Each week, I receive several hundred assignments for grading, across all subjects, from students of all ages. While I do read over student work quickly, I read every word every student writes.
Written assessments are used to test student mastery of a lesson based on the objectives of that lesson, but also to help with the student's overall academic development. Written assessments reveal what a student knows and understands about a lesson better than a quiz often can, and they provide valuable writing exercise. I try to help students in a number of different ways as I grade their written assignments.
Normally, I provide a score and, if necessary, a brief comment. Written assignments are scored out of 100 point, but only three results are given:
- Comments without a Grade
If an assignment does not reveal that the student has completed the lesson, it will be returned with no grade. A comment will be added to the assignment explaining what needs to be done to earn a passing score. The reason I do not assign a failing score is because the system will make an assignment "Complete" with any grade. I do not want poor work to be marked complete.
- 75% – Room for Improvement
If a student has submitted an assignment that shows the lesson is known and understood, but one or more answers is incorrect or incomplete, the assignment will be scored a 75% (passing) and the option will be given for the student to improve and resubmit the work for a perfect score. The student may move on to the next lesson and improve this assignment if he wishes.
- 100% – Complete
If a student has submitted an assignment that shows the lesson is known and understood, and all answers are correct and complete, the assignment will be scored a 100% (complete). The student may move on to the next lesson.
What to Do after Receiving a Grade
If you do not receive a 100% score on your assignment, the comments on your assignment will usually explain why. You should review your lesson, work to improve your answer(s) and re-submit when finished.
Please note that students should never use assignment grading as a trial-and-error process. No assignment should be submitted until the student believes that it will earn a 100% score. If students are found to be submitting careless work, the privilege of re-submitting assignments will simply be taken away.
If parents would like me to help a student with an assignment, they can schedule a tutorial meeting for this purpose. I will meet with a child by live chat for one hour ($10) and work through the details of a lesson and its assessment. Parents subscribed to a Premium Student Plan can request live tutorial chats at no cost. See links on the right menu of the Study Center.
Ten Problems to Watch Out For
I do not ask parents to review and "pre-grade" student work, but I do recommend--for the students' sake--that parents check work before it is submitted to make sure common problems are avoided. Here are some common problems that parents can help students avoid:
- Make sure students are following instructions for their lessons. If the instructions say: "Study this lesson for mastery.", no student should be submitting assignments until that has been done. To learn what it means to study for mastery, see my article, "How to Study for Mastery".
- Make sure students are answering questions from their lessons. I will never ask a student for his opinion on an issue. If a question is asked, the answer may be found in the lesson or deduced from it.
- Make sure all questions are answered in complete sentences. Every sentence should have a subject and predicate. The question should be contained in the answer. For example, if the question asks, "What is the moral of this fable?", the answer should begin, "The moral of this fable is...". Also, make sure pronouns (it, he, they, this, that, etc.) are only used after the object they refer to is clearly known.
- Make sure students prove their mastery in their answers. I judge a student's mastery not by what he knows, but by what he writes.
- Make sure answers to reflection/application questions are not ignored. Students often like to answer the simple content questions and then neglect the reflection questions. The reflection questions are the most important part of the assignment!
- Make sure answers are not vague. When students are asked to identify the moral of a fable or the application of a Bible reading, they often answer with a lazy, vague response that would be true of any reading. "This fable teaches us to be good." or "This Bible passage can help me to believe in God." Answers need to demonstrate reflection on the content of the present lesson for credit.
- Make sure students are writing well. All students who can write should begin studying English Composition--at least learning the lesson content. Students should use written assignments as writing practice. The golden rule of writing is to "have something to say, and say it well." Students should always read what they've written aloud and make corrections before submitting work for grading. Poorly written work will not receive credit.
- Make sure students don't try to fudge their way through answers. I can easily tell when a student understands the lesson and when a student is just trying to write something down to get an assignment done. The latter will never get past me. If I find students fudging work, I will return a failing grade and not permit resubmission.
- Make sure formatting is simple. Students often make a mess of assignments by playing with fonts and other formatting settings. All assignments should be written with plain text and no special formatting. Remember, I am reading through student work quickly, looking for proof of mastery. I students submit illegible work, I will simply return it for improvement. You can avoid this.
- Make sure an effort is made to spell correctly. I am not concerned with typos or accidental spelling errors. All student assignments are considered rough draft work. I will, however, reject an assignment in which a student is being careless and making no effort to spell correctly, especially when the misspelled words are important terms in the lesson/course.
My desire is for students to learn to submit quality work in a timely manner, for their own benefit. While it may take some time for students to get used to our standards of written work, once they do, it will benefit all their studies, forever. This is my goal.
God bless your studies,
Mr. William C. Michael, Headmaster
Classical Liberal Arts Academy