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Evaluating Grading Practices. 10.12.07 L.I.D . Adapted from Rick Wormeli’s 9.20.07 White River SD Differentiated Grading Presentation. Paradigm Challenging Statement. “A ‘D’ is a coward’s ‘F’. The student failed, but you didn’t have the guts to tell him.”

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evaluating grading practices

Evaluating Grading Practices



Adapted from Rick Wormeli’s 9.20.07 White River SD Differentiated Grading Presentation

paradigm challenging statement
Paradigm Challenging Statement
  • “A ‘D’ is a coward’s ‘F’. The student failed, but you didn’t have the guts to tell him.”

--Doug Reeves, The Learning Leader

weighing the scales
Weighing the Scales
  • Balancing the numbers:

0 or 50 (or 60) all = F

What is the effect of each ‘level’ of F on a student’s motivation?

On a student’s ability to recover?

Which should we choose when working with students?

how do we respond to an f
How do we respond to an ‘F’?
  • “Once a student crosses over into D or F zones, does it really matter? We do the same two things: investigate and take corrective action.”
how do we record an f
How do we record an ‘F’?
  • If a student is not at or above standard, the evidence of learning really ought only fall into 1 of 3 categories:

1. (M) Missing (there is no evidence)

2. (INC) incomplete (there is not enough

evidence to make a determination of learning)

3. NTY (there is sufficient evidence which shows

that the student is “not there yet”)

how does the student respond to an f
How does the student respond to an ‘F’?
  • How might the marks (M, INC, NTY) communicate differently to a student than an ‘F’?
weighing the scales1
Weighing the Scales
  • Consider the impact of a permanent zero in the assessment category using a 100 pt scale:
  • A ‘mean’ example of temperature readings—85, 87, 88, 84, 0 (missed reading). The mean=68.8 degrees.

Is this representative of what was really going on?

weighing the scales2
Weighing the Scales
  • Consider this comparison between a 100 pt scale and a 4 point scale:

If a student does no work, he

should get nothing, right? Agreed.

But how productive is it to tell a

student that he earned 6 times

less than absolute failure?

(adapted from Doug Reeve’s ideas in The Learning Leader, ASCD, 2006)

weighing the scales3
Weighing the Scales
  • Or, what if we invert the proportions of the traditional 100 pt scale by making the A account for 60% of the grade scale and the F only 10%?

Clearly, in this absurd scenario, the ‘A’ has a huge, yet undue, inflationary effect on the overall grade. Just as we don’t want an ‘A’ to have an inaccurate effect, we don’t want an ‘F’ to have an inaccurate “deflationary” effect.

Using permanent zeros in a 100 pt scale has exactly this effect.

be clear
Be Clear
  • In the no permanent zeros scenario, students are not getting “points” for having done nothing. The student still earns an ‘F’. We are simply equalizing the influence of each level in the overall grade scale and reporting in a way that will more likely lead to more learning by giving the student hope—the goal with grades is feedback, not punishment.
the irony
The Irony

When used in a 100 point scale---

“We are faced with the irony that a policy that may be grounded in the belief of holding students accountable (giving zeros) actually allows some students to escape accountability for learning.”

--Ken O’Connor

“A zero has an underserved and devastating influence, so much so, that no matter what the student does, the grade distorts the final grade as a true indicator of mastery. Mathematically and ethically, it is unacceptable.”

--Rick Wormeli, 2006, pp. 137-38

calibrating the scales
Calibrating the Scales
  • Task: grade the following essay
  • Essay prompt: write a well crafted essay that provides a general overview of what we’ve learned about DNA this week. You may use any resources you wish, but make sure to explain each of the aspects of DNA we’ve discussed.
Student’s response:

“Deoxyribonucleic Acid, or DNA, is the blueprint of who we are. It’s structure was discovered by Watson and Crick in 1961. Watson was an American studying in Great Britain. Crick was British (he died last year). DNA is shaped like a twisting ladder. It is made of two nucleotides chains bonded to each other. The pose of the ladder are made of sugar and phosphate but the rungs of the ladder are made of four bases. They are thymine, guanine, and cytosine, and adenine. The amount of adenine is equal to the amount of thymine (A=T). It’s the same with cytosine and guanine (C=G). The sequence of these bases makes us who we are. We now know how to rearrange the DNA sequences in human embryos to create whatever characteristics we want in new babies—like blue eyes, brown hair, and so on , or even how to remove hereditary diseases, but many people think it’s unethical (playing God) to do this, so we don’t do it. When DNA unzips to bond with other DNA when it reproduces, it sometimes misses the re-zipping order and this causes mutations. In humans, the DNA of one cell would equal 1.7 meters if you laid it out straight. If you laid out all the DNA in all the cells of one human, you could reach the moon 6,000 times.”

calibrating the scales1
Calibrating the Scales
  • What grade did you give this response?






calibrating the scales2
Calibrating the Scales
  • How might the grade you assigned change based on the following information?

1. The student took IB HL biology the previous year.

2. The student downloaded the entire content of the essay from


3. The student is an ELL student who emigrated from a non-English

speaking country 6 months ago.

4. The student is a drug impacted homeless orphan with a special

education profile that includes ADHD, mild autism, and dyslexia

calibrating the scales3
Calibrating the Scales
  • What questions would you need answered before you could grade this essay reliably?
  • What do these questions and the essay grading experience tell us about—

designing assessments?

grading assessments?

using standards?

how can students play a role
How Can Students Play a Role?

Tools for student self-assessment (gathering other sources of learning evidence)

  • Book-ends: make the first and last tasks in a period, unit, or course the same and have students compare initial and final responses
  • Surveys: have students place themselves on a continuum at different stages in a learning episode, evaluate changes over time, ask them to explain why their placements moved or did not move
  • Rubrics / Checklists: have students review their work both prior to and following your or peer assessment. Have them pose questions about their own performance and create a revision, additional practice, re-take preparation plan
  • Models: students compare their work to samples of exemplary work (or work one level above where they are performing) and make a tick-list for improvement
  • Data Tracking: provide students with templates to track their performance over time
  • Reflective Stems: in journals or ontest reflection / correction sheets have students choose from and complete a short paragraph using the following starter stems . . .
suggested reflective stems
I learned that . . .

I wonder why . . .

An insight I’ve gained is . .

I’ve done the following to prepare . . .

I began to think . . .

I liked . . . because . .

I did not like . . . because

I was frustrated by. . .

A problem I had and how I worked through it was . . .

How come . . .

The most important thing for me to remember is . . .

The pattern I noticed was . . .

I’m confused by . . .

. . . surprised me because . . .

I used to think . . . but now . .

What if . . .

This reminds me of . . .

I predict . . .

I think that if I . . . then . . .

A better way for me to approach this would be to . . .

Suggested Reflective Stems