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Grading Guidelines for High School

One of the areas that a lot of homeschooling parents have questions about is grading—how to properly evaluate their teen’s work. Grading becomes even more important during the high school years, since the documentation of high school-level work includes keeping track of final grades in courses that are taken. Final grades are then recorded on the teen’s high school transcript.

These grading resources provide more details:

Grades are subjective any way you look at them—and more often than not, grading is an art and not an exact science. Even public and private schools will differ in the manner in which grades are awarded—a student receiving an A in one school may not mean that the same mastery and effort were attained as another student receiving an A in a different school. But don’t let the subjectivity of grades deter you from doing your best to evaluate your teen’s knowledge and skill in any given subject area.

First of all, realize that grades are important feedback for your teen. After you’ve completed a job or task it’s reasonable to ask, “How did I do?” Taking the time to give tests and then grading your  teen’s work serves as motivation for him to take his studies seriously . Your teen will have the pleasure of either rejoicing in a skill or paper that is well done or getting a “wake-up call” in an area that may need additional study.

Some subjects lend themselves easily to calculating grades. For example, math, science, and foreign language courses usually can be evaluated in objective terms and most answers to these test questions are right or wrong. In these subjects, simply divide the number of correct answers by the total number of problems on the test to calculate a percentage score that easily converts to a letter grade based on your grading scale. A calculator can be used to convert the test scores into percentages, or you can pick up an inexpensive teacher’s percentage grading scale at the local educational store that converts the scores to percentages for you.

Other subjects, such as English composition, history, and electives, pose a bit more of a challenge when evaluating, but here are some general guidelines. Decide before the course begins what components will determine the grade. In an English composition course, you may want to break down a paper grade as follows: Content—60%, Grammar/Mechanics—30%, Effort—10%. It is a good idea to tell your teen how you will evaluate his paper —it helps him to pay close attention to detail if he knows that points will be taken off for mistakes in grammar, punctuation, etc. It also helps to know that “what” he has to say, i.e. the content, is the most important aspect of the paper and will contribute the most to the final grade. Unit tests, midterms, and final exams can be weighted more heavily than a chapter test or weekly quiz. The parent can determine the weight that each category receives, and then calculate the final grade using these percentages.

Likewise, in a history course, let your teen know ahead of time that 50% of the test will be multiple-choice, 25% short-answer, and the last 25% an essay. This will help your teen study and understand that he will not only be responsible for recalling facts and figures, but he will also need to grasp the big picture and be able to communicate his understanding of the historical time period in essay form.

It is reasonable and acceptable for your teen’s final grade to include a small component for completing daily assignments, in addition to scores on quizzes and tests. Be careful not to “over-reward” the daily assignments such as reading, taking notes, completing practice homework, and preparing for discussion with you. As an example, in an English lit class you may determine that your teen’s reading, note taking, and preparation to discuss the assigned text with you might be worth 25% of his final grade. Make your teen work diligently for this; don’t just hand it to him as a free 25% of his grade, but use it as an incentive for him to take his daily assignments seriously.

And by all means, let your student know that late or incomplete work is unacceptable. It is reasonable to deduct points from his final score for failing to turn in an assignment or paper on time. Remember that you are teaching more than academics—you are training your teen in time management and the necessity of sticking to a schedule in order to meet a deadline.

In general, when coming up with a final grade, determine at the beginning of the course what percentage each category of a grade will receive. You will then use the individual scores for each category and take a weighted average using the percentages that you have assigned. Shown below are sample grade calculations for an algebra course and an English course.

Letter grades are suitable for core academic subjects such as English, history, science, math, and foreign language. For elective courses that don’t lend themselves to testing, quizzes, papers, etc., you may simply want to give your teen a pass/fail grade based on his attainment of the goals you set for the course. Pass/fail grades are not calculated into a grade point average, and we recommend using them sparingly, if at all.

Example 1

Course: Algebra 1
Method of Evaluation: Tests—80%; Daily Assignments—20%

Test scores: 85, 89, 92, 77
Average of test scores: 85 + 89 + 92 + 77 = 343/ 4 tests = 85.75%

Daily Assignments: 25 out of 27 daily assignments completed
Overall daily assignment score: 25/27 = 92.59%

Now, average the test scores and the daily assignment scores by the weights given above:
Tests (85.75%) weighted by 80%: 85.75 x 0.8 = 68.60
Daily assignments (92.59%) weighted by 20%: 92.59 x 0.2 = 18.52

Grade: 68.60 + 18.52 = 87.12%

Example 2

Course: English Lit and Composition
Method of Evaluation: Papers—60 % (Components: Content—60%, Grammar—30%, Effort—10%); Tests—40 %

Paper grades:

Paper #1
- Content—56 out of 60
- Grammar—30 out of 30
- Effort—5 out of 10
Total: 91%

Paper #2
- Content—52 out of 60
- Grammar—25 out of 30
- Effort—7 out of 10
Total: 84 %

Paper #3
- Content—51 out of 60
- Grammar—29 out of 30
- Effort—6 out of 10
Total: 86%

Average of paper grades: 91 + 84 + 86 = 261/3 = 87%

Test scores: 90, 75, 88, 85
Average of test scores: 90 + 75 + 88 + 85 = 338/4 = 84.5%

Now, take a weighted average: Papers: 87 x 0.6 = 52.2
Tests: 84.5 x 0.4) = 33.8

Grade: 52.2 + 33.8 = 86%


  • Making the Grade—Why does Grading Matter?
    Lesha Myers' book is a friendly introduction to grading and evaluating homeschoolers. Take the mystery out of grading! This book offers many approaches to evaluation and covers all subject areas including benefits, explanations, examples, biblical perspective, and philosophy.