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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

High School and Grading and Transcripts ... Oh My!!

As Luke alluded to on Monday, grading is one of those topics that can generate a whole range of emotions among homeschoolers. Some folks began homeschooling to get away from the "stigma" of grades, others just want an easy way to assign a grade and be done with it, while others are just uncertain of how to navigate the whole grading/transcript maze.

Luke mentioned the whole pass/fail idea in his previous post. I would agree that homeschooling allows us the freedom to ensure mastery. In other words, there is never a reason for a homeschool student to "fail" a subject. Thus, if one of my students does not meet the expectation I've set for a particular assignment, he/she has the *privilege* of working on it again until the assignment/project is mastered.

The pass/fail concept is good in general. However there does come a time when you may need to create a transcript for your child, and more detailed or specific grading becomes necessary.

Let me offer a few suggestions that have worked well with the high schoolers we've graduated from our homeschool.

1) First, don't waste any time in ordering Cafi Cohen's book Homeschooler's College Admissions Handbook. This is one of the most practical and easy to read resources that I've come across on the whole topic of homeschooling high school, writing transcripts, and preparing for college or other post-high school options. So don't pass go, don't collect $200, order this book!! You might also find our high school webinar to be a good resource.

2) Set your expectations. Each time I began a new college class, the professor handed out a syllabus on the first day. It listed the titles of the books required for the course, an outline of what to expect during the course, and what it would take to pass the course. I have found it helpful to do the same for my high school students. A possible Core 400 syllabus might look something like this ....
  • Passing this course requires you to read 14 of the 24 American Litereature titles included in this program. You must read Moby Dick, but you may choose any other 13 titles.
  • Passing this course requires you to read the following History/Civics titles: Basic American Government by Carson, Never Before in History by Amos and Gardiner, and Emancipating Slaves by Hummel.
  • Passing this course requires you to read 6 of the 8 biographies/historical fiction titles included in this program.
  • Passing this course requires you to complete the writing assignments associated with the 14 American Literature titles you choose.
  • Passing this course requires your comprehension of the History/Civics titles you are required to read. This will be determined by verbal discussion with me, and occasional writing assignments (simple chapter or section reviews).
(IMPORTANT NOTE: I am *NOT* saying that a student should not read all the books in Core 400, or that these titles which I've listed are better than those which I did not! This is purely for the sake of demonstrating a possible syllabus.)

A similar approach can be taken with math (expectation to complete the math course, have a test grade average of 75 or better, etc...), with science, and any other subject assigned for a given high school year.

The value of a written syllabus, though it may take you some time at the beginning of the year, is that all players are aware of the "rules" and expectations from the start. You as the parent/teacher are not stuck making requirements up as the year progresses, and the student begins the course year with a thorough understanding of what is expected.

3) Create your grading chart. Determine ahead of time what level of work earns what grade and how that will ultimately translate to a transcript. Cohen's book is a good resource for how to grade and determine grade point equivalents for a transcript. Here's a suggestion of a grading chart you may wish to use:

Completion of all assigned work with exemplary output -
98-100% (A) ..... Credit Equivalent: 4.0

Completion of all assigned work with outstanding output -
90-98% (A-) ..... Credit Equivalent: 3.7

Completion of all assigned work with good output -
85-90% (B+) ..... Credit Equivalent: 3.3

Completion of all assigned work with average output -
80-85% (B) ..... Credit Equivalent: 3.0

Completion of all assigned work with a struggle -
75-80% (C+) ..... Credit Equivalent: 2.3

Completion of all assigned work (just squeaking by!) -
70-75% (C) ..... Credit Equivalent: 2.0

It will be up to you as the parent/teacher to define "exemplary output" or "with a struggle", but once you have that foundation, creating a grade equivalency chart will save you much time and effort.

Bottom line ... you as the parent/teacher will determine what grading you will use for your high school students. You will determine the standard by which your student is evaluated ... and the amazing blessing of homeschooling is that you can set that standard based on what you know about your student. The trick is to spend some time *well before* the school year begins to establish your expectations for every course, create a grade equivalency chart, and communicate these with your student(s). This level of grading detail is far less necessary in the lower grades where there is no need for creating a transcript. Creating a much simpler pass/fail or grade range expectation works just fine.

Homeschooling high school is an exciting challenge. You will encounter all sorts of life-changing experiences with your students and build memories that will last a lifetime. Don't let grading become a road-block to your high school journey.

Blessings ...
Sonlight Customer Champion


The Reader said...

Judy, this is so helpful! I had not given thought to making a syllabus, but what a brilliant idea. I can see that would make a world of difference in high school.

Glad for the suggestion of the book, too, as there are so many "get ready to hs your high schooler" types of books and it's hard to know which one to use. Now I know where to start - thank you!

Love that you'll be a regular contributor here.


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