Sign Along the Dotted Line: Grading Contracts in the Classroom

Grading is tricky and as much as I would love to throw away all numerical and letter grades in my classroom, it is not a reality in the school where I currently teach. I envy those teachers who have created successful classrooms without grades like Pernilles Ripp author of the blog, BloggingThrough the Fourth Dimension. But until the opportunity arises in my district to eliminate those numbers and letters that are loaded with emotions, expectations, judgements, and measurement limitations, I have turned to contract grading as a way to balance my own concerns about the grading dilemma.

What is contract grading?

Think of a grading contract a clear set of guidelines. Students need to complete all the requirements in order to earn a possible grade. I allow my students to contract for an A or a B. Nothing less. The contract offers multiple opportunities for students to earn a specific grade, there is no “one shot grading.” Students are working throughout the marking period to earn the grade. Students determine how much effort they wish to put into the class and take responsibility for their own work. Individuals must meet a minimum of the requirements of the assignments as defined by the rubric. There are no letter or numerical grades for the specific requirements. Thus students’ grades are based on effort and achievement of meeting standards. I tell my students their efforts and participation have real effects on their own and other students’ abilities to learn and develop in class. 

Each marking period, 40% of my students’ grade in English 8 is based on the grading contract below.

Thus, 40% of a students’ grade is based on their own conscientious efforts and participation.  The criteria for each potential grade is directly tied to how much the student wishes to participate and how hard s/he is willing to work. 

Here are some elements of the current grading contract I have in place:

Characteristics of “B” Quality Work in English 8

  • Be fully prepared every day so that you can engage with the work of that day. Have all assigned reading and writing completed according to the specifications of the assignment and available at the beginning of the class period.
  • Bring a writing utensil and your Interactive Reading Journal to class every day.
  • Actively engage in a positive manner to class and group discussions:  pay close attention to what others are saying; respond respectfully and thoughtfully to others’ ideas; and be willing to offer input on a regular basis.
  • Be on time consistently.
  • Turn in all formal and informal assignments at the appropriate time and meet all the criteria for the assignment.
  • Maintain a neat and legible Interactive Reading Journal.
  • Read an Outside Reading (OSR) book each quarter and complete a project on the book. 
  • Complete a Genius Hour Project that positively impacts the community each semester and share your final product with the class

Characteristics of “A” Quality Work in English 8

Students will complete all the components of the “B” Quality Work and in addition,

  • Make revisions on formative & summative writing assessments – extending or changing the thinking or organization – not just touching up or editing minor errors.
  • Volunteer to participate in a Going Global* collaborative project  – come to x-period twice a month to complete a small project in collaboration with students around the world. *Going Global is a closed networking site through the Japan Society that allows teachers and students to interact, collaborate, and share ideas beyond our classroom walls.
  • Read an additional OSR book each quarter and participate in twitter book chats about the additional text.
  • Publish the Genius Hour Project  in a TED-style reflective presentation on the entire experience  



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