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Grading Guidelines

Painesville City Local Schools

Philosophy and Practices for Grading and Reporting


Using grades as a means of reporting achievement has always been a fundamental component of education. Report cards--the primary communication tool between home and school--have remained essentially unchanged since the days of the one-room schoolhouse. The hand-written report card has been replaced with a computer-generated report, but the information provided still tends to be very much the same.


As critical of a component as grades have been to the operation of schools, there has historically been a great deal of inconsistency and disagreement around exactly what a given grade represents and how it is determined. Further, it has been not at all uncommon in education for there to be great variability from teacher to teacher in terms of what criteria factor into a grade and how it is calculated, even among teachers who teach the same grade level and subject matter.


For the sake of clarity, our definition of a grade is:


a generic symbol used to represent a student’s level of performance on key concepts directly connected to the Ohio’s Learning Standards. A grade reflects a student's performance across all final measures of student learning


The  purpose of grading and reporting grades in Painesville City Local Schools is:


 to communicate to all stakeholders (students, families, and educators) the student’s level of understanding and performance relative to course or grade level expectations. 


In order to provide the most accurate and meaningful information to families, teachers, and students, Painesville City Local School District has taken steps to create a common understanding around what grades mean and how they are determined. This document provides practical guidelines for assigning grades, as well as the fundamental beliefs which underscore each of these guidelines yet remains a work in progress. As we continue to learn more and as all stakeholders in the process of educating our children continue to work together, we will incorporate any changes that are necessary to better meet our stated purpose of grading and reporting.




Guideline #1

Reports of student progress are based on a collection of evidence that demonstrate student understanding based on the Ohio’s Learning Standards.

Guideline #2

Grades are primarily determined by summative assessments/tasks (at least 85%).

Guideline #3

To ensure that a grade truly reflects mastery of Ohio’s Learning Standards, flexible deadlines and/or reassessment are necessary. It is still the student’s responsibility to complete all assigned tasks to the best of his or her ability in a timely manner.

Guideline #4

Behaviors/conduct are not factored in the determination of a student’s course grade.


Guideline #1: Reports of student progress are based on a collection of evidence that demonstrate student understanding based on the Ohio’s Learning Standards.

  • Ohio’s Learning Standards exist for all core content areas (math, English-language arts, science, and social studies). These standards are designed with the intent of ensuring that students are college/career ready when they graduate high school. For all other subject areas, the district has adopted local curricula based on state and national standards for each specialized area. Every lesson, in every class, is expected to be directly tied to curriculum standards. Grades, whether they be for a particular assignment, or as a summary mark of achievement for a reporting period, are a direct reflection of a student’s knowledge and skill in relation to the defined academic standards.

  • Because meeting or exceeding standard (see definitions in the tables which follow below) is the ultimate goal for every student, it is not rare for students to need more than one opportunity to demonstrate skill/knowledge of a given standard. This means that a final judgment about a student’s attainment of a standard will typically not be made based on a single assessment.

  • The practice of mathematically averaging points across multiple assignments and assessments in order to produce a final summary (report card) grade can result in a skewed, inaccurate representation of a student’s overall skill/knowledge. Such inaccurate representation occurs whenever one or a few extremely low scores significantly pulls down the average. In these cases, teachers are to deviate from the mathematical average and use their professional judgment to assign a final quarter/semester/course grade. This judgment is based on all of the evidence available so that the grade best represents the student’s overall skill/knowledge with regard to the standards for the given period.

  • With professional judgment providing the ultimate determination of a grade, teachers must be able to explain their justification for any grade that is assigned, based upon the philosophies and practices defined in this document.

  • To support the development and refinement of teacher professional judgment in assigning grades, professional development and collaboration are necessary.
    • Teachers should engage in ongoing collaboration within their teams/departments to ensure that their grading decisions are as consistent as possible.
  • “Bonus points” and “extra credit” are not given. These practices distort measures of student achievement. While re-assessment and/or acceptance of late work are appropriate practices for ensuring that grades are a true reflection of what a student knows and can do, providing bonus/extra credit work is never an acceptable practice.
  • Opportunities will be made available for students to demonstrate evidence of “exceeding” the grade level standard (see table below).  
  • Unless specifically detailed in a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP), students are graded based on grade-level expectations outlined by Ohio’s Learning Standards. This includes all students, regardless of disability, giftedness, or language proficiency. IEPs, 504 plans, Written Education Plans (WEPs), and similar documents outline supports and services which may be necessary for students to access the curriculum effectively, but they rarely lower the standards for grade-level learning.
  • Grade reporting protocol for newcomers (new to the country with no or severely limited English proficiency) will be based on information provided by ELD team on an individual basis.

Standards-Based Reporting

  • Painesville City Schools are transitioning to a  fully standards-based reporting system. This means the actual skills and knowledge that students are expected to attain are listed on the report card with the student’s achievement status designated for each (see below).

Academic Performance Key



Student consistently exceeds and applies skills and concepts beyond grade level expectations.



Student consistently meets expectations of level skills and concepts.



Student skills are approaching grade level expectations.



Student is struggling to meet grade level expectations.



Student is working significantly below grade level.


The standard was not addressed this term. While some learning standards will be addressed throughout the entire year, others will be phased in as the school year progresses.

*NO EVIDENCE indicates that accurate assessment of student performance was unable to be observed or collected due excessive absences or failure to complete assignments

  • Rather than attempt to report on every one of the numerous learning standards, standards are combined into a limited number of “power standards” describing the critical skills/knowledge for each grade level or course. Reporting in terms of these power standards makes the process more manageable, understandable, and meaningful. The creation of power standards for recording and reporting is a very involved process requiring a significant amount of time and other resources. With this being the case, the standards-based report card will be implemented on a multi-year plan, with courses being developed and implemented based on a predetermined timeline.

Letter Grades

  • At this time, traditional letter grades are still necessary for summary reporting of achievement relative to learning standards at the secondary level. External expectations, including those pertaining to athletic eligibility and college admissions, necessitate this more traditional reporting practice. For the sake of supporting teachers in making consistent professional judgment in the assignment of letter grades as summary reports of achievement, definitions for each letter grade are described in the table below.
  • EXCEEDING means exemplary performance in relationship to the grade-level/course standard. Evidence includes an in-depth understanding, and the student is able to consistently demonstrate knowledge, skill, and application across any assessment method.
  • MEETING means that the student has a solid understanding of the grade-level/course standard. He or she has successfully demonstrated acquisition of the knowledge/skill on a majority of assessments. The student will retain a majority of the demonstrated knowledge/skills.

Letter Grade Definitions


Student consistently meets or exceeds all course expectations.


Student consistently meets the majority of the course expectations.


Student is meeting some of the course expectations.


Student consistently struggles to meet any of the course expectations.


Student is working significantly below course expectations.


Guideline #2: Grades are primarily determined by summative assessments/tasks.

  • There is an important distinction between formative and summative assessments. 
      • Formative assessments are measures of progress while a student is still in the process of learning. It provides the teacher and student with information necessary to guide further instruction in order to maximize learning. Formative assessment provides a status check of where students are in relationship to  MEETING the learning standard. These formative measures are characterized as assessment for learning rather than assessment of learning. Some examples of formative assessments include, but are not limited to:
  • homework
  • quizzes
  • checklists
  • “bell work”
  • “exit slips”
  • All formative tasks must be directly connected to the course standards.

    • Summative assessments occur after sufficient instruction, practice, and individualized support has occurred. As the final measure of achievement for a period of instruction, it is an assessment of learning. Examples of summative assessments include, but are not limited to:
    • tests
    • projects/tasks demonstrating application of a learned skill
    • research papers
  • Because only summative assessments are true measures of the ultimate attainment of the learning standards, they comprise all of a student’s quarter/semester/course grade. 
  • While formative assessments do not factor directly into the calculation of the quarter/semester/course grade, they are still extremely important in the process of teaching and learning and are by no means “optional” for students. In order for students to earn the opportunity to retake or resubmit summative assessments, minimum expectations must be met with regard to the completion of formative assessments/assignments. 
  • Homework is typically used for student practice and/or formative assessment. As such, it typically is not scored as part of the quarter/semester/course grade (but is still expected to be completed as described above). Homework is only scored as a  portion of the student’s grade whenever it is used as a final (summative) assessment of a learning standard (which should be rare).
  • To facilitate learning, students are often put into collaborative groups for instructional activities. Group scores on work/projects are not included in a student’s grade. Only measures of individual achievement of learning standards are included.
  • As a general guideline, similar assignments/tasks/assessments should be assigned comparable point values. When recording points scores for individual assessments/assignments, these scores are to be entered as natural points rather than percentages.
Guideline #3: To ensure that a grade truly reflects mastery of Ohio’s Learning Standards, flexible deadlines and/or reassessment are necessary. It is still the student’s responsibility to complete all assigned tasks to the best of his or her ability in a timely manner.

The purpose of a grade is to communicate the student’s level of MEETING the standard, not when he or she MEETS it. This means that it should be common practice for students to be given multiple opportunities to demonstrate MEETING the learning standard.

  • Punctuality, time management, and personal responsibility are traits/skills which are necessary for student success beyond school, and need to be supported through schooling. They are not, however, directly contained within Ohio’s Learning Standards and thus should not be directly factored into a student’s grade. This has important implications:
    • Reasonable accommodations to accept late work without grade penalty must be made. Late submission of work may carry some other consequences, but if lateness itself was to result in a change in the grade given to the assignment, the grade would no longer represent the student’s performance level in relation to the learning standard.
    • Utilizing the “Incomplete” feature within a course grade book will indicate the assigned work was not included as a piece of evidence to support academic performance reporting.
    • While all teachers are expected to provide opportunities for students to submit late work without grade penalty, the specific guidelines or requirements adopted by a building, department or individual teacher are a product of professional judgment. 
    • Building/department or teacher guidelines must be clearly communicated to all students at the outset of the year/course.   (Example Guideline)
    • Opportunities for retakes on tests for the demonstration of MEETING the standard are provided for students. These, however, may be offered only after the student has exhibited effort and responsibility for obtaining the knowledge/skill that he or she failed to demonstrate on the initial assessment. 
      • For example, students may be required to “earn” the opportunity to retest outside of regular class time by attending extra tutoring sessions or by completing a supplementary assignment. 
      • The supplementary assignment tasks should differ from the original, while providing students the opportunity to demonstrate learning.



Guideline #4: Behaviors/conduct are not factored in the determination of a student’s course grade.

  • While behavior, attitude, effort, cooperation, and participation are all factors that influence the success of a child, they are reported separately and not factored into academic grades. This goes back to the purpose of grading: to communicate student skill/knowledge based on the Ohio’s Learning Standards. An academic grade will not be influenced— either positively or negatively— by the consideration of behavior/conduct apart from what the student demonstrates he or she knows or can do academically. 
  • Grades are never to be used in a punitive manner. Using grades in an attempt to change or modify behavior is a violation of the purpose of grading.
  • Student behaviors and conduct will be communicated in the following format for students in grades k - 5.
    • Work Habits  - I am determined and I persevere through all tasks.
    • Social Skills - I have respect and empathy for self, others and property and act with integrity in all areas of the learning environment.
  • Student behaviors and conduct will be communicated through the use of individual student comments, as needed, provided by the grade book program in grades 6  - 12.