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Assessment ...A new way of thinking about grades

Assessment is not the same thing as grading. In fact, assessment has little in common with grading.

Assessment is the process that teachers use to determine how instruction is going, and the process that is used to make corrections to that instruction.

Grading is the process of evaluating students, ranking them, distributing each student's value across a scale. The scale can be numerical (100, 99, 98, ...), a numerical percentage (100%, 99%, 98%,...), and alphabetical range (A, B, C, D, ...), or a numerical rank (4.0, 3.0, 2.0, 1.0).

Students like assessments, and students dislike grades.

Assessments solidify a class and bring students and teachers together as part of a team.

Grades fragment a class and make students rivals and make teachers xxx. The worst abuse (most egregious use) of grades is when a teacher uses the threat of grades to control students' behavior and as a means to dictate teacher commands. An example of this is the teacher that warns, "If you don't' do what I say, you will fail the class."

The old saw used by teachers proves this distinction between assessment and grading. "I don't assign grades, it is the student that earns them. I merely record what the student has earned."

This is assessment at its worst. And, this approach does not produce the implied desire of motivating students to "work hard" in classes of lower socioeconomic wealth (i.e., blighted city neighborhoods, poor rural communities, barrios, reservations).

Assessment Myths

Here are some myths about assessment:

  • Tests are the best (only, fair, objective) way to assess students
  • All students have to be assessed in the same way
  • If students miss a test, they have to make it up
  • Students high grades proves that the teacher is a "good" teacher
  • Students who are "behind" should not receive "high grades" because this will confuse their parents
  • Grade values are the measure used to determine whether students "pass" to the next grade

Assessment Tools

Grading Tools

Even though we make a distinction between assessment and grades, you will have to assign grades. The best way to do this is using a computer grade book program or a spreadsheet.

Link to a low-tech grade calculator: eZ Grader/ The Original Slide Chart

Link to a grade book program?




We have searched for a total of about six hours and still cannot find a free, gradebook program that we can recommend.

The free program that we used to recommend, GradeSpeed Lite™ is no longer supported by the publisher.

If you know a source where this program can be found, please let us know.

Spreadsheet Alternatives

I always used a spreadsheet to calculate grades. I found spreadsheets to be quicker and more flexible than entering grades into a gradebook program, and I found that a mail merge of for the mandatory progress reports was more flexible. I could add news, public relations (PR) messages and an upcoming events calendar to the progress report.

Of course, I knew how to write the formulas to customize these spreadsheets, so that:

  • The Workbook contained a Summary page with all grades and attendance for the year
  • Students were not penalized for missing assignments
  • Students low grades could not be less than 50%

Links to spreadsheet templates:

Microsoft™ provides spreadsheet templates that you can use. Here are the links:



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