns, I, and beginning words, punctuate at end. Another group may be expected to do all that and add commas, etc. Some may be working at elementary level while others are doing so at junior high or high school level, yet all are working on conventions.


Elaine Hunt's picture

As a green, but budding teacher in a mostly behavioral residential treatment facility, I have been perplexed by how each teacher uses his or her own "system" for grading. Some are strictly driven by academics and the IEP, while some seem to just pull a grade from the air, and then there are those like me who wish to combine the academics and effort and tilt the scales toward effort. I know that in my conscience, coupled with my training, that effort from a special education student is so important to their success. If you are tuned in to the student you are aware if they are learning. Some of my students will probably have entry level jobs - social skills and life skills can be equally, if not more, important than the letter grade. I applaud those teachers who are compassionate enough to grade the entire student and not just a part.

KS Special Educator's picture
KS Special Educator
4th/5th grade Full Inclusion

So here is my question. Say your special ed student fails a test a 65%. You reteach and retest and now the student earns an 85%. Which grade do they get? All the talk of effort and "trying" begs the question how many of you still do something that you failed miserably at for 5 years? 4 years? 3...6 months? I quit trying to ski after two lessons. As a student I quit trying to memorize my math facts after 4th grade and not having recess for 1/2 the year.

LPS's picture
Cross Categorical/self-contained - Teacher

At our school Each grade level has a predetermined critera based on DIBELS and criteria set by the teachers and Adminstrator. What is passing is typically driven by AIMS/SAT 10/Terra Nova criteria. On the district report card across the board my students are 1's and 2's with the exception of Technology and PE (many of them acheive 3's and 4's) Our Group is the only group in the school that has structured PE.
When I do report cards I include a statement about the student is enrolled in a Cross Categorical self-contained SPED classroom and receives modified assignments and accommodations. Your student is making progress toward their IEP Goals. I try not to dwell on the fact that they are functioning far below grade level expectations. Basically it gives very little information about ability levels. My Principal only wants the facts for report cards.

Guin Hilmes's picture

I use many different ways to get grades for my students. I have been teaching for 10 years. I have modified for each of my students according to their different abilities. We have 3 different spelling lists in our classroom and 2 different reading texts that are used. Students that have difficulty writing have limited written work and we have put things into place to where they can keep up with those that do not have difficulty writing. We do lots of things in small groups and lots of work in an auditory learning environment so that students that have difficulty reading can listen and understand. We use lots of kinestetic learning things that I give students a grade on based on participation and demonstration of understanding of a concept. I believe that my students should be able to make an average grade or better when thier work is modified to fit thier needs. I am actually teaching a class on this at our Superintendents conference this year. I believe that all students can be successful with modifications to the general education curriculum.

My students grades are based on the grades they make in the classroom, I have them turn in things at the end of the day and take a grade based on what has gotten done, not the total amount possible. I believe that quality is more important than quantity...I would rather have 3 questions done correctly with great depth of knowledge and understanding over 40 questions that they have no idea of how they got the answer.

My biggest pet peeve is when gen ed teachers tell me that our sped students "shouldn't have grades that high" like they don't deserve the grade they have worked so hard for.

The coolest thing about special education is that you can build kids up from where they struggle and show them success. The more success your students experience, the more they learn the more excited they are to be in school!

Hope my ramblings have helped you. I enjoy a classroom of 4th graders that are brilliant excited about coming to class everyday! They are proud of themselves and realize how much they have learned this year! I think this is something we all want and why we all became teachers.

feel free to email me at if you have any questions. :)

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