Better than grading

Grade or no grade?
A look at portfolios

I say PHOOEY to the O, S, U systems, number grades and other marks that say nothing to parents! 

Go ahead, argue!  I know some people who put a real value on this sort of grading. I have heard good points, like, it holds kids accountable and it is one form of assessment that gives their class validity. Sorry, but I simply feel as though an engaging teacher will not struggle with getting and keeping the interest of their students. 

I just feel there are better ways to assess and there are other ways to deal with behavior problems and kids who lack drive.  Some students think they are the best little artists in the world. Grades based entirely on skill can criticize that enthusiasm...why squelch that?  The point here is that a typical report card (like mine) does not say enough could it?  Maybe yours is different.

Here is where I stand.  I do believe in communication with parents and providing them with feedback. Thus, my frustration!  Parents want measured achievement- something they can relate to or understand.  So do I! 

A matter of fact, that is why I do not like traditional methods (O,S,U or number grades.)  This traditional system does not say anything informative to parents. I am left averaging behavior with participation, projects, motor skills, knowledge...come on.  All of these things to consider for a silly "S" (satisfactory) on the report card?  Satisfactory what??? It is so generic and subjective.

Unfortunately, I faithfully sit and log at least 3-4 grades per quarter for each of my 500 kids into the computer (which, by the way, consumes huge chunks of time away from actually teaching, preparing and assisting kids.) Naturally, I am supposed to have a formal rubric for each of those different assignments, too.  No problem.  Uh huh, right?  You do the math.  It does not work, people!

To make myself feel better: 
I have started to really put effort into portfolios
Just simple mini ones that give a little "blip" of information to parents. They provide straight forward visual information, like: before and after drawings, concept development, art skills, color wheel info, etc.  The great thing is that these little books carry an ongoing skill, concept and effort indicator that a letter grade cannot!  They are accumulative and take as little or as much effort as you wish.  Some of the lessons are quick class enders- using only a few minutes I may have here and there.   Other pages are more extensive and art historically rich, or detailed.  Either way, they are a keepsake- full of hands on learning, personal work, hand written notes from me and occasionally class photos...just for fun.  As a parent, wouldn't you rather receive this than an "S"?

Upon are a few images of things you could use.  Some are ready for you at the free document share link at the top right of my page.  Enjoy.
How do you handle grading and communication with parents?


  1. Hi Lori!

    We must be on the same page, I am writing about assessment this week, too! We do something much more "Standardized" but I like it for reasons I mentioned today on my post. Sometimes things that can be measured do help you understand what your students are learning. However, I would LOVE to show growth through portfolios! I am curious how much you put in the portfolio and how you use it to show growth, or at least explain that growth to parents. I wrote on the 10 reasons we need assessment in arts (any kind).

  2. I've been struggling with this concept too! We do NOT grade at the elementary art level (K-6)and I believe that we should offer at least some assessment or baseline for kids and parents. I include write ups about what we did for each lesson (glued to the back of the artwork)but I love this idea of the portfolio book. Can you share with me the pages you created? Here is my email:


  3. Hello! I was at your site and found your information a great help. I will incorporate these Power Standard ideas into the portfolios- as our report cards would never provide me enough space to put such information. I like the idea of placing these benchmarks (similar to what I do now) next to the actual project or the assessments of a larger project. The students and I "scrapbook" in a variety of information, like: art history concepts, rubrics, basic motorskill development charts (for K self portrait study), etc. These are things I would normally do or consider when grading that parents would not see unless I "scrapbooked" it in to this organized area. TIME is a big school day has little time to actually do all of the assessments neccessary. So, a portfolio is one way to incorporate something that is already done...just documented.... into the assessment. It is a work in progress WITH the kids, hands on. This is a time saver-solution for me. Thanks for this wonderful ideas- I will stay in touch! Everyone, check out her ideas!

  4. Jennifer,
    Yes. It will take me a few days to post paper to the computer...but I will. Several people have inquired. I am interested in others ideas as well. EVERYONE, PLEASE send me any ideas you use that would be good here. I can post them. Email or explain.
    Jen, you may not need to reinvent the wheel! I think any of your send home notes would work to explain the concepts learned, expectations etc. Can those be turned into a quick rubric? I will post asap.

  5. I love the idea of creating these little books for and with children and treasure the books my kids made in their primary years. They have become wonderful keepsakes in our family because they communicate something authentic and "in the moment" about the child. So often the tiny moments become lost or almost forgotten with my preoccupation with the "big picture" concerns of life.
    My heart melts when I encounter a drawing or scrap of writing from my kid's childhood, but I have never waned nostalgic over a report card.
    Can you please e mail me the pages you use. I have been thinking so strongly in this direction this year. This would be a fabulous resource in getting the ball really rolling. My email:

  6. Thanks, Lori, for checking out the site and I totally feel your pain regarding TIME! Whew. I think it's because we care so much and want to do the best for the students, but time always pulls us down. Good work, keep it up and yes, we'll keep in touch for sure.

  7. OH I just love those little books. I would love to have a copy of them if you would be willing to share!

  8. Hello,
    I teach in a k-5 building and see 700 students in 5 days(that means nearly 2800 grades on the report card three times a year)...we are putting a lot of thought into our assessments and now is our 'chance' to change the process if we want to. Can you please send me some sample pages from your portfolio as that sounds like a simple way to track student progress.

  9. Lori,
    I teach in Dallas and I would love if you could send me the pages you use for the portfolio. I love how it seems effective yet simple and easy to use!

  10. I don't know where I was and how I missed this post! Thank you so much for it! I am downloading your images as we speak. Here is a post that I did on grading.
    But I am always rethinking.

  11. How are you making the actual book? Wow this is great!!! WE are having to go to an assessment based portfolio. I am excited and nervous for the documentation of all the skills we go over. Thank you for posting and sharing this. SO HELPFUL!!!!!

  12. I am a teacher in Houston and would LOVE to use this same concept! If you can, please send me a copy of your pages. THANK YOU!


Post a Comment