I have always thought that assessing and grading is the one area in which there is the widest gap between research and what is actually taking place in classrooms (with my classroom having not been the exception). Over the past few days I finally decided to read through Rick Wormeli’s Fair Isn’t Always Equal. This book does a tremendous job of touching upon all of the topic’s key points without getting too technical. I could definitely see this resource being used for a teacher and/or administrator book study. You can read it cover to cover, or you can easily just dive into certain chapters to target areas of interest.
After reading the book, here are five changes that I would make to my assessing and grading procedures if I were to return to the classroom as a teacher.
- Revamping the Grade Book
Before: Grades were categorized by assessment. For example, at the top I listed “Lesson 1 Language Arts Test.” Then next to each student’s name I listed his percentage score on the entire test.
After: The names of the assessments will still be in the grade book, but the format of the grade book will subdivide each assessment into learning goals. For every assessment students will receive multiple grades, one for each goal. (Often times, multiple assessments will contribute to the same goal.) Although I cannot say this with complete certainty, each grade will be on a scale of 1-4.
- Grading on a Smaller Scale
Before: For the majority of their grades, with the exception of project-based learning experiences, students were provided with either a percentage grade or a raw score.
After: Whenever possible, each learning goal will be assessed on a scale of 1-4, with the small scale promoting grading consistency with “distortions less likely.” Rubrics with clear descriptors will be used to determine grades. A “universal” rubric can be developed to encompass most goals, while different situations will undoubtedly call for more specialized rubrics. I could also consider using a different number scale so students and parents do not equate “the highest numerical value (4.0) with an A, the next highest value with the next highest letter grade, B, and so on.”
- Availability of Student Reports
Before: I recorded scores in my grade book and in our learning management system, Moodle. Grades were categorized by subject and then assessment.
After: My grade book will still be kept online, but it will be in the format described in my previous two points. When looking at the grade book – for students, parents, and teachers – student proficiency for each standard will be crystal clear.
- Retakes, Retakes, and Retakes
Before: Math was the only subject in which I heavily emphasized retakes. Other times, I worked with certain students in specific areas, but regrading did not generally occur.
After: “We don’t want to admonish students for not learning at the same pace as their classmates.” So, for all assessments or learning goals students will be provided with multiple opportunities for retakes. Students can use the online grade book to track their own progress and request a retake at specified points in time. Certain requirements might be put into place, such as a student having to attend a study session prior to being retested. Both students and parents will be made aware of all rules at the beginning of the school year, and they might even be provided with chances to contribute to their creation.
- Less Group Grades, More Individual Accountability
Before: In Language Arts and science, group grades and individual grades each made up roughly an equal portion of a student’s report card grade.
After: With my revised system in place there will still be a place for group grades, but there will be built in accountability for each student in regards to his learning goals. As a result, students will hopefully be more vested in their learning, and they will be able to make explicit connections between their actions and their goals. In the end, this process will help in ensuring “that no student receives a lower grade for another student’s lack of achievement.”
The five points that have been listed all deal with teachers, students, and parents being able to more effectively identify areas in which students are strong or need additional support. Often times, the manner in which multiple goals are scattered across the same assessment is entirely arbitrary, as is the setting of specific dates and times for when students must meet these goals. What matters most is that we treat each goal as its own separate entity, provide students with multiple opportunities to show mastery, and then ultimately issue report cards that are indicative of each student’s present level of performance for each goal.
What tips can you share for grading in the classroom?
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