Digital Doors was created as a place for me to blog and share resources that I think would be helpful for teachers integrating technology in meaningful ways in their classroom. My goal would be to write a blog post a week, but with my busy schedule, that doesn't happen. I write when I can and rely on nifty tools to help me share what I am finding when I don't have time to write.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

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Changing Thoughts about Grading

As we become much more intentional about grading in ways that provide meaningful feedback that students and teachers can really use to set goals and improve performance and understanding, it becomes evident that grades can and should mean much more than a percentage of how many questions were marked right. As we make these shifts, not only do our assignments and assessments change, but our grading process changes as well.

As one of the resident EasyGradePro and AIMS "gurus", I get to be a part of lots of conversations about grading. More and more, teachers are wanting to move towards a more Standards based approach to grading. Lots of great thoughts and questions as we think through this process. There are a few shifts that have to happen, to really move toward Standards Based grading.

1. Assignments need to be intentionally created to assess a Standard.
  • This means that the Standard/Learning Target comes first.
  • Next we must determine how your are going to define proficiency in the Standard.
  • Then you need to decide how to report that proficiency.
Many times, we put the cart before the horse. We decide that we want to do Standard's Based Reporting but we don't change our assignments and assessments to reflect that. What we end up doing is just changing As, Bs, Cs and Ds to 4s,3s,2s,and 1s.
2. Standards based grades are not averaged. With Standards, you are grading on a continuum and not a average. If your score reflects proficiency on a Standard, there should be no scores to average. The Standard grade shows where the student is at the time of reporting, not the average of how the student has done over the grading period. How exciting to see that a student knew nothing about a particular learning target at the beginning, but by the end of the class, this student was proficient. Standards reporting shows growth.

This is a huge shift for students and parents when following the progression of grades through out the grading period. Students and parents are used to seeing a grade that reflects percentage scored on tests, completion of assignments, etc. They are not used to seeing a grade as a place on a continuum. "A Growth Chart".

3. You must decide what to do with all the other things you want to track and report that aren't necessarily reflected in a Standards Based Grade.

We know that effort is the most important element in success in learning. It is important for students to be able to see where they are on the continuum, but it is also important to see the effort (turning in assignments, participating in class, etc) that correlates to that success.
Lots to think about. Way more than just changing a grading scale. I find the more that I work with teachers on this, the more complexities I discover. Teachers in our district are truly trying to find ways to use grading not only as a reporting tool, but also a learning tool for students. I would appreciate your thoughts and ideas on this subject.

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons: Tony Crider
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Mary B said...

Thanks to you, Martha for your very thoughtful notes on grading systems!

Mary B said...

Thanks for the thoughtful commentary, Martha. It's about time we included kids in the loop of their progress by recognizing effort.