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Rethinking Letter Grades

A Five-Step Approach for Aligning Letter Grades to Learning Standards

By Caren Cameron & Kathleen Gregory
Imprint: Portage & Main Press

Categories: Education, Evaluation, Professional Development, Elementary, Secondary
Paperback : 9781553795377, 64 pages, October 2014
Ebook (PDF) : 9781553795384, 72 pages, October 2014

Table of contents



  • Who Is This Book For?
  • What Is This Book About?
  • Why Use a Different Approach? Why Now?
  • How Is This Book Organized?
  • What Are Our Intentions for Writing This Book?

1. Arriving at Letter Grades: Focus on Numbers

  • Some Key Research Findings
  • Changing our Focus

2. Arriving at Letter Grades: Focus on Learning

  • The Five-Step Process

3. Arriving at Letter Grades: Focus on Working It Through

  • Step 1: Identify Three to Five Big Ideas for One Subject Area
  • Step 2: Write Three Levels of Performance for Each Big Idea
  • Step 3: Identify Evidence that Shows Student Performance
  • Step 4: Highlight Descriptions of Learning on the Learning Map
  • Step 5: Determine a Letter Grade (and a Percentage if Necessary)

4. Arriving at Letter Grades: Focus on Questions

  • Frequently Asked Questions

5. Rethinking Letter Grades: Focus on Personal Findings

  • Three Reminders
  • Seven Findings

Appendix 1: Example of Conversion from a Letter Grade to a Percentage

Appendix 2: Big Ideas for Different Subject Areas

Appendix 3: Descriptive Language for Learning Maps

Appendix 4: Parent Brochure

Appendix 5: Conversation Cards

Appendix 6: Article: “Arriving at Letter Grades: Get Closer to the Learning”


Authors, Caren Cameron and Kathleen Gregory, offer a practical five-step process for arriving at letter grades that moves away from collecting a string of marks and calculating a grade. They offer an alternative assessment method by examining a wide variety of assessment tools (rating scales, scoring keys, rubrics, test scores, observation records, discussion notes, symbols, portfolio collections, and more) and match the student evidence with a description of achievement.


The cover promises “A Five-Step Approach for Aligning Letter Grades to Learning Standards”, and it is deceptively small, at 72 pages, and is a quick read at about an hour. Despite its small size, this book changed everything as far as my assessment process is concerned.

Ignite Language

This concise book is an ideal resource for bachelor of education programs and professional learning communities.

Canadian Teacher Magazine