Grading Policies (revised 11/01/2013)

These grading policies were originally developed by Cindy Gay of Steamboat Springs High School in Colorado.  She has graciously allowed me modify her original policies and tweak them to fit my needs. 

Being smart is not enough.  To be successful you need to become a scholar with strong intellectual character. Intellectual character is not how smart you are, but how you invest your intelligence. You must engage in the dispositions of thinking: open-minded, curious, metacognitive (awareness of your own knowledge), seeking truth and understanding, strategic, and skeptical.

It is my goal that you become proficient in both biological sciences and the practice of intellectual character. In the quest to become proficient, you measure your own progress against standards of understanding, not against the progress of others. To measure proficiency against these standards, I use a 4-point proficiency scale:

4 = Advanced: Demonstrating deep understanding beyond the standards. A score of Advanced is equivalent to an A+.

3 = Proficient: Demonstrating the six facets of understanding the standards by the ability to explain, apply, interpret, have perspective, have empathy, and show self-understanding (metacognition). A score of Proficient is equivalent to an A-.

2 = Partially Proficient:  Demonstrating partial or incomplete understanding of the standards, while having knowledge and/or skills, cannot fully demonstrate the six facets of understanding. A score of Partially Proficient is equivalent to a C.

1 = Unsatisfactory: Demonstrates incomplete knowledge and/or skills and lacking the ability to demonstrate the six facets of understanding. A score of Unsatisfactory is equivalent to an E.

 It is my belief that ALL students are capable of achieving at high levels by developing a strong intellectual character. It is my goal that ALL students demonstrate proficiency. This singular belief and goal are manifested in my homework and correction policies.

Six Facets of Understanding

  • Explain: To describe the who, what, when, why, and how aspects.
  • Interpret: To make meanings with personal values.  Tell meaningful stories, offer apt translations, provide a revealing historical or personal dimension to ideas and events; make subjects personal or accessible through images, anecdotes, analogies, and models.
  • Apply: Effectively use and adapt what they know in diverse contexts.
  • Have Perspective: See and hear points of view through critical eyes and ears; see the big picture. To develop multiple viewpoints on a topic.
  • Empathize: Find value in what others might find odd, alien, or implausible; perceive sensitively on the basis of prior indirect experience.  To provide insights from another role or stakeholder.
  • Have Self-Knowledge: Perceive the personal style, prejudices, projections, and habits of mind that both shape and impede our own understanding; they are aware of what they do not understand and why understanding is so hard.

“…teach it, use it, prove it, connect it, explain it,

defend it, [and] read between the lines.”

For more information on the six facets of understanding click HERE!

Six facets of understanding summary chart click HERE!


What I Believe…

To become proficient and develop intellectual character you must set goals, acquire skills, and direct yourself. To do that requires practice, grit, courage and discipline.

Consider participation in a sport. At the end of the season, what matters is your win/loss record in competitions. However, the vast majority of your time throughout the season is spent, not in competition, but in practice. If you do not practice, you will not perform well in competition, if your coach even allows you to compete at all. If you do not practice with grit, courage and discipline, you will not perform well in competition. Your coach will ask you to try new skills, not expecting you to perform them perfectly the first time, but expecting you to try your best using skills you already have. Your coach will give you feedback on ways to improve and you will try the skill again and again until you have perfected it. The feedback does not count towards your season record directly, but it is vital to pay careful attention to the feedback you are given, make corrections and monitor your own progress. Likewise, you cannot skip practice for two weeks and expect to “catch up” on the missed practices in a single monumental effort the night before the competition.

This is the model I use for homework. At the end of the semester what matters is your semester grade on your transcript. However, the vast majority of your time throughout the semester will be spent, not in assessment, but in practice. While some of that practice will occur during class in our lessons, the majority of your practice will be in the form of homework. If you do not do your homework with grit, courage and discipline, you will not be able to demonstrate understanding on assessments. I will ask you to think about new ideas, to use the thinking dispositions, to take intellectual risks without expecting you to be mistake-free the first time. I will give you feedback on ways to improve and ask you to try again and again until you can demonstrate your understanding. Because homework is practice in acquiring and demonstrating understanding, homework will not count toward your grade. However, it is vital to pay attention to the feedback you are given, make corrections and monitor your own progress. Likewise, you cannot skip homework for weeks and expect to catch up on the missed homework in a single monumental effort the night before an assessment.

There is a common misconception among students: “I work best under pressure.” It would be far more accurate and honest to say, “I only work under pressure.” Working under the pressure of procrastination may get the task done, but it will never be your best work. Consistent persistence will outshine a last minute effort every time. This is why practice is not an option.

How It Works…

You can expect homework every night. As a general rule, the amount of time you should spend doing homework is:

AP Biology: This is a college-level class so, as in college, you should allocate 1-2 hours of homework per hour of class. Thus for a regular 55-minute class, you should spend a minimum of 1-2 hours reading the text, practicing, and preparing for the next class.

By now it should be clear that I place a high value on homework and expect you to do the same. However, I also believe that breaks are meant to be breaks from school. I will not give homework over breaks (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Winter Break, and Spring Break). A 3-day weekend is not a break.

It is your obligation to practice through completing homework. It is my obligation to make sure that each homework assignment is carefully and thoughtfully designed to help you develop and demonstrate understanding. You need to complete each homework assignment to develop your intellectual character and understanding.

Because homework is practice, it will be given careful and thoughtful feedback, but will not be graded. At the beginning of each class, I will walk around the room and check each student’s homework. Homework will be recorded in Skyward as follows:

10: Work is 100% complete; work appears to be of good quality and demonstrates a good effort by the student  (for online quizzes, this must be a 75% or better)

07: Work is at least 90% complete; work appears to be of average quality; the student's effort could have been better (for online quizzes, this must be a 60-74%)

05: Work was less than 90% complete or of very poor quality and was resubmitted for scoring after it was 100% completed (for online quizzes, this is for scores less than 60%)

M: Missing - which equals a zero. If the assignment is completed within the unit of study, the score will be changed to “5” with a notation of “late”. 

These notations are recorded in Skyward for record keeping only. Individual homework is not graded and does not count towards a student’s grade. There are many reasons you could have missing homework: an absence, poor planning, or an unexpected obligation. Life happens. Often when you least expect it and never at a convenient time. When life happens, take a deep breath, regroup and make a plan to get back on track. Remember, homework is either done or not done. As soon as it is done, the notation in Skyward will reflect that.  

Even though individual homework assignments will not directly affect the student’s grade, there is a homework grade added at the twice each quarter to your graded assignments.  Basically the homework score is equivalent to one summative assessment (test).  The following scale is used to determine the homework score on a 4-point scale: 

4 = 90% or better homework percentage and consistently an active, positive member of the class

3 = 75.5-89.9% or better homework percentage and consistently an active, positive member of the class

2 = 50-74.4% homework percentage and predominantly an active, positive member of the class

1 = Less than 50% homework percentage and is only occasionally an active, positive member of the class


What I Believe… 

In science, data is critical. Data is used to make predictions, support assertions and determine the next steps to be taken. Often, data is used to establish a baseline which is then used to measure change or progress.

In class, data will be collected through both formative assessments and summative assessments. Formative assessments are used to guide my instruction and provide feedback to you. I will use data from formative assessments to decide how quickly to move through a given topic, what ideas and skill need additional practice and review. You will use formative assessment to measure your progress towards achieving proficiency and evaluate the development of your intellectual character. We will both use formative assessments to determine how much knowledge you have before beginning a topic. This becomes our baseline which will then be used to measure your progress towards proficiency. We will use formative assessments during our study of a topic to measure your progress and make any adjustments along the way.

Summative assessments are tasks you will complete to demonstrate your proficiency in your understanding of the content standards and the practice of intellectual character. Summative assessments will vary in length and importance depending upon the amount of content being assessed. A Check for Understanding assessment may be as brief as 10-20 multiple choice questions (often called a quiz) or as involved as a large project or performance, taking many weeks to complete, or full-class assessment (often called a project or test).

Returning to the sports analogy, formative assessments are like training camps, scrimmages and preseason games. They do not count towards your win/loss record. Summative assessments are the games that count. All the practice you have invested through homework and the feedback you received, and used, through formative assessments will have prepared you to excel in the summative assessments that will compose your semester grade on your transcript.

How It Works…

Formative assessments, because they are used to guide my instruction and your learning, do not count towards your grade. They will be recorded in the “Assignment” section of Skyward using the same notations as homework.

Summative assessments will be graded using the 4-point proficiency scale described above. The score (1, 2, 3, or 4) will be recorded in the “Test & Quizzes” section of Skyward.  For this course summative assessments may include tests, quizzes, presentations, or projects.  The cut scores for determining a 1, 2, 3, and 4 will vary from assessment to assessment depending on its length and level of difficulty.  In addition, some assessments may be weighted heavier than others based again on its length and level of difficulty. 

During second semester, unit exams will be scored on the AP 5 point scale.  By this point in the course we have covered enough material that I can now include cross-content questions that assess a student’s ability to make connections across the big ideas.   Students that achieve a 5 on these assessments will earn bonus points 

Redoing and Retaking Assessments

What I Believe…

It is my belief that ALL students are capable of achieving at high levels by developing a strong intellectual character. It is my goal that ALL students demonstrate proficiency. However, all students learn in different ways and at different rates. Further, ideas in biological sciences are highly interconnected and ideas will recur consistently throughout the course. 

If you have been practicing by completing homework with discipline, grit and courage, if you have used the feedback from formative assessments to adjust your learning, you should be able to demonstrate proficiency on the summative assessment and earn an A.

However, this may not always be the case.  As we continue learning after the assessment, you may make a new connection or finally understand the idea you could not put your head around earlier. Your learning may not precisely coincide with the assessment schedule of the class. This is why I allow small assessments to be redone and large assessments to be retaken. 

The opportunity to redo or retake an assessment will always be at my discretion. If you have provided evidence of intellectual character by consistent homework completion and attention to feedback on formative assessments, you can redo or retake an assessment. If you have not demonstrated intellectual character, you may not be granted the opportunity to redo or retake an assessment. 

How It Works…

Redoing a Check for Understanding Quiz

If you have completed all homework assignments prior to a Check for Understanding yet receive a score below proficient (2 or 1), I expect you to redo and resubmit the work until it is proficient (a 3 is the maximum grade attainable on a redone assessment).

You can redo and resubmit the assessment for a better grade using the following steps:

  1. Use green ink. Make a key at the top of the original (i.e. “Corrections in Green”)
  2. Put the correct answer next to the original answer. DO NOT erase or cross out the original. When there is no space, corrections may be made on a separate piece of paper attached to the back of the original work. All corrections must be clearly and completely labeled to earn credit.
  3. Provide a thorough explanation of:
    1. Why you missed the original problem. Also provide
    2. Evidence of understanding: why your new answer is correct. Cite the text and show all work.
    3. Reference which learning objective the original question was based on. 

NOTE: Correct answers without thorough explanations will not earn credit.

  1. Redone work may be submitted more than once if needed until proficiency is attained.
  2. 1/2 point will be awarded for each acceptable correction; however corrections must have been attempted for ALL questions before any points may be earned!
  3. All deadlines for redoing and resubmitting work will be strictly enforced.

Retaking a Unit Assessment

If you have consistently demonstrated intellectual character throughout the unit of study, you can petition to retake a unit assessment. To initiate the process, you will redo and resubmit the assessment using the same protocol as for Checks for Understanding. You will then complete the retake application. Note that it will require both your signature and a signature from a parent/guardian. When I approve the application, we will arrange a time for you to come in and retake the assessment. While the retake assessment will evaluate your understanding of the same big ideas, the format of the exam may vary from the original.

Course Grading Scale

The final percentage earned by a student will determine the student’s grade for the quarter.  The scale below is based on the cut scores developed by the AP College board and is designed to reflect the difficulty of an AP course and the demands of a college-level course.

























The student’s semester grade is a combination of the two quarter grades and the semester exam grade using the following percentages: 

1st Quarter


2nd Quarter


Semester Exam