A Guide to Grading Procedures for Each Department

“No, but like, how the hell do they actually work?”

— Unknown sophomore


Here’s a question for you: how many Lakesiders actually know how their grades are calculated? 90%? 80? How about — 38%? Yup. That’s right — only 38% of people actually know how their grades work. (And even among that minority, most were very willing to “voice their opinions” on the Tatler poll).

Of course, this begs the question: why? How come such an important part of high school (though I don’t think it should be this important) is so opaque? Well, we’re going to (hopefully) change that with this article! Across our six major departments, here are all of the grading procedures:



In the Math Departmental System, there are three separate but equally important parts: the “celebrations” (quite a descriptive word) that test rote skills, the tests that force students to think on their feet, and the projects that coerce students into applying math. (The projects were instituted because teachers were tired of students yelling, “when will I ever use this?!”).

Everything in the math department is graded on a 4 (or sometimes 4.3, 4.4, or 4.5) scale, where 4 (or sometimes 4.3) means you did exactly what was expected of you—any higher score usually denotes “above and beyond.” However, there’s a lot of wiggle room, as we will explore.

Celebrations are straightforward: 100% equals a 4.3, one problem off is usually around 4.0, two problems off equals a 3.85, and three off is 3.5 — generally, if students receive less than a 3.5, they must redo the celebration (though I have also been told that the Calc students have it differently this year than in past years). 

Meanwhile, tests are…whatever the teachers want them to be. Usually, a test’s average grade is meant to be around a 3.5-3.6; however, corrections are applicable. In most classes, a 4.3 is the maximum on a test, but in Honors Precalculus tests (and some Multi tests), students may receive extra credit up to a 4.4 or 4.5. 

Finally, projects are the thorniest of them all — a 4 means all elements of the rubric are met, with any score above that gijven for “exceptionally creative or well-organized solutions” (for students  who have presentation problems, the same procedure follows). In general, it is very rare to see a score above 4.15 on projects (for Multivariable students, project sets are technically a little different — comprehensive solutions to everything will give around a 4.2 — adding in the optional problem gives a 4.3).



Although grading varies heavily across biology, physics, chemistry, and electives, project grading usually (usually is becoming the most important word in this article) is given on a “ladder” with rungs at 50%, 75%, 85%, and 95% (the Physics Department adds in one value between each of these rungs). To receive more than a 95%, a student must be “distinguished” — like in math, their solutions must set themselves apart through their creativity or organization. 

Tests vary between departments — biology and chemistry teachers grade them “as normal” (on a 100-point scale), but physics teachers grade them on the rung system above, where 100% means no mistakes (there is also a 97.5% on tests in physics). 



The History Department gives, by far, the most discretion to individual teachers than any other department. There is no rule on what grade you will get on an assignment or how that grade will compare to friends in other classes; however, here are a couple of very rough (hey, even better than usually) rules.

Content and creativity matters more than a “smooth analysis that flows well.” In essays, write theses that are creative, approach the subject from a clear angle, and address the research question at hand. Of course, clear writing is extremely important in any essay, but it should come as the last consideration once all other obligations have been fulfilled. 

As for actual grades, some teachers will grade subject matter on a 100-point scale, while others will simply assign each essay a letter grade and round that grade to corresponding number when tallying the year’s final grades. (For example, an A might be a 97, an A- might be a 92, and a B+ might be an 89). 



The department faced with the most scrutiny by students in the past few weeks has been the English Department. Initially, the department had set the maximum grade to a 95% on both graded assignments and those turned in for completion. However, in late September, the department flip-flopped between whether or not to change the grades for completion to a 100%, before eventually settling again on 95%. 

Since then, repeated calls from students to change the grading system have forced the department to change tack. Students’ primary gripe was that grading “completion” as 95% disregards the actual definition of complete. Interestingly, most people (including myself) agree with the English Department’s idea of “As are not that differentiable, so they should be the same grade” — however, it should be noted that the mean of the A range is actually 96.5%, not 95%. 

In spite of students’ common beliefs, as of now (another one of this article’s favorite phrases), the English department will return to grading all assignments on an ordinary 100-point scale. With that being said, their scale is distinct from all other departments as they believe that a “100%” signifies that someone’s writing is perfect and without fault, grammatically or ideologically, which many students (particularly sophomores) noted was like if the math or science departments only gave 100% on lab reports worthy of a Nobel Prize — the grading is simply inconsistent across departments. 



Probably the most nebulous department, each language’s grading system differs significantly from others’. French, for example, begins by grading students primarily on grammar in projects in French I, adding in the oral element in French II. By French III and French IV, the grading begins to look more like that of English (but of course, kinder), where ideas, structure, and presentation are all fair game.

A similar system exists in Spanish, even though they place a higher emphasis on oral exams and, every Spanish student’s favorite, IPAs, listening assessments where a grade above 95% is legendary. 

In Latin, verb conjugation and translation of texts are all the rage (due to the small number of people in Latin, more information was difficult to come by).

Finally, Chinese moves slower than the rest of the languages, but seems to have harsher grading overall — much like how English once was, Chinese III has seen 100% become “everything is perfect,” with teachers penalizing students using words that have not yet been learned in class due to the high number of native Chinese speakers who take Chinese. 


Arts and PE:

You get an A, and you get an A, and you get an A! Out of all of the departments, the Arts and PE are, by far, the kindest, since they assess in-class effort rather than quality. The departments have often expressed that given the wide variety of experiences students come into Lakeside with, grading cannot fairly be done on a qualitative basis. 


Grades then, are a construct, with each department perfectly willing and able to define them how they want — mathematicians love definition and irrefutable arguments, scientists are more lenient but place a higher value on communication of information, writers love grammar and flow, historians value ideas and logical arguments, bilingual speakers prefer what comes naturally, and artists wish to remain above such trifling concerns as grades. 

With that being said, most students still think a lot of the departments have their work cut out for them, and while it can feel like we can’t do anything, most departments are actually very receptive to feedback! The onus falls not only on the adults, but on us too, to form a school that is consistent across all departments, honest in its communications, and strong in its academics.