"Grades Grate on Me": Thoughts on Assigning Grades for Physical Education


If you want to make some tough, grizzled, veteran physical educators cower like puppies, just ask them, “How do you assign grades?”

For many, grading continues to be a mystery unsolved.  Why?  Because good grading is based on obtaining evidence!  Prove it counselor – “Tell me why my sweet little Brittany got a “C” in PE. “

So, you see where we’re going here.  Now, let’s consider a few variables related to grading:

1. Report cards: Have you ever seen two the same?  Every district has their own format, style, parameters and protocols for grading.  Some allow one grade for physical education (e.g., Scholarship??  Does that even apply to our profession?) while others have two and add citizenship.  But there are many variations on this theme.

2. Mission statement: Does your department have one?  If not, Click Here for a helpful article on why you need one and how to begin drafting it Everything you do should align with your mission statement, including your system for assigning grades.

3. Standards: Do you use National Standards; or does your state have PE standards; or even your district?  If you’re using a standards-based approach to instruction, then your grading is based on how/what your students achieve and/or their progress towards those standards.  Assessment is a critical component to demonstrate student learning of a standard(s).  Then, selecting the activities that will help them improve their fitness, skills, and movement related knowledge so they will be successful when assessed.  So, mystery solved!  Change your sequence to this easy 1, 2, 3.  And let’s play a little baseball while we review:

  • First Base:  Lead with the Standard.  What do you want your students to know and be able to do at the end of their (e.g., 3rd grade year)?
  • Second Base:  Select your Assessment.  What tool and/or style will you use to demonstrate student achievement/progress toward that standard?
  • Third Base:  Choose a sequenced pathway of lessons to develop the movement skills they need to be successful.
  • Bring it Home:  Develop a grading system that converts assessment scores to a numeric value, then to a letter grade.

4. Example: I began teaching future teachers how to teach physical education at UCSD (University of California, San Diego) in 1996 and continued for 11 years.  When I developed my syllabus, I created a grading scale that reflected my philosophy and was as objective as possible.  The course was lecture and lab, but I placed heavy emphasis on the lab and moving – a lot.  At its core, not that dissimilar to a physical education class at any level.  Here’s the section of the syllabus that pertains to grading:


Attire:  To ensure student safety, proper activity shoes (non-scuff, rubber-soled, and firmly attached to the foot) must be worn during activity periods.  Comfortable and loose fitting clothing (shorts and casual shirt, warm-up suits, sweat suits) are mandatory.  For religious or medical reasons, safe, loose fitting slacks may be worn.

Food and drink:  It is recommended that students drink liquids prior to class and bring water to class.  For student safety, chewing gum or consuming food and/or beverages is not permitted during class.

Participation:  As class sessions involve laboratory experiences that cannot be replicated, attendance and active participation are imperative.  Students are expected to:  attend each lecture and lab (and stay for the duration), arrive on time and dressed for movement (see “Attire”), and be ready and willing to participate in class discussions and activities.  Students should arrive to class with appropriate materials to take detailed notes.

Each class meeting, students may earn up to 5 points. Students earn 2.0 points for coming to class on time (by 10:35am), 2.0 points for their active participation and/or staying the entire session, and 1 point for wearing athletic shoes and proper clothing for physical activity.  It is each student’s responsibility to sign in and out each session.

Students with excessive absences (3 or more) will fail the course.

Assignments:  Students are expected to complete assignments on time.

a.  Two papers worth 25 points each:  22 = content; 3 = grammar/spelling/typo’s.

b.  Two school observation papers worth 25 points each:  22 = content; = 3 grammar/spelling/typo’s.

c.  Two peer teach days worth 25 points each.

Assignments are due when asked for during class.  Reports turned in after this request (but during class that day) will have 10% of the possible points deducted.  Assignments not submitted until the beginning of the next class will lose 20%.  No assignment will be accepted more than one class period late.

d.  A comprehensive portfolio of work will be due near the end of the quarter. The portfolio should consist of all handouts, assignments, student work, *article reflections and **key points writing tasks. The portfolio is worth up to 50 points.

e.  **Key Points Writing:  Students are responsible to write their thoughts on the most important content and instructional strategies presented in class.  This process assists each student in organizing notes and helps create a study guide for examinations.  This assignment must be typed and should not exceed 1 page double-spaced.

f. *Article Reflection:  Each week an article will be provided for students to read/summarize.  This 1/2 page/typed reflection on the article’s content should specifically mention what value the article has in terms of practical application for either students or parents.

Test:  There will be one examination, (pop quizzes for extra points may be given) scheduled during finals week.  It is the student’s responsibility to contact the instructor to make up the final examination due to absence.


The grading scale in TEP 109 is based upon a point system.  A total of 300 points is possible.

Grading scale:

90-100% = A =                    270-300  (270-275 = A-; 290-300 = A+)

80-89% = B =                      240-269  (240-245 = B-; 260-269 = B+)

70-79% = C =                      210-239  (210-215 = C-; 230-239 = C+)

60-69% = D =                      180-209  (180-185 = D-; 200-209 = D+)

Below 60% = F =               below 180

Grading parameters:

Participation:                     50 points (5 per class meeting)

School observations:      50 points (25 each)

Peer teaching:                   50 points (25 each)

Papers (2):                          50 points (25 each)

Portfolio:                             50 points

Final examination:           50 points

Total:                                    300 points possible

So what do you see?  No negative points.  All points are positive even those related to class attendance, timely arrival, appropriate dress, etc.  Students earn them or they don’t.

They know all along exactly how they’re doing in class.  Students earn their points, at the end they’re totaled, and a grade has been earned.  I could say, “I don’t assign grades, I just add the points YOU earn.”

Of course, not all the components of this example will work for you.  However, consider the concepts, and if you like them, how might you make them applicable for your classes?  Your students?

Now if a parent comes to you and asks, “Why did my Brittany receive a “C” in PE?  You’ve got your answer ready.

  • Pauljjohnson80

    I just use the spark rubrics for each activity and assign values for final grades at the end of the semester. Sometimes I add in a few written tests of my own on key points the kids needed more focus on. Works pretty well. Just way too much paper work to deal with when teaching elementary. I could use a secretary.

  • Prosengard

    Glad to hear the spark rubrics are helpful Paul.
    Another Paul

  • Prosengard

    Glad to hear the spark rubrics are helpful Paul.
    Another Paul