Don’t Put Off for Tomorrow What You Can Do Today

Developing a Successful Grading System

By Audrey Carballo


Alright, who (besides me) absolutely hated when your parents used to spout this saying? Raise your hands!

I hate to admit it but as I got older I began to view it not so much as an insufferable mantra but one that actually had some merit. This epiphany came to light when I began teaching scads of students as a music teacher. We see like 78 gazillion students each week and are responsible for weekly grades for each and every one of them. Who can keep track of all of them?? 




Keeping Track of your Grades

For those who have an electronic grade book system, I offer the following advice.

At the beginning of each grading period, I enter a “1” for Effort and the grade of “A” for Conduct. As the grading period goes along, I adjust as the behavior/effort necessitates. I also am a stickler for making short notes about behavior instances when I adjust grades.

Parents who ask why their child has had their behavior grade drop or their effort grade lowered deserve a clear, concise answer. Not something that we try to remember because we are so understandingly overwhelmed with students and it’s the end of the grading period and NOW is when they ask for clarification—7 weeks after the grade is dropped! I make quick, succinct notes in the electronic grade book. These can be brought up and printed any time there is a parent conference.

There might be a student who ‘escapes’ and winds up with the 1 in effort or ‘A’ in effort when they really didn’t deserve it but at least there is a grade for them. You won’t get called down to an administrator’s office having to explain why you forgot to put effort and conduct grades for your students.

Also-we are more likely to just give the 1 in effort and the “A” in conduct when we are rushed at the end of the grading period. Sometimes, this isn’t the most accurate reflection of student behavior or effort in your class for the past nine weeks.


Grading Resources and Tips

If you don’t work for a District that supports an electronic grade book system, I suggest you keep an online journal (like EverNote) and back it up to Dropbox or any other cloud system which can be easily accessed from anywhere. Keep your behavior/discipline notes or any other notes there for future reference.

Additionally, I take notes during playing tests for any student who earns less than an “A”. Unless you’re marking on individual score notes for each student playing, you need to remind yourself why Johnny didn’t get an “A” on his recorder playing test.

Whatever your system is,have one and tweak it until it works for you. Once you’ve got it, use it. It will never let you down.


About the author:

Audrey Carballo

This past fall, Audrey Carballo, a 34-year NAfME member, began her 34th year as a music educator for the Miami-Dade County Public Schools system, the fourth largest school system in the country. Her teaching experiences include general music, exploratory music, and chorus to regular and exceptional students in elementary, middle school, high school, and exceptional student settings.

She has been an Assessor for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and currently serves on the National Education Association Member Advisory Board Panel and as the Union Steward and Chairperson of the Educational Excellence School Advisory Board Council at her school. Recently, Audrey was the Children’s Choir Director for the Miami Music Project, which is an El Sistema program spearheaded by the world renowned conductor, James Judd.

One of her most rewarding experiences has been with the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired. In addition to teaching Broadcast Journalism classes, and giving private lessons in voice, composition, theory and piano, her duties included being the Vocal and Advanced Theory instructor for their Better Chance Music Production Program. Audrey was one of the co-authors of an article published in the Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness titled, “A New Synthesis of Sound and Tactile Music Code Instruction: Implementation Issues of a Pilot Online Braille Music Curriculum.”

Audrey collaborated with Jin Ho Choi (another instructor at the Lighthouse) for nine months, creating their Braille Music Distance Learning course. Read her past blog post on teaching braille music.

Follow Audrey on Twitter @scarlettfeenix.

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