We are discussing some ideas about keeping records during the high school years. This week we want to talk about three important areas: progress reports, calculating GPA, and keeping standardized-test results.

Progress Reports

We would suggest that you keep progress reports for your own information. Having interim progress reports will facilitate maintaining a transcript, and will help you determine appropriate grades. In addition, they will serve as a mile-marker to document progress and problem areas.

You may choose a quarterly, semi-annual, or yearly report. Choose whatever frequency works best for you. Don't space them so far apart that you cannot remember what was done, or so close that you are doing unnecessary paper work.

Some states require some form of progress report as part of their home-school education law. In that case, keep reports to the state simple, including only the information required. For instance, on quarterly reports we submitted to our school district in New York, we did not include Bible unless it was credited for an elective in high school. The state did not require Bible in its curriculum, so it was unnecessary information to them. We did keep records of Bible on our progress reports, however, since they were for our use only. Giving excess information on state-required reports does you no good, and may cause others to look bad.

To see a sample of a progress report, go to www.davidandlaurie.com/progress.chtml.

Grade point average

The grade point average is meant to be an objective measure of what the student has learned. In reality, it is not quite that easy. Grades are always subjective. Even when a grade reflects a simple multiple-choice test, the selection of questions is subjective (i.e., some person wrote the test!). For this reason, we downplayed grading and emphasized mastery of skills in our home school. However, for the purpose of the transcript, you need grades. How you award a grade is up to you. You may require a student to complete a given list of assignments in order to obtain a particular grade - a contract course. You may require passing certain tests for a grade. You may have the student write papers or complete projects for a grade. You may even assign a grade by pure subjectivity (what you think they deserve). All of these methods are used in traditional schools. A word of caution is in order, though. If you are awarding all As and your child does not do well on standardized tests or the college boards, your grades will be highly suspect. On the other hand, some students are just bad testers. In that case, it is wise to prepare a portfolio of the student's work that will substantiate the grades that were given.

To figure a grade point average, use the following steps:
1) Assign a letter grade (A, B, C, D, F) for each class.
2) Convert the letter grade to a point value using this scale:*
A = 4 points, B = 3, C = 2, D = 1, F = 0.
3) Find the total number of units (for the period you want to
average).
4) Divide the total number of points by the total number of units.
*(Some schools use other point scales such as A = 5, B = 4, but these are the exception. We suggest you stick with the more common 4-point scale.)

You can figure a grade point average for a semester or year, cumulatively (up to the date) or a final average (at the end of studies). However, use the process above to figure each; do not average semester grade point averages to find the cumulative GPA.

In our home school, we did not accept less than a B; if the work was not B-quality, it was redone. (We did this even though the transcript indicates a C-grade could be given. See the example transcript below.) You are free to make your own grading judgments and rules; just be sure to explain your methods on your transcript. Remember that these records are kept as a form of communication with others. Be sure they are understandable.

Standardized Test Results

If standardized tests are part of your home-school routine, be sure to keep copies of the results for the high school years. They may be requested by colleges instead of class rank, or even a transcript.

SAT or ACT scores should be sent directly from the testing organization to the prospective college.

There's a lot more good information on keeping records coming in the next few weeks. If you want to have it all in one resource, you might want a copy of our book, The Guidance Manual for the Christian Home School: A Parent's Guide for Preparing Home School Students for College or Career. And if you are trying to motivate your high schoolers to own the process, why not check out the "Grand Plan" information on our Web site, www.davidandlaurie.com.