Do you think your grading system confuses students and parents?  An email I received this morning confirms it:

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This is yet another repercussion of grading pollution - parents want to help their children, but they aren't sure what the source of the low grade is...effort or understanding!

My guess was that the parent had not talked with her son, because she did not know that I report out learning target understanding rather than single assessment scores (i.e. Test 1: 95%).  Either way, here was my response:

Good morning, _______,
The grades you see in PowerSchool report both _____'s work ethic and his understanding of Geometry.  You will not see any "test" scores in PowerSchool.  Instead, you will see the concepts from each chapter listed and how well _____ understands each concept.  Take a look at the screenshot of ______'s Geometry grades in PowerSchool:

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If you click on "Ch. 1 L2" you will see the concept that _____ was tested on.

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_______ is currently at a "2" level (out of 4) when it comes to understanding basic terms of Geometry.  The scale for each learning target is:

Each Learning Target is scored using a 4-point scale:
4 – demonstrates thorough understanding
3.5 – high level of understanding, but with small errors
3 – demonstrates understanding, but with significant gaps
2 – shows some understanding, but insufficient for a passing grade
1 – Attempts the problem

This means that he does not understand this particular concept very well at all.  Does that make sense? 
You will also see scores that report out ______'s work ethic.  I enter in how many assignments _____ has turned in each week.  For example:

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Last week, ______ did not turn in several assignments.  If you click on the "Weekly assignments and warm-up: 2/8 - 2/12" you can read more information about the week's assignments that were turned in.  The actual practice homework assignments are listed daily on my website.....


Two thoughts that came to mind from this email conversation:
  1. Reporting out homework completion to parents may be a good data point, even though it doesn't make sense for it significantly impact a student's final grade. 
  2. Contrary to lesson #1, would it have been easier if I didn't report out weekly homework completion, so that my response would have merely been, "I only report student understanding of learning targets.  It is safe to assume that if your child is not doing well, it is because he/she doesn't understand the big ideas."  
On a side note, perhaps the teacher next door and I are starting a revolution in grading practices in our building.... and all this communication about grades will be unnecessary in a few years?!