What Does the Gradebook Look Like?

Standards-Based Grading

Video Transcript:

Now that we’ve seen how to grade quizzes, let’s take a look at how to enter them in the gradebook. What percentage breakdowns are preferred? Where do daily grades fit in?

We’ll talk about that and more in 10 seconds.

To begin, it’s important to talk about the percentage breakdown between quizzes and daily grades. I prefer the breakdown to be 70% concept quizzes and 30% daily grades. You can also think of it as 70% major grades and 30% minor grades.

In general, the 70% is only made up of concept quizzes, except for mandatory district assessments. So, if a district requires district wide assessments to be entered into the grade book, those get included in the 70%.

From there, everything else you grade, whether it’s daily work, homework, or any other minor grades you have, those go in the 30% category.

Why 70%? I’ve found that the quiz or major grade percentage has to be high in order for the overall grade to be representative of student learning. When the percentage gets lower, daily grades either overly inflate or deflate students’ grades based on the amount of assignments they complete. I don’t want to dismiss assignment completion altogether because it’s certainly a very important aspect of a student’s life. However, I believe a final grade should ultimately represent learning, and the 70-30 breakdown has been a good balance for my classes

Alright, that’s the percentage breakdown. Let’s now shift our focus to how we actually enter grades into the gradebook.

For me, I begin by using a personal spreadsheet to track grades, and from there, I transfer the grades into my district’s official gradebook.

Let’s look at the spreadsheet first.

As you can see, it’s broken down into each individual concept from our concept checklist, and each concept represents a concept quiz students take.

Next, there are columns for up to 3 attempts per quiz. Attempts 2 and 3 are retakes, and I only include 3 attempts because I almost never see students with more than 3 attempts on a quiz. Of course, if a student meets the requirements to retake more than this, I’ll add an additional column. But again, that’s extremely rare.

In addition to the 3 attempt columns, there is a max column for each concept. The spreadsheet automatically puts the highest score for each concept in this column, and this is the score that ultimately goes into the gradebook.

Finally, if we scroll to the right, you’ll see the daily grade section of the spreadsheet. We’ll talk more about daily grades later in the workshop, but in general, I try to take as few daily grades as allowable by the district. I don’t like to over grade students because it can easily turn the class motivation into accumulating points instead of maximizing learning.

But again, more about that later. For now, just know that this is the section to add any daily grades you take throughout the grading period.

Another note before we transition to the district grade book. You’ll notice that all the scores I enter into the spreadsheet are single digit scores such as 6, 7, 8 etc. This matches what our rating scale looks like, but eventually these turn to 60, 70, 80 etc. when they’re entered into the official district gradebook.

Finally, one of my favorite features of the spreadsheet is that it’s conditionally formatted to show certain colors for certain grades. I like this because we can quickly see what areas a student is excelling in or needs more work in. This helps with many areas including tutoring, knowing what to refocus on in class, and knowing where to go with the class in the future.

Also, in addition to individual student grades, there is a row at the bottom for the class average for each concept. This is also beneficial when making decisions about what concepts to reteach or prioritize in spiraling assignments.

Okay, now that we’ve seen the spreadsheet, let’s transition to the district gradebook. Obviously, I can’t show you an actual district gradebook, but I’ll describe the typical process.

First, when do I actually put the grades into the district system? I learned over time, especially now that technology is more advanced, not to put grades into the district system until after we’ve had the chance to go over quizzes in class. I want to make sure students don’t know their grade before they look at their completed quizzes, because once they know their grade, they’re less motivated to do the work of learning from missed questions. 

Therefore, once class has ended on the day we go over quizzes, and the kids have left the room, at some point that day their grades are entered into the district’s online gradebook program. Since many students receive alerts on their phones about their grades, this avoids the spoiler alert situation before students are actually able to look at their completed quizzes.

Then, as I’m entering grades into the system, again, I convert all the single digit grades to normal looking grades like 60, 70, 80 etc.

Here’s an illustration of what a typical grading period looked like. 

Our district required 9 daily grades and 3 major grades each nine weeks. Usually, I put the minimum number of minor grades as mentioned earlier, but major grades tend to exceed the minimum number of 3 because each concept on the concept checklist has its own major grade. This does create a bunch of grade entries, but I prefer this method because students can see exactly what they need to work on. It’s harder to know where a student is strong or where they need more work if the concepts are bundled together. For example, if I bundle Reflections, Rotations and Compositions of Transformations all into one major grade for Transformations, then the kids only know that they need to work on Transformations. This is more general than I prefer and makes it harder for them to focus their continued learning.

Finally, as students retake quizzes and achieve higher scores, I make sure to keep the district gradebook up to date to reflect new scores. This actually doesn’t take very long, and it’s satisfying to see students’ grades improve as they grow in their understanding.

That’s the process for adding grades to the gradebook, and you may have some unanswered questions right now. What does it look like to go over quizzes? What do daily grades look like? And can we hear more about the philosophy behind using minimal grades?

We’ll make sure to explore these questions later in the workshop, and I’m looking forward to answering them.

Next up though, we are going to take a closer look at the retake policy I prefer and how retakes work in my class. I’ll see you in the next video.


27 thoughts on “What Does the Gradebook Look Like?

  1. Hi Dane,

    First of all, thank you so much for sharing your work is such detail. Just a couple of questions about your grade book policy. I see where you’ve broken down each major concept into standards so students can pin-point areas where they need to improve, but 1) What are the Daily 1, 2 & 3 grades? 2) Are there any other grades than just those focusing on standards? Do you have tests over the units as a whole?


    1. Hey Greg,

      Thanks for the kind words! The Daily 1, 2, 3 and so on grades are just any non-quiz or test grades that a teacher gives. I’m still trying to figure out the best approach with these grades. I’ve tried different things and am not sold on anything yet. As of right now, I’m taking a weekly completion grade which represents the percent of problems the student completed for the entire week. Again, not crazy about it, but I’m trying to figure out a way to credit kids for work ethic, hold kids accountable who aren’t working as hard, and try not to grade kids based on accuracy until learning has really occurred. The quizzes are my accuracy grades, and I try to place them far enough out to where the kids have had a good amount of time to process and learn the material.

      For question 2, our district has a unit test once per nine weeks that goes in the gradebook. It’s just a cumulative exam for every concept we learn each nine weeks. That is the only other major grade that isn’t solely focused on standards. I like it as a final accountability piece for each nine weeks.

      1. Thanks for the reply, Dane! Last year I put everything in the gradebook no matter what it was. Homework, Warm-ups and Exit Tickets went in as well, but were flagged as ‘exempt’ so that it didn’t hurt their grade. I think that approach was more effective than doing nothing, but I like your spreadsheet approach better where you can actually show a student exactly where they are in most need to improvement. This year I’m going to count in-class work as a grade, but I’m going to select two or three problems from each ‘work day’ activity that will be thoroughly graded(but grading will be somewhat lenient and students can make corrections for full credit). At the end of each grading period I will add in this in-class work at my discretion. I’m not completely sold on this approach either, but it at least encourages students to keep working hard in class. I’ll keep you posted as I see how things unfold.

  2. Hi Dane,

    Thanks for all of this information! Until now, I haven’t been able to find information as detailed as this without being too overwhelming.

    My question is related to parents and accountability in this matter. I know that with SBG, grades should only reflect a student’s understanding of content – and not necessarily completion of random assignments. I am struggling with this because my parents rely on seeing how students are doing on these day to day assignments (particular checking for missing assignments – we use infinite campus). I want grades to only reflect understanding, but how do I also ensure that parents are in the loop about assignments that I do not want to actually go towards a students grade? I find this important since these are ungraded assignments that to ultimately determine a students understanding and will affect their standards-based grade in the end.

    So I guess the TLDR would be this: What do I do with random assignments, such as homework or group activities, that I want to hold students accountable for without having it affect their standards-based grade.

    1. Hey Jourdan,

      Thank you for the kind words and the questions. This is something that I’m still trying to develop a firm stance on as well. I’d say the most important part of the system is to constantly convey the vision of the system to students and parents. I’d say my 3 core values in the classroom are 1. make mistakes 2. struggle or getting stuck is actually a great learning moment 3. all ideas are valued. I repeat these or variations of them all the time to students and to parents if they contact me.

      They may seem unrelated to the question, but it’s what I continually point back to whenever students or parents have any questions about grades and grading practices.

      As for random daily work, right now I have a weekly completion grade where I literally mark how many problems the students did out of how many were given for the week and give them a grade for that. This keeps them accountable to actually do the work while still not having pressure to make a grade based on understanding yet. I like for these daily grades to only count for 20-30% of the overall grade in order to have somewhat of a work ethic component involved in the grade without inflating or deflating the overall grade too much.

      Another thing that could be done is to give somewhat frequent formative assessment assignments (read this to see what I do) that aren’t for a grade but you can go over with the kids after they finish. You could have the kids do the assignment and then go over the problems as a class and have them see where there mistakes are. The kids could bring them home to show what kind of progress they’re making (ideal world stuff there). Having some kind of assignment where they can see their progress and relay it to parents while still not being graded for it.

      That’s just an idea, but honestly, I’m still trying to figure out the same thing you are. Where do daily grades fit into SBG? Overall, it hasn’t been a big deal in my experience though because the kids buy-in to the core values that are on repeat in our classroom. Not many parents reach out, and if they do, I can explain the philosophy, and that’s usually sufficient. For more picky parents, you could save some of their kids assignments and show them.

      Hope that helps!

  3. Hi Dane!
    I really appreciate all that you have shared about your implementation of SBG and your open access to the materials you have created. It helps to be able to clearly see all the pieces to consider and put in place as I implement something similar in my classroom.

    I noticed that on your syllabus the concept quizzes are worth 70% of the grade and daily work is worth 30% of the grade. I was wondering where the scores on the unit tests you are required by the district to give every 9 weeks are counted in your gradebook? Do you use the same scale (5-10) to grade those assessments?

    1. Hey Rita,

      Thank you for the kind words! I really appreciate it and am glad the site has been useful.

      The district exams are counted in the 70% category along with the quizzes. The quizzes and district exams are all considered “major grades” in my district. When grading the district exams, we strictly use Scantrons and do not use the 5-10 scale. It’s the preferred method of the district and helps them gather data to analyze.

      Thanks for the questions!

  4. Hi Dane,

    Are all of your quizzes and district exams weighted equally, or is there a higher weight for exams? Also, I’m wondering what you would do if a student leaves a quiz blank or has demonstrated no understanding whatsoever. Would you still assign that a 5 (or 50%)? I suppose I’m wondering if it’s possible for a student to fail your course.

    Thank you!

    1. Hey Kaitlyn,

      Thanks for your questions! It definitely is possible for a student to fail. If a student isn’t working hard or isn’t able to reach a high enough level of understanding, they will receive a failing grade. However, much less students fail now because the system seems to reach many of the kids who tend to struggle in traditional grading environments.

      All of the quizzes and district exams are weighted equally. They all fall into the major grade category in my district.

      If a student leaves a quiz blank (only one student did that last year), then it’s okay to give them a zero. Sometimes this type of student needs that message. However, if a student at least attempts something, it usually results in a 5. I’ve found that many of the kids in the second category have turnarounds once relationship building takes place. When that happens, there is hope to get their grade up when they have a 50. This strategy has helped tremendously with my at-risk students.

      Hope that helps!

  5. Hello Dane,

    I am trying to set up SBG for my Algebra 2 classes, and have been finding a lot of good information on your website. Thank you! Can you please clarify the statement that all of your quizzes and district exams are weighted equally? How many points does an individual quiz have in relation to an exam?

    1. Hey Cathy,

      Thank you for the kind words! I’d love to see your concept checklist for Algebra 2 whenever you finish it up.

      As for your question, in my district, daily grades count for 40% of a student’s grade, and major grades count for 60%. Daily grades include any minor grades a teacher may take including homework, daily assignments, or anything else. Major grades include assessments and district exams.

      For me, my major grades are only made up of the SBG quizzes and 1 district exam that we have each 9 weeks. Our gradebook system takes all the quiz grades and the district exam grade and averages them together to form the major grade average. The 60% weight is then applied. So, if a student makes a 90, 60, 70, 80, and 100 on five quizzes during a grading period and makes a 90 on the district exam, then the major grade average comes out to an 82. This grade then has the 60% weight applied.

      Let me know if that helps!


  6. Dane,

    I see in your latest response that your percentages changed. Why the shift from 70-30 to 60-40?

    I’ve been toying with the ideas of implementing SBG for a bit but after reading literally EVERYTHING on your site, I am going to give it a go!

    1. Seth,

      Thanks for the question! I actually still prefer 70-30 or even something higher like 80-20. However, our district requires all teachers to use 60-40. I’ve found that 60-40 puts too much emphasis on daily grades though, and it tends to either inflate or deflate the overall grade. So, stick with 70-30 as you enter into SBG.

      I’m excited for you! Let me know how it goes, if you have questions, and for sure suggestions for improvement when you find better ways to implement it. Looking forward to hearing from you!


  7. Thank you Dane. I am leaning toward using the lesson objectives in the textbook as a jumping off point for developing concepts. Another question–do you do direct instruction (lecture/examples) or do you use alternate types of instructional framework?

    1. That’s a great idea! I try to balance instruction methods, but I do use quite a bit of direct instruction. A typical unit may look like this:

      -Introduce new concept with an interesting hook (usually a 3 Act Math type of problem that encourages group collaboration)

      -After the hook problem, I’ll direct teach with a connection handout that connects the hook to the concept we are about to focus on

      -For the next couple days, I direct teach with notes. During this time, I try to give space for the kids to try problems on their own. Probably looks like the I do, we do, you do model.

      -After those direct teach days, I like to find some kind of collaborative activity that students do in partners or groups. This takes on different forms, but some go to examples are card sorts, partner A partner B activities or another 3 Act Math / problem based lesson.

      -During all of these days, I’m looking for common misconceptions, and I also give one paper based formative assessment to find mistakes to analyze.

      -Some units end with/include a Chromebook day where kids work individually and watch tutorial videos with related practice problems to complete.

  8. Have you considered opening the entire course concept checklist at the beginning of the year and having students move at their own pace and choose their own concepts to work on? I’m trying to envision such an environment for my own classroom at the moment. I wanted to pair it with semi-daily journaling that has students reflecting on their learning.

    Also, in your case all students seem to start at a 50%. What is to stop a student from mastering a handful of concepts and then “checking out”?


    1. Thank you for the questions! I haven’t considered the idea of opening up the entire checklist for a student-paced class, but it definitely sounds interesting. Right now, I’ve really enjoyed keeping all students at the same pace and trying to dive deep into the concepts on the list. I’d also be interested in seeing if collaboration would stay strong if kids were all on different concepts. It’d be an interesting case study!

      So far, I haven’t encountered a student who checks out after mastering a handful of concepts. Usually, the students who are consistently hitting a masters level are also enjoying the class and continuing to do all the work. I think sometimes the success makes them want to continue to be successful. Overall, I try to consistently preach the message that I don’t believe in taking a lot of grades but instead want to create an environment where students don’t feel grade pressure but can instead put their emotional energy into learning. Also, I try to set the tone from the beginning of the year that disengagement is not an option. That usually takes care of the great majority of students, and the few who don’t follow along are treated with extra care on an individual basis.

  9. I noticed that the gradebook entry did not match-up with the concept checklist for geometry. I was under the impression that everything on the checklist will be assessed. Did I miss something?

    1. Good catch! I’ve actually updated the Geometry checklist since writing this post, so that’s why you’re seeing differences. I do assess every concept on the checklist throughout the year. In my spreadsheet, I have a tab for each nine weeks grading period, and the concepts for each period are found on the corresponding tab.

  10. Hi –

    Thank you for this information. I have been doing SBG in my Algebra 2 classroom for the past 3 years and LOVE it. I was reading one of your posts about not putting a grade on their quiz because that is usually all kids care about. In my classroom, I have a “grading station” where students grade their own quizzes with a highlighter. It has made a HUGE difference. Students WANT to find their mistakes and don’t care as much about what the numerical value is. Plus, it is immediate feedback and students leave the classroom already knowing what they need to work on before returning to class the next day.

    My school requires a retest over any major grade given in our classroom. It is also split 60/40 which I am not a fan of. Do you set aside time during the school day for students to retest? I know it said when a student is done testing their correct quiz, they can retest from the previous lesson – but how much time does that give a student to retest and how many questions are on the retest?

    Also, I have eliminated all completion grades and “fluff” from the grade book. My kids actually really like it because the grade in the grade book is reflective of what they actually know. I highly encourage all teachers to remove participation/completion grades as it is not a true reflection of mastery/content knowledge. This does leave an opening for minor grades, which I am required to have… I have been brainstorming about it. I have thought that maybe what you call the ungraded quiz, could be a graded quiz as a minor grade, but replaced by the major grade once it has been taken. Thoughts on this or where else you could get minor grades from that are not completion/participation?

    Thank you for such a wonderful and detailed website. I love it!

    1. Courtney,

      Thank you for the kinds words and helpful comment! I really like your suggestions!

      As for retakes, I do set aside time in class. I almost always provide one in class opportunity for students to retake because I realize there will always be a percentage of students who are left out if they are required to retake outside of class time.

      Here’s how it works. We take a quiz, and kids analyze it the following class. Then, we start learning a new concept while spiraling in the previous concept in order to prepare for the retake. Whenever the next quiz day arrives, I give the retake for all students to try after taking their quiz. I do make students wait until this day to retake in order to allow for plenty of time to learn from mistakes and improve before making another attempt. This process is detailed more in this post.

      I’ve found that the great majority of students are able to take both a quiz and a retake in one class period. There are some who can’t but I allow them extra time either during the next class day or outside of class if they’re able. Retakes are the same length as quizzes. 6 questions all in the 80, 90, 100 level format.

      For daily grades, I ended up just putting the minimum amount of daily grades required in the gradebook, and I made them all averages of the highest score for each concept in the grading period. I still prefer to keep the ungraded assessments ungraded to hold to my word with the kids and take down the pressure as much as possible. The averages grade entries seemed to work well.

  11. Hi Dane!

    I am working to implement standards based grading in a Title 1 school in Eastern North Carolina for 8th Grade Math and Math 1 (the equivalent to Algebra 1). Your website has been a huge help for me! I am struggling with the understanding of the 70/30. So 70% are those concepts that I made a checklist of and 30% is like classwork/homework/warm-ups, etc.?

    On another blog post you wrote, where you outlined how to grade a major assignment, you said that you grade the concepts out of 4. If the child does it perfect it’s a 4, but how do you decide between a 1, 2, or 3 when grading assignments?

    Thank you for helping me understand this a little better!
    I am trying to implement this with no formal training and hoping it will be effective!

    1. Hey Alexis! Thanks for reaching out. I’m glad the site has been helpful so far.

      For the 70/30, 70% is the weight of the concept quizzes from the checklist, and 30% is whatever daily grades you take. So, that could be classwork, homework, or whatever you prefer to take for daily grades. After using SBG more, I’ve decided that I’d prefer the grade to be 100% quizzes, but I know that’s not possible in most districts. I don’t like to grade students in the learning phase (for me that’s any class time that isn’t quiz time), and I feel like the quizzes tell me what I need to know about their understanding of the content.

      Also, I actually like to use the 5-10 scoring system to help with the dilemma you mentioned. I don’t have a good way to differentiate a 1, 2, or 3. However, 5-10 hasn’t been difficult to differentiate. Here’s a post detailing how I grade quizzes. Let me know if it helps!

  12. Does your district use a 10 point grading scale? I would like to use something like your 10 point rubric, but i am not quite sure how to convert that to my school’s grading scale. We say 93-100% is an A, 85-92% is a B, 75-84% is a C, 70-74% is a D, and 0-69% is an F. I really dislike this scale, and I am wondering how to make it more meaningful.

    1. Thanks for the question, Meghan!

      My district did use a 10 point scale (90-100% A, 80-89 B, etc.).

      What if you converted the 10 point rubric to the following:

      9.5 –> 9.8
      9 –> 9.3
      8.5 –> 8.8
      8 –> 8.3

      …and so on?

      You could even begin the year by presenting the 10 point rubric so students get a good understanding of the foundation of the system. Then, at the end of that presentation, you show a slide with the conversions above. That way students know the why behind the system, and then they also see why you’re converting it to fit the school’s policies.

      Hope that helps!

      1. Yes, that was my thought as well, but I wanted to hear your input as well.

        I really like the idea of showing the 10 point scale and then the conversion for students to understand.

        I think I could relate the scale to letter grades as well, like A+, A, B+, B, etc. to give some more meaning to the letter grades and help with the scale conversion.

        Thank you!

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