Every day, in millions of doctors’ offices across the world, people go in for their annual physical exam. This process brings out a multitude of emotions from patients including, but not limited to, “I hate going to the doctor. I know s/he is going to tell me to lose a few pounds and to stop eating out so much” to “I am excited to see how my changes in lifestyle choices have impacted my high blood pressure,” and everything in between.
The purpose of health screenings is defined by the American Medical Association (AMA) as, “Health care services or products provided to an individual without apparent signs or symptoms of an illness, injury or disease for the purpose of identifying or excluding an undiagnosed illness, disease, or condition” (2000). The AMA contends that through the use of screening, our doctors can determine if a medical emergency exists. No matter what thoughts go through our minds when we go in for our annual physicals, at the end of the day we trust in the process of the health screen to keep us safe from underlying medical issues. Continue reading
We were riding high after a great ATI Summer Conference, but it was soon time to get back to work. For over a decade, ATI has offered its popular December Grading Conference and plans are well underway to repeat the event again this year. Our presenters and authors were brimming with ideas, and Rick Stiggins was no exception.
As standards-based, or proficiency-based grading gains traction, Rick urged us to stay ahead of the field by expanding our subject matter to address other practices that contribute to better student outcomes by improving feedback from teachers.
This year, grading practices will be just one of several topics related to communication about student achievement address in the conference sessions. Conference participants will have the opportunity to study the basic principles of effective communication about student learning in any school context. Continue reading
By Ken Mattingly
Grades have served many purposes for many people over the years. The general intent, I’ve always believed, has been to represent how students are doing in school. However there’s often disagreement on the specifics of the grade and exactly “how” it represents student performance. Some feel a grade should reflect the amount of work done by a student. Others view a grade as a representation of when a student learned the material. I would argue that each of these camps are missing out on a key aspect of a grade. Continue reading
By Nikki Roorda
“Beginning next year, our district is going to be grading using a standards-based method.” This sentence still evokes a vivid picture in my mind of my teammates and I sitting at a meeting with a district-level Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) who was making her way around our large suburban district delivering the message. I can picture one of my teammates nearly falling off of her chair when she heard some of the tenets of the new grading system–not grading homework, not using zeros in calculating grades, and allowing multiple attempts to demonstrate learning. These suggested changes were in total contradiction with the way that she had taught, assessed, and graded for the first 25 years of her career.
There are few things more sacred to a teacher than how they teach, assess, and grade students. The study and implementation of standards-based practices, including teaching, assessing, and grading, evokes spirited conversations as practitioners, administrators, and parents work their way through examining the purpose of a grade. The deep-rooted conversations about why we assess and grade the way we do often brings about passion and emotion to teachers. As these conversations unfold, there is a need to develop consensus among the teaching staff (building, district) about the purpose of a grade and how this purpose is operationalized in the practices that are used in our school.
The conversations centered around the belief systems associated with the implementation of standards-based practices need to be thoughtful and bring up some of the more controversial aspects of the practice when compared to a more traditional grading approach, such as staying away from averaging scores, not giving students zeros, and using formative assessments, such as homework used for daily practice. Through meaningful conversation and outlining a thoughtful vision for implementation that outlines current state and desired state, skills needed by teachers, and a vision for implementation, success can be achieved.
The two sessions that I will be presenting at ATI’s 9th Annual Sound Grading Practices conference deal with building consensus around standards-based grading (Preparing for Standards-Based Teaching and Learning) as well as an overview to Ken O’Connor’s A Repair Kit for Grading: Fifteen Fixes for Broken Grades (Implementing Sound Grading Practices: An Overview). Both sessions are designed to help participants think about implementing a standards-based grading system in their district/system.
By Ken Mattingly
Grades have served many purposes for many people over the years. The general intent, I’ve always believed, has been to represent how students are doing in school. However, there’s often disagreement on the specifics of the grade and exactly “how” it represents student performance. Some feel a grade should reflect the amount of work done by a student. Others view a grade as a representation of when a student learned the material. I would argue that each of these camps are missing out on a key aspect of a grade.
While a grade can tell teachers, administrators, and parents about a student’s performance, if it doesn’t inform the student, then a key player in the learning environment is being left out. If grades are to serve as communication, then they have to address the person that makes the most learning decisions in the classroom — the student. Grades must tell students where they are in the learning process and what they have to improve on. Continue reading
By Jan Chappuis
The preservice education my teaching colleagues and I experienced focused primarily on the act of instructing—different ways to deliver information—with no attention to responding to student work. Consequently, I, like many others, began teaching with a repertoire of four steps: plan, instruct, assign, and grade. First I planned what I would do and what my students would do. Then, I prepared the materials and resources. Next, I did what I planned, and they did what I planned. Last, I graded what they did. However, learning and teaching turned out to be far messier than I had been prepared for. Somewhere between “I taught it” and “they learned it,” the straight shot downstream to achievement sprung surprisingly into an array of diverging tributaries. Over the course of that first year, I discovered there are a thousand ways for learners to “not get” a lesson.
The belief underpinning my teacher preparation seemed to be that learning trots right along after good instruction, a sort of stimulus-response system, in which instruction alone will create learning. However, when students have continued learning needs after instruction, it is not necessarily an indication that something went wrong. Learning is an unpredictable process; instructional correctives are part of the normal flow of attaining mastery in any field. Continue reading
By Ken O’Connor
I am a keen golfer and I sometimes think about how much better golf is at assessment and grading than what we have often done in the classroom. Let me list the ways as I see them. Continue reading
by Tom Schimmer
One of the fundamental tenets of standards-based grading is that greater (if not exclusive) emphasis is placed on the most recent evidence of learning. As students move through their natural learning trajectory it is important that students be credited with their actual levels of achievement. That is, when students reach a certain level of proficiency it is important that what is reported accurately reflects that level. To average, for example, the new evidence with the old evidence is to distort the accuracy of the grade; the grade then is reflective of where the student used to be as the student was, at some point, likely at the level the average represents.
What we have collectively realized is that the speed at which a student achieves has inadvertently become a significant factor in determining a student’s grade, especially when determined within a traditional grading paradigm. When averaging is the main (or sole) method for grade determination, success is contingent upon early success or the average of what was and what is will continue to distort the accuracy of the students’ grades. Never forget that every 40 needs an 80, just to get a 60. That’s pure mathematics; the lower the initial level, the more a student has to outperform his/herself in order to achieve even a minimal level of proficiency. Continue reading