Keeping Essential Records

by Lisa Rodriguez, Ph.D.

file cabinetLetís face it. This is the part of teaching that we donít necessarily take pleasure in doing. The semester is about to begin and ScanTron-type forms appear in our mailboxes with deadline notices attached and tiny boxes to fill in. You may have add slips, policy sheets, and requests from Admissions and Records to meet the deadlines for submitting all forms. In an attempt to be organized, you create a file folder and perhaps label it "Permanent Rolls," but half-way through the semester, another similar form arrives called something like "Positive Attendance Record." There are usually five different aspects to maintaining records for your classroom and some of them carry with them legal ramifications for breaking with college and state policies.

If this process is still new to you, or you were not a TA in your graduate school career, you need help. New faculty should always read the faculty handbook and ask questions frequently of colleagues and administrators on campus. Also, regardless of how thoroughly your department chairperson or dean explains these procedures to you, as a new faculty member the paperwork can seem overwhelming. For this reason we have chosen to make record keeping as simple as possible and take heart, it does get easier with time and practice.

Submitting grades and other forms on time is vital !!!
Many colleges are funded based on this information

Classroom Records Overview: Documents You will Likely Process During the Semester

Initial Rolls

Have them with you at the first class meeting, mark no shows

Permanent Rolls

Must be submitted at end of semester with Grade Sheets, keep a Xerox of all final forms.

Lab Attendance Records

Donít circulate to students when other students' social security numbers are visible. Shred at the end of the semester.

Department Surveys

Confidential depending upon information requested, these usually come with clear instructions.

Grade Sheets/Grading Rationale

This is usually a separate form that asks for performance/grade indicators (midterm/projects, etc.) in addition to a final exam grade. If you keep computer grade book records, simply print them with student ID numbers visible and submit with your grade sheet. You as well as your chairperson or dean may sign this form before it is submitted to records. Be sure to check your college policies. They are typically distributed with these forms.


Keep copies of drops and reinstatements. Keep adds only until the name appears on your permanent role. The studentís name will be added to your roll when they take care of their end at the registrarís office.


Usually handled by a student or department staff person near the end of class or on the last day of class.

Grievance Documentation

Keep private records of warnings or disciplinary action for up to a year in the event of a challenge by students.


More Notes on Paperwork

Transfer record due dates to your personal calendar until you are familiar with the rhythm of the semester. This is vital if you teach at multiple campuses because deadlines differ from campus to campus.

Permanent Rolls arrive after you have submitted drops and after the add date expires. Students who pay for the course and register using a signed add card for your course should automatically be added to the records, but do add their name to your records for attendance purposes. Check for them when you call roll using your updated record forms and keep any add verification documents that come to you from the records office until the end of the semester.

Assessments and grading criteria should be decided well before the course begins unless you adopt a learner-centered approach whereby the class decides the criteria together. The best practices from Berkeleyís Teaching Compendium suggest that you maintain your grades as raw scores or points that later translate to letter grades but can be seen as both. Make sure that students receive information on their progress frequently to avoid surprises at the end of the semester.

A good rule of thumb with records is that you should keep copies of them neatly on file for at least a year after each class ends, and donít lose originals. Many faculty keep the copies of their grade logs and syllabi for each class for up to 10 years.

Computer and Paper Grade Book Keeping Options

woman at a computerThere several ways to manage your data but whatever way you choose, record keeping takes some time. Whether you keep paper or computer records, many part time instructors teach at more than one school, or teach more than one class at a single campus. For this reason, it is advisable to have different colored notebooks and file folders to correspond to each class for quick identification.

The paper and pencil method is the traditional way to keep records and usually requires that you purchase a specialized notebook that accommodates the perforations on the side of records sheets. Ask your departmentís administrative assistant if there are any available in the stock room before purchasing them. You might take a hybrid approach and use a software application to calculate grades, only taking attendance using the paper method, but if you have not considered a computer grade book option, browse the Explore section of this module for a list of web links to see the array of what is available. Some have free (shareware), or have downloadable trial demos with documentation.

The benefits of using the computer to store and manage records are worth mentioning. Whether you have a laptop, a home computer, a computer in your classroom, or in a shared office you can do several useful class related functions using basic software that usually costs under $60.00. Some campuses have software already on their machines for your use. This list highlights some useful features common to many of the applications:

  • Saves time and reduces errors
  • Automatically weights and calculates course grades
  • Presents total absences and tardies next to studentís name
  • Prints varied reports on score, attendance, assignment lists, seating charts
  • Some have confidential online grade book options for students
  • Are easily exportable to the web or other applications Ė cross platform compatibility
  • Are capable of storing information for up to ten classes with 50 students each, some can do more.
  • Neater storage of past records, savable to disc or CD

Others include ParScore and database programs such as Excel. Thereís a software program called Excel-ent Grade Book that compliments the use of Excel for record keeping. ParScore works with scantrons and keeps electronic record of scores.

I recommend considering two software solutions not listed on the Education Worldís comprehensive list: Easy Grade Pro and Grade Quick. These have product websites listed in the Explore section.

Microsoft Template Gallery for Teachers

Excel Template: Grade book for a class based on percentages

Excel Template: Grade book for a class based on points

Excel Template: Grade book for a class based on averages

Word Template: Calendar for the 2002-2003 school year (requires Word 2000 or later)


Taking daily attendance is mandatory for community college instructors in many states.

Once you have created an organized folder or a database on your computer, take roll and mark absences and other notations using the marks that the college indicates such as / or AU (absence unexcused) in the appropriate boxes. You will get a new roll sheet usually four weeks into the semester or earlier if you are on a quarter system, to indicate adds and drops from the first week of the course Ė you will be given a deadline to submit the positive attendance forms which usually do not require your department chairís signature. Roll on the first day of class is essential to process no shows or DNE (did not enter) students.

Utilizing a Teaching Assistant

If you have the benefit of a TA for your classes, their duties usually include keeping most of your daily records Ė entering attendance and scores for assignments into your grade book. They should be equally sensitive to privacy issues regarding student records. You and your TA should discuss the manner in which you will generate student progress reports, handle grading of assignments, and other documents well before the semester is under way.

Maintaining Privacy of Student Records

Be aware of FERPA Ė the federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 which states, "FERPA addresses the concerns of student record administration and requires you to be cognizant of the ways in which you communicate with students and other education officialsÖ.be vigilant and protective of student information that has been entrusted to you." Your registrar, human resources, or faculty handbook address FERPA concerns for faculty. 

  • Donít pass around lab attendance sheets with social security numbers with names for all the class to see.
  • Donít post grades in hallways or public places with student names and social security numbers Ė even partial number identification is a breech of privacy at most institutions.
  • Donít post student information to class websites without password protection. If in doubt, check with your department.
  • Avoid leaving student records out on desks or lecterns for public view.