Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What Is Equitable Grading?  |  Benefits of Equitable Grading  |  Equitable Grading Misconceptions  |  Research

What is Equitable Grading?

Equitable grading is a research-based practice of reporting only a student’s  understanding of the course content (standards). Compared to traditional grading practices, it is more accurate, bias-resistant, and motivational for students.

Read more about the importance of grading:

What Are Some of the Benefits of Equitable Grading?

Equitable grading is more accurate than traditional grading, which means that everyone–the teacher, the student, their parents, college admissions officers, etc.–receives a more valid and reliable report of where the student is in their understanding of the course content. 

Equitable grading is also more bias-resistant than traditional grading: there are fewer subjective judgments made about the student by the teacher, and student grades reflect less of the circumstances outside their control.

Finally, equitable grading supports students’ intrinsic motivation to learn, shifting their focus away from accumulating points and compliance to demonstrating learning and building self-regulation.

Equitable grading tells the student, their family, and other institutions exactly where a student is in their learning.

What Are Some of the Misconceptions of Equitable Grading?

Myth: Equitable grading lowers expectations and rigor, causing grade inflation (Everyone gets an A)

Equitable grading’s primary pillar is to accurately describe student learning, free from non-academic behavior and biased subjectivity of the teacher, which reduces factors that can inflate grades. 

Teachers who first encounter equitable grading fear that the practices will lower expectations, but they and their students experience the opposite: equitable grading actually increases academic expectations and rigor because it focuses students, and their teachers, entirely on learning and mastering course content.

In comparison, traditional grading emphasizes getting points instead of learning, and because our inherited grading includes students’ non-academic behaviors–raising their hands, completing their homework (regardless of whether they copy or get assistance), arriving to class on time, bringing in food for the class potluck or tissues, bringing in their syllabus signed, etc., the grade becomes inaccurate, often inflating it. In other words, traditional grading practices can allow students with weak understanding of course content to cover up those weaknesses. 

Equitable grading works to prevent grade inflation.

Qualitative and quantitative data supports that equitable grading decreases grade inflation and raises academic standards. External evaluators have found that equitable grading consistently decreases grade inflation among teachers in our System Change Partnerships. A high school World Language teacher shared what teachers have repeatedly told us: “I used to think that equitable grading would make it easier for students to pass my class, but now I think it is fair and holds them accountable to their learning.”

Myth: Equitable grading believes in “no zeros”, “unlimited retakes” or “no deadlines”

Equitable grading does not prohibit zeros.
Equitable grading means a grade should always accurately describe a student’s level of understanding of course content. If they know nothing about the course content, their grade should reflect that: with a zero. If they know more than nothing about the course content, then the grade obviously wouldn’t be a zero. For teachers who want to signal missing work with a 0, the most mathematically sound way to do this–and therefore the most accurate–is to use the 0-4 scale.

In addition, equitable grading utilizes mathematical and pedagogical improvements to the traditional, century-old 0-100% scale. When teachers use a scale of 50-100% or 0-4, grades are more mathematically sound and accurate, and promote less variability across teachers (e.g., Starch, 1913; Brimi, 2011), and has been found not to cause grade inflation (e.g., Carifio & Carey, 2013, 2015).

Read Chapter 7 of Grading for Equity 

Equitable grading does not endorse unlimited retakes.

Grading equitably means that students should have multiple opportunities to show their learning, and each retake should be preceded by support so that there is improvement. At the same time, teachers have a limited amount of time and capacity (just like their students), and teachers have many options to balance these two interests.  

Read Chapter 11 of Grading for Equity 

Equitable grading does not believe in no deadlines for assignments or that late work has no consequences. 

There should be deadlines, and late work should result in consequences for the student, but those consequences should not be included in the grade for that work. Why? Grades are inaccurate when a student can get a B for B-level work that is turned in on time, and a student with A-level work but submits it late also receives a B, which results in two students with entirely different performances getting the identical grade. Consequences for submitting work after the deadline can include additional time, reflection, or “natural consequences”–they still have to do the work that is late as well as current assignments.

Myth: Equitable grading does not prepare students for the challenges of post-secondary education or the professional world

Equitable grading often more accurately reflects the “real” or professional world than traditional grading. 

For example, in traditional grading, homework performance (or practice) is included in the grade, but in college homework isn’t usually collected, much less graded. And in the professional world, what matters is not the practice but the performance. In fact, while traditional grading is designed almost entirely to teach compliance and a particular way of learning (a student must take notes, must raise their hand, must answer every homework question), equitable grading builds much more sophisticated, 21st century skills of self-regulation, creativity, character, and metacognition that equips students for greater success for post-secondary and professional challenges. 

And with equitable grading, when important work skills such as collaboration is a course standard or outcome, explicitly taught with clear and unbiased evaluations, that is included in equitable grading.

Read Chapter 13 of Grading for Equity

Is There Research That Supports the Benefits of Equitable Grading?


Equitable grading practices are based on research across the fields of motivation theory, adolescent development, effective assessment and reporting, mathematics and statistics, and culturally-sustaining pedagogy–and these citations are listed in the appendix of Grading for Equity (Corwin, 2023).

Quantitative and qualitative data showing the impact of equitable grading were published by the Equitable Grading Project in its 2018 publication, “Grading Practices are Failing Children: A Call to Action for Equitable Grading”  and in its upcoming, updated report to be published in Spring 2024.

In addition, there is over a decade of published writing and research (including peer reviewed articles) supporting standards-based grading, which has many similarities to equitable grading practices.

Are there additional articles and resources I can explore to learn more about equitable grading?

Check out our Resources page to learn more about equitable grading.

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