Search Menu


This site is available only to JEA members. Please log in below.

Developing a grading system that works for you and your staff members


Students will decide with their adviser what they feel is a fair grading system for each student in the media program.


  • Students will analyze how other student media advisers grade their staff members.
  • Students will complete research to learn how other students receive their grades.
  • Students will create grading contracts for each position on their staff that are fair and manageable in cooperation with their adviser.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9-10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1d Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarize points of agreement and disagreement, and, when warranted, qualify or justify their own views and understanding and make new connections in light of the evidence and reasoning presented.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.2 Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence clearly, concisely, and logically such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and task.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology’s capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.8 Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the usefulness of each source in answering the research question; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.


Four 50-minute classes


Internet access

Examples: Sample grading guidelines from other schools

Lesson step-by-step

1. Building background — 10 minutes

Explain to students that many successful student groups use contract negotiation in order to decide how they will earn their grade on staff.  Today we’re going to begin researching some of the ways the groups around the country create their own individualized and group grading methodologies and will develop our own grade contracts.

2. Research — 40 minutes and continued for homework

– Students will use the Internet to research active media programs around the country and how the students earn their grades.

– They will develop a list of questions they would like to use in an interview when they contact an adviser or student editor of the program that they find.

Questions could include:

– What kind of system do you use to grade your students? Are students involved in the process of determining how they earn their grade?  If so, how does that work?

– What are their primary ways you develop a grading system?

– How do the students on your staff buy into it?

– What specific pros and cons can you share with me about the way grading is done on your staff?

– How does grading change each year on your staff?  Can it or does it change during the course of the year?

– Students will set up and conduct their interviews and then present the data they have learned to the class.

3. Presentations — 1 class block (50 minutes)

Each student will present what he or she has learned from the different schools around the country.  As the presentations are made, someone in the class should create a list of possible ways students develop their grading system with their advisers on the whiteboard in the front of the class or on a multimedia projector (whatever is available in your classroom).

Essential questions you should ask and answer together:

If you have multiple students in one classroom who are on different levels in the journalism program, it stands to reason that you should be differentiating instruction and grading them on different criteria – how can that happen so that students see it as fair?

Students with different responsibilities will have different expectations on their grade contracts

All students should meet the basic minimum requirements while students with more responsibility should be judged on additional requirements

What are the criteria by which ALL students in your program can be judged?

What specific criteria do you want to develop for students who have additional responsibilities?

If you develop a point system, how can you build in a way for students who do more work to get extra credit for that effort?

What specific grade sheets do you need for your staff? Some examples might include (sample grade sheets will be attached to this, to):

  • Staff reporter (or a grade sheet that EVERYONE on your staff will fill out)
  • Editor-in-chief (specific for media – online, newspaper, yearbook, broadcast, lit mag, etc.)
  • Photographer
  • Artist
  • Videographer
  • Business Manager
  • Advertising Manager
  • Staff Fun Director
  • Producer (broadcasting)
  • Director (broadcasting)
  • Social Media
  • Section editor or page editor
  • Feature
  • News
  • Op/Ed
  • Style/Entertainment
  • Sports
  • Student section (yearbook)
  • Clubs

4. Follow-up — 1 class block (50 minutes)

 Using the data that was presented in the last class block, create a proposal for developing grade sheets for your program.  Your proposal should be a sample grade contract(s) that includes:

a. What should EVERY student on staff have to do for each grading period and how many points should each category be worth?

b. What specific criteria should go into the individual responsibilities you have on staff? How should that contract be set up?

c. How many points should be assigned to each item on your contract? What do each of your contract totals add up to be?

d. How will your teacher be able to account for your grade as you complete each task? If your teacher is using an electronic grading system, how will he/she be able to enter your grades into that system?

e. How will your parents be able to constantly be aware of your grades at any point in the publication production cycle?

5. Combining best ideas from all presentations — 1 class block (50 minutes)

Looking at all the proposals during this class block, we will decide as a class what ideas we like best and will list which elements we want to use in our grade contracts.

You may wish to send this list of suggestions to your editorial board for approval and later implementation.