Share this page:

Homeschooling Thru High School
You can Before H.S. During H.S. After H.S. Resources FAQs Blog

Carol Becker

Diane Kummer
Diane Kummer

Upcoming Speaking Engagements

We hope to meet you
in person!

October 6, 2016: IFHS MAP Your Future—Indianapolis, IN (Carol)

October 14-15, 2016: HEAV Mom Life! Finding Hope, Joy and Purpose—Virginia Beach, VA (HSLDA Education Consultants will perform as the Forever Moms)

January 28, 2017: Home School Family Connection—Richmond, VA (Diane)

February 23-25, 2017: North Dakota Home School Association—Bismarck, ND (Diane)

March 17, 2017: Greater Roanoke Home Educators—Roanoke, VA (Carol)

March 24-25, 2017: IAHE Convention—Indianapolis, IN (Carol)

March 30–April 1, 2017: Greater St. Louis Area Home Educators Expo—St. Louis, MO (Diane)

Free in October

Explore Homeschooling with HSLDA’s education consultants. Stream our online symposium (reg. $40) FREE thru Oct. 31. Watch it now >>


Develop a Plan for High School is the first in a three-book series by Carol Becker and Diane Kummer, HSLDA High School Consultants. This e-book covers how to choose courses, assign high school credits, evaluate coursework, and improve time management for you and your high school student.

Streamline the Grading Process

Dear Friends, October 6, 2016

With autumn in the air, students have settled into the routine of schoolwork and are busy with assignments. Hopefully, lesson planning has helped to keep your teen’s various courses progressing well.

At the beginning of each high school course, you should consider how you will evaluate your teen’s understanding and retention of the subject matter, so you can award a final grade when the course is completed. Because grades are more necessary in the high school years than during middle school, here are some reminders and tips to streamline your grading process.

Consider the importance of grades

Many homeschooling parents have a good understanding of their teens’ strengths and weaknesses in the academic subjects (English, math, science, history, and foreign language). Grades are a way to easily communicate your teen’s academic ability to others. Grades also provide important feedback to your teen.

Your goal is to integrate your assessments into grades, which succinctly summarize your student’s comprehension of ideas, grasp of facts, command of vocabulary, accuracy in computation, aptitude with skills, level of work, compliance with deadlines, or development of study habits.

Final grades are typically indicated on a student’s transcript, and they are necessary when computing a student’s Grade Point Average (GPA). The student’s GPAs significantly affects prospects for admittance to trade schools, apprenticeship programs, military enlistment, or four-year colleges. Scholarship organizations may consider a student’s GPA an important element in the competitive process, and honor societies set GPA minimums for admittance.

Establish grading categories

At the beginning of each course, decide how you will evaluate student effort, skills, aptitudes, and productivity. The way you grade English, math, science, history, and foreign languages generally differs because each discipline teaches different skills, requires different assignments, and develops different capabilities. With a few minor tweaks, you will probably use the grading system in each discipline for all four years of high school.

One of the challenges in grading a course is deciding the categories you will assess and determining the grading percentage each category will contribute to the final grade. For each subject, look through the types of assignments the student will complete. Consider grouping assignments into three general categories:

  • High-pressure assignments: tests, essays, projects, research papers, position papers, etc.
  • Medium-pressure assignments: discussions, quizzes, paragraphs, demonstrations, reports, lab reports, summaries, etc.
  • Low-pressure assignments: problem sets, outlines, lecture notes, reading assignments, comprehension questions, etc.

If you only choose two types of categories, then you will base the final grade on those two categories. Students benefit when parents base a final grade on more than test scores alone.

Assign each category a percentage, which determines its contribution to the final grade. The total percentages should equal 100%. A math grading percentage example could be: 50% exams, 20% quizzes (or whiteboard demonstrations), and 30% daily problem sets.
This list of evaluation tools provides you with options, not requirements. Select only the assessments you think will help to measure your teen’s knowledge and skill level. Once you are comfortable with the process, you can use as many categories as you like—you aren’t constrained to using only three.

Grading low-pressure work

To keep on top of that grading pile, you want to establish a quick method to grade daily work. For each type of assignment, construct a simple grading rubric which encourages both academic ability and level of effort. Below is a simple math rubric for daily problem sets:

  • Your teen receives a “+” on his assigned problem set if he attempts to do all of the problems, self-checks his work, asks you for help with any problem he cannot do on his own, and turns the assignment in on time.
  • Your teen receives a “0” on his assigned problem set if he was late in turning it in, did not self-check his work, or did not ask for your help with problems he did not understand.

For this category of homework assignments, simply divide the total number of homework assignments for which the student earned a “+” by the total number of homework assignments. This percentage is the number of points the homework category contributes towards the final grade. For example, 26 homework assignments that received a “+” out of a total of 30 assignments yields an average for this category of 26/30 or 86.7%.

Grading medium-pressure and high-pressure assignments

Math, science, and foreign language curricula generally come with answer keys, and this makes it easier to mark answers right and wrong. Besides English vocabulary tests and history tests, grading most of history or English coursework is subjective. As you teach skills and discuss concepts, integrate them into assignment standards and write these down. Then grade each assignment according to your chosen standard.

Over time, you will find that some rubric standards are too general. Take time to modify in order to offer your student more specific guidance on the next assignment. To help you customize rubrics, read “ 5 Features o a Highly Effective Rubric.” Setting appropriate standards helps your teen understand your expectations for clarity, timeliness, focus, abilities, skills, and completeness.

There are many free online examples of rubrics for evaluating paragraphs, essays, research papers, and more! You need not start from scratch. Check out this link for sample rubrics. If you need assistance grading student compositions, you can utilize an online tutorial service to offer writing instruction or pay for individual paper evaluations.

Determining grades for non-academic electives

When it comes to non-academic electives, many parents question how to formulate a final grade. These type of electives include:

  • Physical education
  • Visual arts (drawing, painting, sculpture, pottery, photography, art appreciation, etc.)
  • Performing arts (voice, instrument, drama, music appreciation)
  • Home economics (cooking, sewing, needlework, knitting, etc.)
  • Industrial arts (wood-working, mechanical repair, construction skills, plumbing, etc.)
  • Home maintenance and repair
  • Life skills

We suggest you grade electives by evaluating your teen’s completion of projects, performances, presentations, or demonstrations. Look here for some project examples for art and music.

For physical education, consider an appropriate physical challenge, or look for opportunities within the community such as a 5K race for charity. Other options could be an endurance challenge (walking, swimming, running, biking, or hiking), an exercise challenge (utilizing videos, community center, or gym), or another activity that interests your teen. For the final grade, consider motivation and effort as well as the successful completion of the challenge.

Calculate final grades

We recommend that you keep a grading sheet for each course. This can be as simple as a piece of paper in a three-ring notebook. You may want to purchase a teacher’s grading book from an educational supply store, or you can construct an Excel spreadsheet. (Making the Grade by Lesha Myers provides great examples of grade sheets.)

For example, a science course grading sheet may look like this:

Grading Categories:
Tests 50%
Quizzes 20%
Lab Reports 30%
Total 100%

Test scores:
75 + 82 + 91 + 75 + 90 + 88
Total of test scores = 501
Average of test scores — 501/6 = 83.5

Quiz scores:
97 + 90 + 84 + 91 + 86
Total of quiz scores = 448
Average of quiz scores — 448/5 = 89.6

Lab report scores:
88 + 84 + 78 + 62 + 74 + 90
Total of lab report scores = 476
Average of lab reports — 476/6 = 79.3

Next, apply the percentages to each average to calculate its contribution to the final grade:
Test average 83.5 x .5 (or 50%) = 41.75
Quiz average 89.6 x .2 (or 20%) = 17.92
Lab report average 79.3 x .3 (or 30%) = 23.79
Final % for course   = 83.46

Finally, choose a grading scale to turn the final percentage grade into a letter grade. Below are three grading scales commonly employed:

  • 10-point scale:
    • 90–100 = A
    • 80–89 = B
    • 70–79 = C
    • 60–69 = D
    • 60–0 = F
  • 7-point scale:
    • 93–100 = A
    • 85–92 = B
    • 77–84 = C
    • 69–76 = D
    • 69–0 = F
  • Plus or minus scale:
    • 98–100 = A+
    • 93–97 = A
    • 90–92 = A-
    • 88–89 = B+
    • 83–87 = B
    • 80–82 = B-
    • 78–79 = C+
    • 73–77 = C
    • 70–72 = C-
    • 68–69 = D+
    • 63–67 = D
    • 60–62 = D-
    • 59–0 = F

The grading scale you choose  depends on your personal preference. After you establish your grading scale, it’s important that you use it consistently through the high school years.

Closing Thoughts

We encourage you to try any of these grading ideas that you feel will benefit your teen and give you an objective method to evaluate coursework. You will need a final grade for each course to place on the transcript to give others an assessment of your teen’s academic abilities.

Join us next month as we take a close look at how to create a transcript that accurately reflects your teen’s academic record.

Carol Becker and Diane Kummer
HSLDA High School Consultants