Exceptional learners and the Grading process. Nicki Berger (Robl) Kathryn Oswood Heidi Riehl Karen Rochon Tyler Stevenson Karin Stringer Tom Sturm. The History of Grading Exceptional Learners.
Nicki Berger (Robl)
The most impressive demonstration that a person was educated was not a GPA or the name of the institution attended, but the name of their teacher. Students of the great teachers of history often became famous themselves because of the thoroughness with which their mentors had passed on knowledge, understanding, skill and talent (2005).
William Farish, a tutor at Cambridge University in England, is given credit for being the first teacher to establish a grading system. He came up with a method of teaching that would allow him to process more students in a shorter period of time and therefore make more money (2005).
In the United States, Yale University was the first to implement a system resembling our current grading system. Yale kept student information in what is called a Book of Averages. It recorded the average of each student’s marks-a procedure still used in figuring course grades today-and mentions a 4-point scale (2009).
It was in 1897, at Mount Holyoke College, that letter grades, tied to a numerical or percentage scale, were first used (2009).
In the first part of the 20th century, due to an increased number of students in schools because of compulsory attendance laws, the American elementary and high school education systems began using standardized grading systems (2009).
Before the enactment of public 94-142 (2007), the fate of many individuals with disabilities ended up in state institutions for persons with mental retardation or mental illness. In 1967, for example, state institutions were homes for almost 200,000 persons with significant disabilities. These persons with disabilities were merely accommodated rather than assessed, educated, and rehabilitated (2007).
Initial Federal Response -in the 1950’s & 60’s- the Federal Government, with strong support and advocacy of family associations, such as The Arc, began to develop and validate practices for children with disabilities and their families. These practices, in turn, laid the foundation for implementing effective programs and services of early intervention and special education in states and localities across the country (2007).
Congress enacted the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (Public Law 94-142), in 1975, to support states and localities and protecting the rights of, meeting the individual needs of, and improving the results for students with disabilities. It is currently called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), (2007).
Grading systems used in general education classes are usually ill-equipped for individualization to meet the needs of a particular student. Research has documented that special education students in general education classes are at risk of receiving low or failing grades (2003).
Under the IDEA all students with disabilities are entitled to a written statement of present educational performance, measurable annual goals, and special education services and accommodations. This is known as an Individualized Education Program (IEP), (2003).
General and special educators often fail to collaborate effectively to coordinate the general grading system with the accommodations and modifications required under a student’s IEP (2003).
Legally then, we have an obligation to grade students in accordance with their IEP goals. But grading is an overwhelmingly arbitrary process.
50% of teachers surveyed in a study by Bursuck et. al., in 1996, used grading adaptations for students without disabilities.
It is little wonder then teachers struggle with how to grade those WITH disabilities fairly.
A consequentialist might say that adapting student grades or standards to which they are held is okay. It helps out the student that needs accommodation and no one is much harmed in the process. The action of accommodation helps more students than it hurts.
A non consequentialist might say that this process of modification is wrong that all students should be graded on an even plane. It is wrong to change one student’s grade and not everyone’s grade.
C.S. Lewis might say that through our grading process we are treating students more as a means than as a unique, unrepeatable miracle of God.
Parker Palmer would argue that we are smarter when we all work together and that grades create nothing but competition and untruths.
“The deepest calling in our quest for knowledge is not to observe and analyze and alter things. Instead it is personal participation in the organic community of human and non human being, participation in the network of caring and accountability called truth” (1993).
“Tommy is a fifth grader with a learning disability that severely affects his ability to organize and write responses to questions. He has just received his first report card grades since be included in the general education social studies class. Tommy’s teachers made several instructional adaptations for him, including providing him with study guides prior to tests. As he glances over his grades, Tommy is crestfallen to see the D in the social studies box. He knew he had not done well on the longer written tests in class, but he had worked hard to prepare, and he had regularly and completed all of his homework and in- class projects“ (2004).
If we assume that grades are a way to indicate a student’s achievement then Tommy should be given a letter grade after mutually (parents, teachers, students) agreed upon adaptations have been made to accommodate his disabilities.
If we assume that grades indicate little about what a student can and cannot do then Tommy (and all students) should receive more accurate representations of their progress rather than grades. Standards based grading should be used.
“Daniel” is a 7th grade student with a learning disability.
Because Daniel sometimes refuses to participate in portions of his class work, the issue arises:
How do we grade Daniel in order to keep him accountable for the work, while not holding him to standards he cannot meet because of his disability?
Perspective 1: Grades are representative of the effort put into, and mastery of, assignments that are appropriately geared to the student’s ability level.
Should Caleb receive his current grade if the classroom environment created difficulty in learning throughout the term?
“Research suggests that grading practices vary considerably among schools and among teachers in the same school, despite attempts in many schools to build in more consistency and predictability” (2008).
“An accommodation levels the “playing field” for those students, and that though they may feel that it is unfair to the other students it is truly their only way to have success in the classroom.”
Jennifer Fleming, 2008.
How can an orange be compared to an apple and graded fairly based on color and taste?
“Inflating grades is a bad idea...”