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 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 Carol Commodore
It has been my privilege over the last 20 years to work with educators all over the U.S. and the world in the area of assessment, leadership, and systems. What I have learned from these experiences is that educators work hard and are dedicated to the students they serve, but to do their work more easily and well they need the support of the educational systems in which they work. They must also have strong leaders who understand their needs and strive to remove the barriers and provide the resources for change. To make positive, productive changes in classroom assessment practices, I have drawn particular conclusions about systems and leaders.
Systems, especially effective systems:
- Are dynamic. When you improve or innovate in one area of the system, it can have an impact on multiple areas of the system
- Change person by person
- Support rather than impede the work of individuals within the system
- Are large and small, but regardless of size effective systems, have strong leaders and committed individuals who know and can communicate the mission and vision of the educational system
- Need people who know their roles in the system and know what decisions they have to make so all can succeed in making the vision become a reality
- Have people who know they are valued by the type of feedback and support they receive
- Have people who continually strive and work together to improve their knowledge and skills in classroom assessment practices and team learning
- Have people who respect each other
- Have people who know they are making a positive difference by the results that are produced and analyzed