At the beginning of each high school course, consider how you will evaluate your teen’s understanding and retention of the subject matter and then establish a grading system.

The way you grade each course—especially in different disciplines (English, math, science, history, foreign language, etc.) will likely differ because each discipline teaches different skills, requires different assignments, and develops different capabilities. But with a few minor tweaks, you will probably use the same grading system in each discipline for all four years of high school.

Begin by deciding the types of assignments and assessments that you will give your student and the percentage of the final course grade that each type will constitute. 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.

We recommend that you base the final course grade on assignment types from at least two general categories rather than relying on only one type (such as tests) to reflect your student’s learning mastery.

Determine the percentage of the final grade that each assignment type will constitute. The total of all the assignment type percentages must equal 100%. For example, the assignment types and percentages for a hypothetical math course could be: exams = 50%, quizzes = 20%, and daily problem sets = 30%.

Throughout the course, record the grade for each of your student’s assignments. This can be as simple as tracking the grades on 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 construct an Excel spreadsheet.

At the end of the course, you’ll calculate the average for all the assignments of each type before weighting that average by the percentage you assigned to it. The result will be the course grade.

Here’s an example based on that hypothetical math course:

Exams (average exam grade times weight): 83.5% x 50% = 41.75%

Quizzes: 89.6% x 20% = 17.92%

Daily problem sets: 79.3% x 30% = 23.79%

Final course grade: 41.75% + 17.92% + 23.79% = 83.46%

Finally, turn the final percentage grade into a letter grade based on the grading scale you are using. Voila! You now have a course grade to place on your teen’s transcript, presenting a picture of your student’s academic abilities to admissions officers and scholarship committees.