Hi! I student taught in a first grade classroom where the students were at all different levels of development. I differentiated a LOT, but I tended to gear down for students more than gear up because I had lower students (I have learned my lesson). My question, however, is how do I grade work that has been geared up and geared down? If I gear down for students who need a little extra help, or if I gear up to challenge some students, how do I put their grades in the gradebook if they did not do equivalent work? I wish I had a better example, but if you understand my question, what would/do you do? I want my students to be doing work that fits their level, but how do I grade and record it if it is at different levels?

Laura, This is a great question. Please put the following concept out of your mind immediately -- equivalent work. *laughing* Every child who meets your state standards and demonstrates they have met the state standards should pass. If you always teach towards your (forgive me for using this term) lowest student you will bore the daylights out of your higher kids. If you have high expectations, many of the kids you "think" are lower will surprise you. If you always gear your work towards your highest kids, your lower kids develop self esteem issues when there is no reason for it. But back to your question: You don't have to grade things the same. Differentiated grading is all the rage right now, and for a reason. Here is how it can work: Let's say you are teaching your students how to tell time to the nearest hour. Your state standard is "teach students to tell time to the nearest hour." Your assignment contains 20 questions. Ten are clocks "on the hour." But many of your kids came into 1st grade already knowing how to do that. So for them, you may have ten clocks that show time to the nearest half hour. For each child's grade, you only score the clocks to the nearest hour -- because that is the state standard. If a child masters that skill, they have accomplished what a 1st grader is supposed to do. If they do it with 90% accuracy, then that is their score. (if your district uses actual percentages in 1st grade -- ours does, but many do not.) Yes, you still put a check on all of the correct answers, but you only count the ones that are linked to your learning objective. For the students who are doing the 20 clocks, I put their score for the 10 clocks on top (like a fraction) and their score for the entire sheet below. It really doesn't take any extra time to do this. The grade on top is what goes in the grade book. The grade below is the grade the child earned on the complete assignment -- I call it a "challenge grade." Only those students who do well on both parts need both grades. (You can even get a stamp that says "Graded for state standards." so parents don't think you have totally lost your mind or your ability to determine percentages.) This way you aren't always gearing yoru work only to what the lowest student can do. And there is nothing wrong with walking around the room, and drawing a line under the first ten problems and telling a student "to stop there." (If they are still struggling with time to the hour, they aren't ready for time to the half hour -- don't let them do the harder problems all wrong -- they will learn nothing from that.) Tell them, I want you to focus on the first ten! Classwork does not have to be equal. It has to show mastery of the learning objectives. It can go beyond those objectives, but students who meet the objectives should not be penalized because a smarter, faster, or more academically gifted student can do more than the required standards and learning objectives. This is also why rubrics are so useful. Personally, I teach gifted cluster classes -- and the one thing you never want to do is make the work the gifted students do as the "A" work and judge the rest based on that. This is especiallly true in writing. It isn't fair to a child who is working above grade level, but who can't intellectually compete with a student who is in the 5% of the population who is academically gifted. My gifted students are expected to use vivid describing words including adjectives. My on-grade level students are still being scored based on "did they capitalize the beginning of each sentence, each proper noun, and put ending punctuation." It isn't right to expect them to be at the same place. That is why we differentiate in our instruction in the first place. I hope that make sense.

I just noticed that your original post says "homework." One thing that helps a great deal in homework is to use a "learning menu." Students have two or three options to choose from each night -- and they select. Make sure one is very easy, and one is very challenging. If you have incredibly gifted students, take them aside and tell them you expect them to choose some items from "column C" if you are worried they will only choose the eaiser items (remarkably, that rarely happens.) An example of this is in spelling homework. I have a weekly menu of activities -- and students have to pick one for each day (Monday through Thursday) from a total of 10 choices. Some students love the schedule and pattern of selecting the same items each week (but with different words) while others love the variety. If students have lots of other activities that night, they can choose an easier assignment. If a parent wants homework to be more rigorous, they can have the child select the more difficult choices.

I like your example of the number correct of the 10 at standard over the number correct in all. I'll have to use that to note scores next year. How do you think you should evaluate the work if your struggling student is doing fewer problems than your average or above average student? Or, in your example, you grade 10 of the on-level clocks for the above average student, and 10 of them are considered reduced work for a struggling student. What about the kids in the middle who are doing 20 on-level clocks? I struggle personally when the number of problems is unequal (e.g. missing one on an assignment of 5 problems translates to a 80%, while one out of 10 problems is a 90%).

Snicky, I totallly understand what you are saying. Here is my point of view on the matter. Why does the scale have to start at zero? If 70% is passing, then there are 29 points higher than passing in a 100 point grade. But there are 69 lower than passing. Why is that fair or appropriate -- especially with young learners? If a child has reduce problems based on IEP, 504, or simply need in younger grades, I start the scale at 50. So if there are 5 questions, each one counts 10. The lowest grade, even if they got them all wrong is a 50%. Fifty percent is still failing. It is different in upper grades, where you have sufficient grades for things to average out. A zero in a lower grade (where it is typical to only take one gradebook grade per week per subject -- and that is a pretty developmentally approprirate thing) is something that, numerically, a student can never recover from. Our district supports us in using 50-60% as the lowest possible score in K-2. (I'm not sure if they do it in 3-5). This is especially true for students in inclusion classes. I know a lot of people get hung up on "fair" -- but my definition of fair is giving each child what they need, when they need it, based on what I have available. If I had two children, one starving, pale and thin, and one healthy, chubby, and robust, and only one meal -- would fairness dictate that I should divide it exactly in half? Common sense tells you the child who is at death's door needs more to survive. That's my way of looking at it. I know not everyone agrees with "progressive grading" but I am a firm believer in it for younger grades.

RainStorm, thanks for your input! It really makes sense to me the way you put it. I think it's beneficial for younger learners.

I like your thinking, RainStorm! You've articulated very well something I've struggled with for a long time