Well, it is that time of year again. I am waist deep in final exams, projects, and papers – all of which have to be graded by the end of next week. Instead of my thoughts on game inspired design, this post is a copy of my first letter home to parents about the XP grading scale. When I have more time in a couple weeks I fully intend to explore XP (or “Level Up”) grading, its benefits, and its implementation. Anyways, enjoy…

levelupxpgradingletterhome (click to download pdf)


Trailblazer Parent/Guardians:

As a member of Mr. Powley’s American History class, your student will be part of an innovative approach to instruction known as “Game-Inspired Design”.  This model utilizes game elements to increase student engagement and historical understandings.  Students will still be instructed according to the South Carolina US History and Constitution content standards and dual enrollment students will still meet the expectations of the HGTC Instructional Packets.  The major differences will occur in the grading structure and the classroom terminology.  I am writing to explain this approach.  For more details please feel free to examine the syllabus, which your child has received electronically, or contact me with at the number or email listed above.

This year will feature a story, or narrative, set in a distant future. Students are part of an underground group of historians seeking to reeducate the population through secret underground history projects. In our story line, these skills have been lost and a tyrannical government manipulates the population by exploiting the historic ignorance. Rather than completing assignments just to earn a grade, the narrative is intended to increase student engagement as they complete tasks to develop the skills and content understanding necessary to achieve our primary objective.  Whenever possible, students’ assignments will feature some element of real world publication.  The biggest difference from a traditional class, and the element with the most potential to be misunderstood, is my grading system.

We will be using a “Level Up” System of grading.  This is similar to the way characters in a Role-Playing Game grow and progress.  As students complete activities they are growing as Historians.  When the year starts though students have no experience and every student will start as a “Level 0”. Activities will provide the students opportunities to demonstrate mastery of skills and content after which the student will earn Experience Points known as “XP”. For example, after watching a digital lecture and completing Cornell Notes, a student may earn 25 XP.  As the individual student earns XP he or she will “level up” based on the amount of XP they have accumulated. The experience points and level determine the overall grade. This score can be found on the conversion chart in the “Training Manual” Syllabus. Activities will fall into one of three categories – Major (50%), Midlevel (30%), and Practice (20%).

This may be awkward at first but there are several benefits to this system.  First, once a student has gained a level their level will not decrease; a student with a 99 number grade will not score a 95 on a test and see their average go down. Secondly, this also means that no student is doomed to fail a quarter because of a low test score or binder average; they can just go earn more XP before the quarter has finished.  Also, there is no need for special bonus activities.  Since each assignment is XP based, a student can simply “replay” a topic he or she did poorly on or attempt a skipped activity.  Lastly, this allows for a way to show differing levels of student growth in mastery; at a glance we can see which students are the strongest Historians and which need further assistance in their growth. The downside is that PowerSchool will not necessarily provide a complete picture of the learning taking place.  Each student will have a record of their XP count and completed assignments which parents can monitor and I will update XP counts in PowerSchool; however the XP points will need to be manually checked against the Leveling Up Chart.  The final issue is that according to Horry County Schools regulation, each course must have a final exam that accounts for 20% of the overall average.   For this reason, in the HIS201 and HIS202 courses, the “leveling up” grade will count for 80% of the semester average with the final exam/EOC accounting for the other 20%.  For the US History CP students, this means that Quarter 1 and Quarter 2 will be 40% each and the final exam will be 20%.

If you or your student has played a roleplaying game this system may seem fairly intuitive but if you are confused please feel free to contact me.  Thank you and I am looking forward to an amazing semester.


Adam Powley