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Grades: Inflation, Deflation, Consternation. Assigning grades is one of the most important things a teacher does and nothing is taken more personally than challenging a teacher’s grading practices. So, as a teacher, you need to develop finesse in grading and in communicating your

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Grades: Inflation, Deflation, Consternation


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    1. Grades:Inflation, Deflation, Consternation • Assigning grades is one of the most important things a teacher does and nothing is taken more personally than challenging a teacher’s grading practices. • So, as a teacher, you need to develop finesse in grading and in communicating your grading scheme so you emerge as professional and fair to both students and parents.

    2. Grading and Reporting Topics • Purposes of Grades • Rationales for Assigning Grades • Coding Systems • Combining Information • Grades for Nonacademic Areas • Report Cards • Reporting to Parents • Legal Considerations

    3. Primary Purpose of Grades Officially - “The primary purpose of . . grades . . . (is) to communicate student achievement to students, parents, school administrators, post-secondary institutions and employers.” - from Bailey, J. and McTighe, J., “Reporting Achievement at the Secondary School Level: What and How?”, in Thomas R. Guskey, (Ed.) Communicating Student Learning: ASCD Yearbook 1996, ASCD, Alexandria, VA, 1996 Some would argue that grades also serve to motivate student learning. We will discuss that later. For now, let’s look at the various grading approaches and systems currently in vogue.

    4. Assessment Concepts in the Grading Process • Assessment starts with the STANDARD. • Reliability - Accuracy and Consistency • Validity - Meaningfulness and Appropriateness • Formative Assessment - Data collected from pre-assessments, homework, practice, and learning tasks to determine future instruction. Data collected here is not put in grade book. • Summative Assessment - Data collected to determine level of mastery. It is data collected here that is used in the grading system.

    5. Steps in Grading Process

    6. The “Combined” and “Translated” Process This part is not as obvious as you might think. The way you choose to combine/translate separate scores into one grade is one of the most important decisions you will make. You may literally hold the student’s future in your hands based on your decisions.

    7. Rationales for Assigning Grades • Relative to fixed standard • Pro – focus on achievement (e.g., 90%); often mandated by state or by school district policy • Con – the “standard” is really an opinion • Relative to group performance • Pro – real world orientation; always clear to determine • Con – grade depends on others, who is the relevant group • Relative to ability, effort, or as a personal improvement • Pro – focus is on the student; often used by teachers “who care” about their students • Con – not recommend by experts as these make any conclusions about learning murky to others

    8. So . . .Which Grading Practice Will You Follow? “ . . . (grading) practices are not the result of careful thought or sound evidence, . . . rather, they are used because teachers experienced these practices as students and, having little training or experience with other options, continue their use.” - Guskey, Thomas R. (Editor), Communicating Student Learning: The 1996 ASCD Yearbook, ASCD, Alexandria, VA, 1996, 20 “DENIAL AIN’T JUST A RIVER IN EGYPT.” MARK TWAIN But Let’s Forge Ahead Anyway . . .

    9. Coding Systems: The Actual Grades • Optional coding systems: • Letter grades • Percentage grades • Checklists • Narrative reports • BUT . . . The letter grade is the most widely used coding system. It is even used even used in the general culture (“A” list actors, “A” number 1 used car, etc.). So let’s focus here.

    10. Grades for Nonacademic Areas: . . . Sample Areas and Coding Systems

    11. Examples of . . .Different Grading Systems • Five-point system - Most high schools a five-point system. Numerical values are applied to grades as follows: • A = 4, B = 3, C = 2, D = 1, F=0 • Thirteen-point system - A few high schools in the United States use a thirteen-point system. Numerical values are applied to grades as follows: • A+ = 4.33, A = 4.0, A− = 3.57, B+ = 3.33, B = 3.0, B− = 2.67, C+ = 2.33, • C = 2.0, C− = 1.67, D+ = 1.33, D = 1,0 D− = .67, F = 0.0 • Grade-rationing system – Grade-rationing is a euphemism for rank-based grading and is popular approach among some educators. The arguments for grade-rationing are that grade inflation represents a serious problem in education, that can only be counteracted by the enforcement of rank-based standards. (see next slide)

    12. Some say grading should model the real world . . .Leadership! Competition! • Since many large companies and corporations used rank-based evaluation measures (referred to as “rank-and-yank” or “up-or-out”' approaches to evaluations), ranked-based grading prepares students for the real world situation. Students learn to compete academically with peers who will later be their competitors in the job market. • A vitality curve is a leadership construct, assigning credit with certain proportions of the production to proportions of a producing population. For example, there is an often cited "20/80 rule“ or the Law of the Vital Few. This “law” posits that the top 20% of criminals commit 80% of the crimes, the top 20% of academics produce 80% of useful results, and so on. The concept of a "vitality curve" has been used to justify the "rank-and-yank" system of performance management, whereby the bottom ranking 10% of workers are fired at each evaluation.

    13. But others have a different real world model . . .Leadership! Competition! • Rank-based performance evaluations (in education and employment) foster cutthroat and unethical behavior. • Rank-and-yank contrasts with the management philosophies of W. Edwards Deming. Deming’s influence in Japan has been credited with Japan's world leadership in many industries, particularly the automotive industry. While rank-and-yank puts success or failure of the organization on the shoulders of the individual worker, Deming stresses the need to understand organizational performance as fundamentally a function of the corporate systems and processes created by management. Workers need to feel valued, supported and part of a team doing important work. He sees “so-called” performance evaluation, annual review of performance, and merit-based evaluation as misguided and destructive. (see next slide)

    14. William Edwards Deming(1900-1993) "The worker is not the problem. The problem is at the top! Management!“ “It is management’s job to direct the efforts of all components toward the aim of the system. Everyone must understand the damage and loss to the whole organization from a team that seeks to become a selfish, independent, profit centre.“ Deming taught top management how to improve design, service, product quality, testing and sales through various methods, including the application of statistical methods.

    15. By the way . . .More on Grade Inflation Grade inflation is not new. Consider the following quote about lax standards from a Harvard University report in 1894: "Grades A and B are sometimes given too readily . . . insincere students gain passable grades by sham work."

    16. Sample Report Card . . . Using percentages with verbal descriptors & nonacademic grades

    17. Another Sample Report Card. . . Using letter grades and verbal descriptors; nonacademic grades unreported

    18. Weighted GPAbecause . . . all courses are not equal • Some high schools, to reflect the varying skill required for different level courses and to discourage students from selecting easy 'A's, will give higher numerical grades for difficult courses, often referred to as a weighted GPA. For example, two common conversion systems used in honors and advanced placement courses are: • A = 5 or 4.6 • B = 4 or 3.5 • C = 3 or 2.1 • D = 1 • F = 0 • Another policy commonly used by 4.0-scale schools is to mimic the eleven-point weighted scale (see below) by adding a .33 (one third of a letter grade) to an honors or advanced placement class. (For example, a B in a regular class would be a 3.0, but in an honors or AP class it would become a B+, or 3.33).

    19. Communicating Grades and Scores to Parents / Guardians. . . Face to Face, Part I. BEFORE THE SHOW BEGINS • Be organized. Have a folder containing the student’s grades, examples of work, standardized test scores, behavior notes. • Know this material. Know the grading system; know how to read the standardized score report; know the nature of norm group(s) used. • Know the potential incongruence among the grades, test scores and behavior evidence found in the folder and be ready to discuss them. • Have an agenda. Example: Point out strengths (grades & test scores), suggest areas for improvement (grades & test scores, comment on behavior (never begin with behavior – especially if it is a concern), solicit questions, close with a look to the future.

    20. Communicating Grades and Scores to Parents / Guardians. . . Face to Face. Part II. SHOWTIME: • Be honest. Don’t sugarcoat. Don’t go beyond your competence in answering a question. Say you will get back to them. • Be professional. Don’t dismiss or prejudge any result as unimportant. Any result is important to the parent. • Be calm. Don’t be surprised if your assessment differs from the parents; students may be behave differently at home and in the classroom. • Be geared up with specific suggestions for the parents on how they might help improve the performance of their student. • Be confidential. Do not refer to any other student’s performance. • Be ready. Know who to call if you encounter an obnoxious parent . • Be upbeat. Close on a vision to a positive future.

    21. Marcel Proust (1871-1922) “The real voyage of discovery consists not of seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Proust suffered from asthma beginning at age 9. In that era the illness was considered a ‘nervous’ disorder associated with upper class individuals in sedentary employment.

    22. A New View . . . .From: Formative Assessment to Assessment FOR Learning: A Path to Success in Standards-Based Schools – Rick Stiggins summative assessment . . . has referred to tests administered after learning is supposed to have occurred to determine whether it did. (assessment OF learning) formative assessment . . . has been the label used for assessments conducted during learning to promote, not merely judge or grade, student success. (assessment FOR learning)

    23. A New View continued . . . .From: Black, Harrison, Lee, Marshall and Wiliam, “Working Inside the Black Box”, PHI DELTA KAPPAN, September 2004; 15 “Some have argued that formative and summative assessments are so different in their purpose that they must be kept apart . . . However, it is unrealistic to expect teachers and students to practice such separation, so the challenge is to achieve a more positive relationship between the two.”

    24. Ongoing Assessments “The ongoing interplay between assessment and instruction, so common in the arts and athletics, is also evident in classrooms using practices such as nongraded quizzes and practice tests, the writing process, formative performance tasks, review of drafts and peer response groups. The teachers in such classrooms recognize that ongoing assessments provide feedback that enhances instruction and guides student revision.” Jay McTighe, “What Happens Between Assessments,” Educational Leadership, Dec. ‘96-Jan. ‘97, 11

    25. Myths from Myron Dueck • Fear of failure is a strong motivation to do well. . . . only motivates the students already not failing! • Giving students a second chance is soft. . . . life is full of do-overs • The punishment paradigm keeps students going. . . . more likely to quit! • Students who are unsuccessful didn’t try. . . . “can’t” do vs. “won’t” do Everything we do in our classrooms/schools should build confidence and reduce anxiety, stress, and confusion.

    26. Stop the following practices: . . .from O’ Connor, K. 2007. A Repair Kit for Grading: 15 Fixes for Broken Grades • Grading homework. • Don’t use information from practices to determine grades. Perhaps your directions were unclear. Feedback (immediate) matters and this occurs when you see the homework. Also, whose work are you seeing? Grade the games, not the practices. • Reducing scores for late work. • Some students predictably struggle with deadlines. Deadlines keep students organized. Right/Late vs. Wrong/On-Time. Behavior vs. Learning • Using “0” for work not handed in. • Assigning a “0” for work not yet handed in is arbitrary and mathematically invalid. Zeros reflect what a student has not done, not what a student knows.

    27. The Threat of a Zero (from Thomas Gusky, “0 Alternatives”, Principal Leadership, October 2004; 5, 2) • “The threat of a zero – and the resulting low grade – allows teachers to impose their will on students who might otherwise be indifferent to a teacher’s demand.” • “Some teachers recognize that assigning zeros punishes students academically for behavioral infractions; nevertheless, most believe that such punishment is justified and deserved.”

    28. Averaging Grades, rethought • Did you hear about the statistician who drowned while wading across a river with an average depth of three feet? • The key question is, “What information provides the most accurate depiction of students’ learning at this time?” In nearly all cases, the answer is “the most current information.” If students demonstrate that past assessment information no longer accurately reflects their learning, that information must be dropped and replaced by the new information. Continuing to rely on past assessment data miscommunicates students’ learning. - Guskey, Thomas R. (Editor), Communicating Student Learning: The 1996 ASCD Yearbook, ASCD, Alexandria, VA, 1996, 21

    29. More on averaging grades • “ . . . final grades should never be determined by simply averaging the grades from several grading periods (e.g., adding the grades from terms one through three and dividing by three).” (exception - discrete standards/content) - O’Connor, K., How to Grade for Learning: Linking Grades to Standards, Second Edition, Corwin, 2002, 135 • “Educators must abandon the average, or arithmetic mean, as the predominant measurement of student achievement.” - Reeves, D., “Standards are Not Enough: Essential Transformations for School Success,” NASSP Bulletin, Dec. 2000, 10

    30. And more on combining grades . . . • Effect of Variability on Weights • The most variable element will have greatest weight in determining the grade, not the element with the highest numerical value. • Regression to mean • The composite formed by adding grades together will show less variability than the grade ranges of the subscores used to create it.

    31. Legal Considerations • It is your responsibility to keep accurate records. Issues: hard copy and electronic grade books; security. • LEGISLATION - Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) – Two main points: • Parents have a right to see grading and test score information for their children. • Schools may not reveal grades and scores to a third part without the individual’s consent. • COURTS - Two main points: • Deference is given to the educator’s judgment, as long as • Grades are assigned in an even-handed, rational manner. • SCHOOL ADMINISTRATION - a surprise, perhaps: • Final authority for grades is the school administration. In rare circumstances an administrator may change a grade and has the legal responsible to do so.

    32. Practical Advice • First, have a reasonable and fair assessment plan. • Check for school policies on grading; if school has policy, study it carefully. • Learn to use an electronic spreadsheet or purchase a “Teacher Gradebook” program (some schools have a centralized system). • Consider creatively combining formative and summative assessment. • Review suggestions for parent-teacher conference. • Use various sources to provide feedback to parents and to solicit their help.