A Step-By-Step Guide To Equitable Grading Practices

July 8, 2024

Are you tired of feeling lost in grading practices that confuse and overlook students? Equitable grading practices, particularly standards-based grading, are essential to empowering students and fostering academic growth. This blog will explore the 10 best equitable grading practices and provide a step-by-step guide to implementing them in your classroom.

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What is a Grading Practice?

Students in a Class - Equitable Grading Practices

A grading practice refers to a teacher's system for assessing student learning, translating that assessment into a score or letter grade, and communicating the results to students and parents. This system encompasses everything from the types of assessments used (tests, essays, projects) to how feedback is provided and opportunities for improvement are offered.

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Benefits of Effective Grading Practices

Woman Teaching her Student - Equitable Grading Practices

Gauges Student Learning

Grades offer a snapshot of how well a student understands the material at a specific moment. They summarize the student's comprehension level, helping teachers and students gauge where the learner stands with the coursework.

Informs Instruction

Equitable grading practices help academics identify areas where students excel and struggle, thus allowing them to tweak their teaching strategies for improved learning outcomes. Teachers must understand where students stand academically to provide guidance and extracurricular help.

Motivates Students

Grades can serve as a motivator, encouraging students to aim for mastery and improvement. By seeing their performance quantified, students are more likely to push themselves to achieve higher grades and reach their full potential.

Provides Feedback

Effective grading practices go beyond merely assigning a grade. They offer valuable feedback to students by showing them where they excel and where they need improvement. Constructive feedback helps students understand their strengths and weaknesses, enabling them to work towards better performance in the future.

What are Equitable Grading Practices And How Does It Work?

Teacher in Full Class of Students - Equitable Grading Practices

Focuses on Mastery

Equitable grading centers on growth and mastery, allowing students to display their comprehension and upgrade their work. With this approach, students are not penalized for making mistakes; instead, they learn from them. 

De-emphasizes Penalties

Equitable grading practices avoid punitive measures such as late penalties or grading participation, which can affect certain students. Instead, the focus is on learning and improvement rather than penalizing students for their mistakes.

Variety of Assessments

Equitable grading employs assessments that cater to various learning styles and strengths. These can include written work, presentations, projects, portfolios, or self-assessments, ensuring all students have equal opportunities to showcase their understanding.

Transparent Criteria

A key aspect of equitable grading is using clear and well-defined learning objectives and assessment criteria. Students need to understand what is expected of them and how their work will be evaluated to succeed in their assessments.

Feedback as a Tool for Improvement

Effective feedback is critical in equitable grading. It goes beyond just assigning a grade; it should provide specific, actionable steps students can take to enhance their work. This kind of feedback helps students understand where they went wrong and how they can improve.

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With EssayGrader, teachers can: 

  • Replicate their grading rubrics (so AI doesn't have to do the guesswork to set the grading criteria)
  • Set up fully custom rubrics
  • Grade essays by class
  • Bulk upload essays, 
  • Use a detector to catch essays written by AI
  • Summarize essays with our Essay summarizer

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Step-by-Step Guide to Equitable Grading

Person Holding Papers - Equitable Grading Practices

Standards-based grading shifts the focus from comparing students to each other to measuring individual progress against pre-defined learning standards. This approach clarifies what students are expected to know and be able to do at each grade level. Here's a breakdown:

Clear Expectations

Students understand what they need to achieve to succeed.

Focus on Mastery

The emphasis is on learning, not competition. Students can work at their own pace and receive support to reach mastery.

Meaningful Feedback

Feedback becomes more specific, targeting gaps in understanding based on the established standards.

Formative Assessments: Continuous Checks for Understanding

Formative assessments are ongoing, low-stakes checks for student understanding and are used throughout the learning process. Unlike summative assessments (like tests or final exams) that measure learning at the end of a unit, formative assessments allow teachers to adjust instruction and offer targeted support. 

Examples of formative assessments

Exit Tickets

Short quizzes or prompts at the end of a lesson to gauge comprehension.


Students discuss key concepts with a partner, allowing the teacher to identify areas of confusion.


Observing student participation and interactions in class reveals an understanding of areas where students might need help.

Exit Tickets and Quick Checks: Snapshots of Understanding

Exit tickets and quick checks are short, focused assessments administered at the end of a lesson or instructional segment. These give teachers a quick snapshot of student understanding and allow them to adjust their approach for the following lesson.

Effective exit tickets:

Clear and Concise

Focus on a single key concept or learning objective.

Variety of Formats

These can be open-ended questions, multiple-choice, or short writing prompts.

Actionable Feedback

Analyze responses to identify areas for reteaching or adjust lesson plans for the next day.

Choice Boards and Tiered Assignments: Catering to Diverse Learners

Choice boards and tiered assignments offer students various ways to demonstrate their learning, catering to different learning styles and abilities.

Choice Boards

Present students with options related to a learning objective. Students can choose activities or projects that suit their interests and strengths, promoting student agency and engagement.

Tiered Assignments

Provide different levels of complexity for the same learning objective.

  • Tier 1 (Foundation): Focuses on essential concepts and skills.
  • Tier 2 (Challenge): Requires deeper understanding and application of knowledge.
  • Tier 3 (Extension): Encourages higher-order thinking skills and creativity.

Peer Review and Self-Assessment: Building Reflection and Collaboration

Peer review and self-assessment are tools for promoting student ownership of learning and critical thinking skills.

Peer Review

Students provide constructive feedback on each other's work based on pre-defined criteria or rubrics. This encourages active engagement with the material and hones communication skills.


Students reflect on their learning process, identifying areas of strength and weakness. This fosters metacognition – the ability to think about one's thinking.

Clear Rubrics and Feedback Guides: Demystifying Expectations

Clear rubrics and feedback guides are essential for equitable grading.


These scoring guides outline specific criteria and expectations for different levels of achievement on an assignment. This transparency lets students understand precisely what is expected of them to earn a particular grade.

Feedback Guides

These provide teachers with a framework for offering specific and actionable feedback. Feedback should focus on what is wrong and offer suggestions based on the rubric criteria.

Reassessment Opportunities: Demonstrating Growth, Not Just a Grade

Reassessment opportunities allow students to demonstrate their understanding of the material after receiving feedback on an initial attempt. This focuses on growth and mastery, not just a single performance.

Designing effective reassessment:

Targeted Support

Provide targeted instruction and support based on the feedback received on the initial attempt.

Different Format

Consider offering reassessments in a different format (like a presentation instead of a written essay) to accommodate diverse learning styles.

Clear Expectations

Set clear expectations for reassessment and what students must do to demonstrate improvement.

Considerations for Effective Implementation

Teacher Looking at Students Work - Equitable Grading Practices

Student Needs and Learning Styles

Equitable grading practices consider the diverse needs and learning styles of individual students. This includes accommodations for students with disabilities and offering alternative assessment methods for students struggling with traditional test formats. By acknowledging and addressing each student's unique requirements, educators can create a more inclusive and fair grading system that supports the success of all learners.

Technology Integration

Leveraging technology can be a game-changer when implementing equitable grading practices. Online platforms can facilitate self-assessment, peer review, and instantaneous feedback on students' work. Ensuring every student has access to the necessary technology and digital literacy skills to navigate these platforms is crucial. Technology should enhance learning and provide additional support, not as a barrier that creates disparities in the grading process.

Data Analysis and Reflection

Regularly analyzing grading data is essential to identify any potential patterns or biases in the grading process. By examining this data, educators can refine their grading practices and make adjustments to ensure they are genuinely equitable for all learners. Reflecting on grading practices and considering how they impact different student groups is crucial in creating a fair grading system that supports every student's academic success.

Additional Equitable Grading Practices

Teacher in an Empty Classroom - Equitable Grading Practices

Drop Grades (with Clear Guidelines)

Consider dropping the lowest scores in a grading period to account for unforeseen circumstances or allow students to bounce back from a bad performance. Establish clear guidelines for which grades qualify to be dropped.

Ungraded Practice and Feedback

Provide opportunities for students to practice concepts without the pressure of a grade. Focus on offering constructive feedback to guide their learning.

Portfolios and Exhibitions

Let students showcase their learning journey through portfolios, demonstrating their growth and mastery over time. Exhibitions allow students to present their work and receive feedback from peers and instructors.

Conferencing and Student Voice

Schedule regular conferences with students to discuss their progress and understanding. Actively listen to student feedback and use it to inform your grading practices.

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Challenges and Obstacles To Implementing The Equitable Grading Practices

Teacher Looking at Students - Equitable Grading Practices

Time Constraints

Developing and implementing new assessments can be time-consuming. 

  • Consider the long-term benefits of improved student learning and reduced time spent on re-teaching due to unclear assessments. 
  • Utilize time-saving strategies like online grading platforms or peer review activities.

Shifting from Traditional Practices

Moving away from traditional grading methods can be an adjustment for both teachers and students. 

  • Open communication and ongoing professional development can help ease the transition. 
  • Highlight the benefits of equitable grading to parents and students and provide examples of how it can improve learning outcomes.

Student Resistance

Students accustomed to traditional grading may initially resist new methods. 

  • Focus on the positive aspects, like opportunities for growth and revision. 
  • Explain how equitable grading allows them to demonstrate their understanding in multiple ways and encourages them to take ownership of their learning.

Standardized Testing

The pressure of standardized testing can sometimes contradict the goals of equitable grading. 

  • Teachers can still utilize equitable practices within their classrooms, focusing on formative assessments and providing students with the skills and confidence they need to succeed on standardized tests.

Save Time While Grading Schoolwork with EssayGrader's Grading Software for Teachers

EssayGrader is an innovative AI grading platform that revolutionizes how educators assess student essays. With a colossal database of over half a million essays graded by 30,000+ teachers, EssayGrader is a trusted tool used by educators worldwide seeking equitable grading practices. 

Why Choose EssayGrader for Grading?

EssayGrader boasts the title of being the most accurate AI grading platform. Educators trust it for its efficiency and precision in grading over 30,000 essays. With EssayGrader, teachers can reduce grading time by 95%, as it takes only 30 seconds to grade an essay instead of 10 minutes. Such technology is crucial for educators navigating the complexities of equitable grading practices.

Features of EssayGrader

EssayGrader offers many features that make it an indispensable tool for educators striving for equitable grading practices. Educators can replicate their grading rubrics on the platform, ensuring AI aligns with their standards when assessing essays. Educators can set fully custom rubrics, grade essays by class, bulk upload essays, and utilize the AI detector to identify essays written by AI. 

Benefits of Using EssayGrader

The benefits of using EssayGrader are substantial for educators aiming to establish equitable grading practices. Not only does EssayGrader save time by reducing the grading process to seconds, but it also provides high-quality, specific, and accurate feedback on writing instantly. Educators can quickly get a concise overview of each essay using the summarizer tool, aiding in efficient and equitable grading. 

Get Started with EssayGrader

Educators can venture to equitable grading practices by starting with EssayGrader for free today. By utilizing this innovative AI grading platform, educators can streamline the grading process, save time, and ensure fair and accurate assessment of student essays.

Related Reading

  • Online Assessment Tools For Teachers
  • Online Assessments For Students
  • Student Feedback Software
  • Types Of Assessment Tools
  • Summative Assessment Technology Tools
  • Digital Formative Assessment Tools
  • Assessment Apps For Teachers
  • Formative Assessment Tools
  • AI Assessment Tools
  • Digital Assessment Tools
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