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“I learned . . . that there are reasons, historical reasons why grading exists. But I also learned from history that there are no good reasons, no sound educational ones, why they should continue to exist.” -Anonymous

letter grades have acquired an almost cult like importance in american schools conklin 2001
“Letter grades have acquired an almost cult like importance in American schools.” -Conklin (2001)
grades are not inherently bad it is their misuse and misinterpretation that is bad guskey 1993

“Grades are not inherently bad. It is their misuseand misinterpretation that is bad.”-Guskey (1993)

our reporting system does it make the grade

Our Reporting System: Does It Make the Grade?

Becky Brandl & Mitzi Hoback

Summer 2002

workshop goals are to
Workshop Goals are to . . .
  • Explore the advantages and disadvantages of various grading practices and reporting systems
  • Examine current grading practices
  • Review district options
  • Develop sound grading practices and reporting systems
reflection time
Reflection Time
  • Grading is not essential for learning
  • Grading is complicated
  • Grading is subjective and emotional
  • Grading is inescapable
reflection time1
Reflection Time
  • Grading has a limited research base
  • Grading has no single best practice
  • Grading that is faulty damages students and teachers
grading issues
Grading Issues
  • Communicated to Whom?
  • Communicate about What?
  • Assess Achievement How? Using what Evidence?
  • What Evidence of Achievement Should be Used?
developments that make change in grading and reporting systems imperative
Developments That Make Change in Grading and Reporting Systems Imperative
  • The growing emphasis on standards and performance assessments makes current reporting practices inadequate
  • Parents and community members are demanding more and better information about student learning progress
  • Advances in technology allow for more efficient reporting of detailed information on student learning
developments that make change in grading and reporting systems imperative con t
Developments That Make Change in Grading and Reporting Systems Imperative con’t.
  • Grading and reporting are recognized as one of educators’ most important responsibilities
  • There is growing awareness of the gap between our knowledge base and common practice in grading and reporting
critical aspects in determining communication purposes
Critical Aspects in Determining Communication Purposes
  • What information or message do we want to communicate?
  • Who is the primary audience for that message?
  • How would we like that information or message to be used?
grading and reporting purposes
Grading and Reporting Purposes
  • To communicate the achievement status of students to parents and others
  • To provide information that students can use for self-evaluation
  • To select, identify, or group students for certain educational paths or programs
grading and reporting purposes con t
Grading and Reporting Purposescon’t.
  • To provide incentives for students to learn
  • To evaluate the effectiveness of instructional programs
  • To provide evidence of students’ lack of effort or inappropriate responsibility
traditional grading practice sources
Traditional Grading Practice Sources
  • The policies and practices they experienced as students
  • Their personal philosophies of teaching and learning
  • District-, building-, department-, or grade-level policies on grading and reporting
  • What they learned about grading and reporting in their undergraduate and teacher preparation programs
typical sources of grading and reporting evidence
Homework Completion

Homework Quality

Class Participation

Work Habits and Neatness



Punctuality of Assignments

Class Behavior or Attitude

Progress Made

Typical Sources of Grading and Reporting Evidence
typical sources of grading and reporting evidence1
Major Exams or Compositions

Class Quizzes

Reports or Projects

Student Portfolios

Laboratory Projects

Students’ Notebooks or Journals

Classroom Observations

Oral Presentations

Exhibits of Students’ Work

Typical Sources of Grading and Reporting Evidence
grades are communicated to whom
In the elementary grades…



Other teachers


In middle and high school…

College admissions office

Scholarship decision makers

Potential employers

Juvenile authorities

Insurance companies

Grades are Communicated to Whom?
reflecting on your grading practices
Reflecting on . . . Your Grading Practices
  • What are the principles on which your grading practices are based?
  • What are your actual grading practices?
  • What were or are the main influences on your grading principles and practices?
  • How do your grading principles and practices compare with those of other teachers in your school?
reflecting on
Reflecting on . . .
  • Do the grades awarded fairly reflect the results from which they were derived for each student?
  • If you answered "yes," for which students? Why?
  • If you answered "no," for which students? Why?
  • What grading issues arise from this care study?
  • What revisions to my grading practices do I need to make?
  • What points of uncertainty still exist?
grades communicate about what
Grades Communicate about What?
  • Achievement
  • Class participation
  • Effort
  • Attitude
  • Intelligence
questions for establishing appropriate grading practices
Questions for Establishing Appropriate Grading Practices
  • Is it appropriate to factor the student's ...achievement ...intelligence ...level of effort or ...level of attitude when assigning a report card grade?
establish appropriate grading practices for each question above
Establish Appropriate Grading Practices for Each Question Above
  • Consider arguments for and against each one
  • Create a balance scale reflecting a clear analysis of all factors
if you think it s possible you are living in a dream world stiggins

If all of these are factored into a grade all with different weights, how can we expect the readerto factor all of those things out and understand what we meant?

If you think it’s possible, you are living in a dream world.-Stiggins

traditionally evidence of achievement has been based on
Traditionally, Evidence of Achievement has been based on:
  • Test and quizzes
  • Homework assignments
  • Class participation
  • Teachers' intuition
what evidence of achievement should be used
What Evidence of Achievement Should be Used?
  • Test and quizzes (if they are of good quality, yes)
  • Performance assessments meeting standards of quality
  • Homework assignments (maybe)
  • Class participation (maybe, what standards are in place so that all students are treated the same?)
  • Teacher's intuition (maybe)
Q & A . . .
  • Should grading be based on "growth over time"?
Q & A . . .
  • Should you grade "on a curve”?
Q & A . . .
  • When is grading counterproductive?
Q & A . . .
  • How can “cooperative learning” be graded?
Q & A . . .
  • How should “extra credit” be handled?
Q & A . . .
  • How does a teacher meet the needs of all students in a class including ELL, SPED, Inclusion, HAL and Title I?
Q & A . . .
  • How can you account for “evaluation anxiety”?
traditional classroom
Traditional Classroom
  • Primary focus on teaching
  • Textbooks guide all classroom decisions
  • Instruction is textbook driven
  • Fuzzy curriculum
  • Feedback to students is letter grades based on course requirements
  • Occasional talk about standards
  • Assessment for grades
  • Responsibility for learning is on the teacher
standards based classroom
Standards-Based Classroom
  • Primary focus on learning
  • Standards guide all classroom decisions
  • Instruction based on standards
  • Clear learner outcomes
  • Expectation is ALL students will learn
  • Feedback is specific for each student
  • Assessments integrated into instruction
  • Students take ownership for learning
guidelines for grading in standards based systems
Guidelines for Grading in Standards-Based Systems
  • Relate grading procedures to learning goals (i.e. standards)
  • Use criterion-referenced performance standards as reference points to determine grades
  • Limit the valued attributes included in grades to individual achievement
  • Sample student performance--do not include all scores in grades
guidelines for grading in standards based systems con t
Guidelines for Grading in Standards-Based Systems con’t.
  • Grade in pencil--keep records so they can be updated easily
  • Crunch numbers carefully--if at all
  • Use quality assessment(s) and properly recorded evidence of achievement
  • Discuss and involve students in assessment, including grading, throughout the teaching/learning process
examine sample report cards

Examine Sample Report Cards

Chart Strengths and Weaknesses

grading and reporting system development
Grading and Reporting System Development
  • The primary goal of grading and reporting is communication
  • Grading and reporting are integral parts of the instructional process
  • Good reporting is based on good evidence
  • Changes in grading and reporting are best accomplished through the development of a comprehensive reporting system
building an effective communication timeline

Building an Effective Communication Timeline

What is your district currently doing to encourage effective communication?

Brainstorm additional ways to increase communication between home and school.

multifaceted reporting systems may include

Back-to-School Night

Newsletters to Parents/Patrons

Personal Letters to Parents

Report Cards

Notes Attached to Report Cards

Weekly/Monthly Progress

Standardized Assessment Reports

Phone Calls to Parents

Newspaper Articles

Presentations for Community Groups

Art Shows/Concerts


Multifaceted Reporting Systems may include . . .
multifaceted reporting systems may include1
Evaluated Projects or Assignments

Portfolios or Exhibits of Students’ Work

Homework Assignments

School Web Pages

Parent-Teacher Conferences

Student-Teacher Conferences

Student Involved Conferences

Student-Led Conferences

Electronic Reporting Systems

Multifaceted Reporting Systems may include . . .

Electronic PortfoliosNot Just an Electronic File Cabinet

  • www.richerpicture.com
  • www.ideasconsulting.com
  • www.newtechhigh.org
  • www.glef.org/classrooms.html
  • www.project-approach.com
think about
Think about . . .
  • What pieces are in place in your district?
  • What do you need to add?
  • Who are the audiences?
  • Are they addressed by your current reporting system?
what parents want from a reporting system
What Parents Want From a Reporting System
  • More and better information
  • More detailed information, but jargon free
  • Practical suggestions about helping their child
just trying hard isn t good enough
Just Trying Hard Isn't Good Enough
  • In a standards-driven system, teachers are responsible for maximizing students' success.
sound grading practices students must
Sound Grading PracticesStudents must:
  • Be clear about the achievement targets that have been set •Content Knowledge •Patterns of reasoning
  • Know what standards they are expected to meet
  • Understand the grading procedures that will be used
  • Gather evidence over time
  • Translate evidence into a composite index
  • Begin instruction with a complete picture of the grading process (share it up front, no surprises, no excuses)
steps for revising grading and reporting systems
Steps for Revising Grading and Reporting Systems
  • Make decision to revise grading and reporting system
  • Hold initial planning meeting & survey staff
  • Form committee(s)
    • report card committee
    • reporting system committee
    • (see committee guidelines)
    • (consider parent/patron representation)
steps for revising grading and reporting systems con t
Steps for Revising Grading and Reporting Systems con’t.
  • Study issues and view samples
  • Visit other schools if appropriate
  • Begin development of grading and reporting system
  • Share draft with entire staff
  • Pilot the system
  • Modify and/or adopt system
report card committee ground rules
Report Card Committee Ground Rules
  • Meeting will begin and end on time
  • Differences expressed in the meeting will not be carried beyond the walls of the meeting room
  • All committee members will participate fully in the work of the group, including completing outside readings and assignments agreed upon
report card committee ground rules con t
Report Card Committee Ground Rulescon’t.
  • Every effort will be made to make decisions based on consensus of the group
  • Each member serves as a representative and will take responsibility to fully represent the views of the constituents, to share the work of the committee with them, and to seek and share their feedback
highly recommended
Highly Recommended . . .
  • How To Grade for Learning: Linking Grades to Standards (Second Edition) by Ken O’Connor
  • Available online from Skylight at http://www.skylightedu.comor call 1.800.348.4474
also recommended
Also Recommended . . .
  • Classroom Assessment, Grading, and Record Keeping by Robert J. Marzano, Barbara Zeno, and Jane E. Pollock, 2000, McRel
  • Designing Standards-Based District, Schools, and Classrooms by Robert J. Marzano and John S. Kendall, 1996, ASCD
also recommended1
Also Recommended . . .
  • Report Card Grading: Strategies and Solutions (video), by Rick Stiggins, Assessment Training Institute
  • Succeeding With Standards: Linking Curriculum, Assessment, and Action Planning by Judy F. Carr and Douglas E. Harris, 2001, ASCD
  • Transforming Classroom Grading by Robert J. Marzano, 2000, ASCD

Report Card Grades

“Depend on so much . . .

So much depends on them!”

-Rick Stiggins