Make Your Own Grades in Google Classroom

Which Gradebook Defines Your Classroom?

I have been loathing this update since the first day that Google Classroom came out. The gradebook. Now it is here and it is available to everyone and it is terrible. How can one gradebook algorithm possibly define what unique and awesome things are going on in each teachers classroom?

Send Feedback

No point in complaining to me, the Google Classroom team listens to feedback. Please make a habit of clicking on the question mark in the bottom left hand corner of Google Classroom and choosing “Send feedback.”

They tag and read EVERY SINGLE piece of feedback. Do not put more than one thought in a feedback. If you have “oh and…” send it separately. Each idea is tagged so it is important not to have 2 ideas in one feedback note.

I am fine with a grid of scores. It is kind of helpful to see all the checkmarks and rubric scores in one place. (Although I wish they were more compactly placed together). But that is what it is, a grid of scores. Not GRADES. Please consider sending feedback to rename the “Grades” tab to “Scores.” A small but significant difference.

Averaging Grades is So 1900

That isn’t even clickbait. This grading practice is centuries old and was never designed around student achievement. Averaging grades is NOT an accurate measure of student learning. Check out Rick Wormeli and Thomas Guskey and other researchers who talk about this.

Averaging a bunch of points together is an easy formula. But kids are not easy formulas, assessing students is a complex job.

In this article on the history of grading the 90-80-70 scale was recorded in 1877. EIGHTEEN HUNDREDS!! And you know it was not based on research or what is accurate for measuring learning. Someone MADE THAT UP!

Classroom Does Not Accurately Grade

I am going to make a bold statement and promise you that Google Classroom is not calculating your grades the way you want. And that inaccurate grade calculation is not in the advantage of the student.

“Our grading system is broken, yet we educators keep using it.”

In Google Classroom, click on the settings cog in the upper right and go to the bottom for “Grade calculation.” Thankfully the default is “No overall grade.” LEAVE IT THAT WAY please.

See below for my suggestion on Grade categories. Those are pretty cool.

Export Grades

I try not to show people that you can export Google Classroom grades to Google Sheets because the math formula in the spreadsheet is overly simplified and is pretty much guaranteed to give the student a wrong and lower score than they deserve.

Open ANY Assignment

In any assignment there is a settings cog in the upper right. Click on this to choose “Copy all grades to Google Sheets.”

This will open a spreadsheet with the same grid of scores but it is a spreadsheet. Louder for those in the back… IT IS A SPREADSHEET!

Exporting Google Classroom to a Google Sheets spreadsheet gives YOU the control to calculate and manipulate the scores however you want.

Google should not be assessing your students. Or any other company. YOU YOU YOU assess your students.

Delete Column D

Once the spreadsheet opens, click on the column indicator D in the spreadsheet to highlight all of column D. Click the delete or backspace button to delete the poorly done formula for overall grade calculation.

Export grades to Google Sheets and click on column D which is the grade calculation.

I would also click on row 5 to delete those class averages.

Make Your Own Grades

Now you can write your own formula for calculating student grades. Even if you want to use averaging at least it is on your terms and not Google’s.

Put Your Grades in the Gradebook

It baffles the heck out of me how teacher credential programs don’t have a specific math class on using data, how to make spreadsheets, and how to write grade and rubric algorithms. Every single one of us needs to use and manipulate data and it’s essential for our students success. How is this not a high priority in teacher training?

As previously stated, assessing students is complex. A simple averaging formula will not take into account a lot of things and will end up with inaccurate student grades. If you do not feel confident to manipulate your own spreadsheet of scores utilize a gradebook that gives you the features you know and understand. Like dropping the lowest 3 quiz scores (formative assessment should not be graded, but that is for a different blog post.) Excusing assignments. Converting Quizizz scores from out of 100 to the actual points you meant to assign it.

Leave “Overall grade calculation” in Google Classroom OFF and use your own gradebook.

Yes, it is easier to just roll with the bad math calculations in Google Classroom. It’s a pain to do double entry. However, did you become a teacher to distribute points or do what is best for students?

I highly recommend you do NOT put grades in Google Classroom.

Use Your Regular Gradebook

Put grades in your gradebook. Do not do double entry. Parents check your school gradebook grade portal. Your school gradebook has reports that Google Classroom does not. And other more advanced features that Google Classroom is sorely lacking. So just put your grades in one place, the gradebook your district uses.

Feedback Improves Learning, Grades Do Not

The research is pretty clear that actionable feedback is the most effective. However, if you give a score and feedback students hyper focus on the score and all but ignore your feedback. I hate wasting my time. I want students to learn from my feedback.

“Strategy 5: Consider Comments without Grades”

For this reason I do not put grades into Google Classroom, I reserver Google Classroom for feedback, interactions and relationship building. I put rubric scores in Google Classroom to indicate completeness.

4 – Work is acceptable. Score is put in the gradebook (not Google Classroom)
3 – Work is acceptable, feedback was given for how it could be improved but student is not required to act on it. Score is put in the gradebook.
2 – Actionable feedback was given and the student is REQUIRED to respond to the feedback before the score will be released to the gradebook.
1 – Unacceptable. Not ready for feedback. Very incomplete. Needs to be addressed before teacher will assess.

Zero is Not Missing

Google Classroom does this odd thing where if you give a student a zero it is not counted as missing and I am unable to manually mark the status of an assignment. When students go to individual student view in Google Classroom they can filter for “Missing.” Anything with a zero does not show up.

So I use zero to indicate “Excused.” Since I am not using the Google Classroom calculation that works for me. I always leave a return not “I am giving you a zero to indicate that we are skipping this assignment. It is not a zero score, just an indicator to you and I that we agree you are going to do zero work on this. This is excused.”

Google Classroom has a very inefficient way to excuse a student from an assignment. You need to click on the Instructions tab on the assignment assessment screen. Click on the 3 dots and choose “Edit.” Click on “All students” and find the student name in the list and deselect their name. This will remove that student from the assignment, but it also does not allow them to see that that assignment even exists. I use this when differentiating for students but not for just excusing because maybe they were sick for several days. I want them to see the assignment and the resources, I just want to mark it as excused.

Grade Categories

I do like having a grid of scores. I do like the grading categories. However, I am of course not going to use the traditional “Tests, Homework, Classwork” categories. I am using grade category to more clearly communicate what type of assignment it is: Challenge, Optional, Information, Activity, Check In, Required, Discussion, Warm Up, Exit Ticket, Feedback Conversation.

My only wish for gradebook categories is the ability to set the default points to “Ungraded.” A common new teacher mistake is thinking everything should be graded. You will burn out that way. I want to communicate everything in Google Classroom but I don’t want everything to have a score.

My Wish List

Google listens to feedback but it is the most requests that gets the highest priority. Here are some things I would like to see for improvements:

  • The export grades to Google Sheets is a prominent button on the Grades tab.
  • The Grades tab is renamed to Scores.
  • Feedback is prioritized in the system over grades. Make it easier to give Private Comments and for students to know they have Private Comments.
  • The Grades tab grid of scores should be editable. Let me change the score there without opening the assignment.
  • Printable reports.
  • The ability to excuse student work.
  • The ability to have control over the status of an assignment. Status and grade should not be connected. I want to override it saying something is missing. I want to determine if it’s “assigned” or “returned”
  • Create a status of “Updates Requested.” If I leave a student actionable feedback I want to follow up that they did the feedback. I want to return with a request for responding to my feedback. This is not missing, not turned in, and not graded. It is isn’t own designation.
  • On the individual student view that students would see a comment preview of the Private Comments just like I can as a teacher when I open an assignment.
Do not be a fanboy of Google or any other EdTech company. Be a fanboy of students and learning. Critically analyze anything you use with students. That is our job.

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