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I started teaching at a time when it was normal for teachers to carry around a hard copy grade book everywhere they went. If we went to the copier, we took our grade book. If we went to a parent conference, we took our grade book. That grade book was our bible, our connection to which student did their work and the ones who did nothing. If by chance a teacher lost their grade book it became a school emergency with students being searched, lockers being searched and eventually being found due to some prank carried out by brave students. This distinctive book (usually red, brown or green ) was a book that literally held our teaching livelihood.

About a year into teaching, I was introduced to a new phenomenon, online grade books. At first I was leery of this new technology but gradually I started to use one and my life instantly became easier. I could now enter grades and instantly students knew what their grades were. Parents no longer needed to call me to see if their child turned in an assignment- it was all there in on the computer screen. Online grade books made conferences much easier because I could walk in with a computerized progress report that could make the toughest of students cry out in defeat.

Before I knew it, my hard copy grade book was thing of the past. Then the unthinkable happened. One day, the server of the company I was using went down and for a week I was without my grades. Parents began to call me distraught about the inability to see their child’s grades. By the end of the week, I was a complete nervous wreck racked with thoughts of never seeing my grades again. Luckily, the server was able to saved and my grades reappeared but not without me learning a valuable lesson about grades. While online grade books are great, I always need a paper copy in case of the inevitable failure in technology.


Despite the push by most school districts to go completely digital for grading systems, it’s important recognize the pros and cons of having both an electronic and hard copy grade book. Think about this:

  1. A hard copy grade book allows teachers to always have access to grades for students, parents and administrators.  However, online grade books also give instant access to grades and averages to parents and students without having to constantly email, call or conference with the teacher.
  2. An online system will instantly calculate averages for you with the ‘click of a button’. This feature is both a blessing and curse, because if there is an error anywhere in the calculation formula, it could drastically affect averages.
  3. Hard copy grade books never go offline or are affected by lack of available computers.  So many times teachers have to wait to put grades in online because of a technical issue at their school; therefore, delaying students having access to their grades.
  4. Online grade books helps hold students accountable because they can visually see how completing assignments affects their grades. Hard copy grade books are great but many times it takes students to see their grades for them to start to take action over bad grades.

In evidently, online grade books are easier ( than hard copy grade books) for teachers to manage, they make grading easier by taking the stress out of teachers having to manually calculate grades. Despite it all sometimes I look at my old grade book and miss the good times we used to have. Which grade book do you prefer to use?

For fifteen years Franchesca taught English/Language Arts in two urban districts in Atlanta, Georgia,...

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  1. 20 years ago, I came to teaching from an engineering career, where handling measurement data was a routine task for me. Everyone in my school district was using paper gradebooks, but I immediately set up an electronic spreadsheet to streamline the recording of scores and the calculation of grades. I loved it, because it calculated just what I wanted and since I wrote the spreadsheet it was streamlined for easy entry of data, just the way I wanted to enter the data. My spreadsheet ended up being fairly complicated, because I was grading for mastery, which was unusual in those days. When my school district finally adopted online grading about 10 years ago, I resisted it as long as possible, because it was slower, I had very little control over how the calculations were done or how the reports looked. When I was finally ordered to use the online system, I had to change the whole way I taught to make it fit the grade reporting scheme. Talk about cart before the horse.

  2. I keep and calculate grades on my computer, and I keep backups on my external hard drive and my flash drive. I always have printed versions of my gradebook into which I am entering new grades by hand before they are recorded on the computer. I do not post them online, however, for a number of reasons, Kids have “scorekeeper” sheets into which they record by hand each piece of returned work, so they see for themselves what their grades are doing. When parents ask about grades, I direct them first to their kids’ binders for the yellow scorekeepers to facilitate conversation between them. I teach high school juniors; in 2 years their parents won’t legally have access to any of their kids’ records; the parents need to be weaned off having instant knowledge of every little thing in their kids’ lives. I’m at a high-performing school with high pressure parents. I am helping my kids learn how to take charge of their learning. And I don’t have to worry about servers crashing.

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