Tag Archives: grading

Grading On a 6-Point Scale

Ben ArcuriBy Ben Arcuri

I have convinced myself for many years, that the percentage grade created and assigned to the students at the end of my course accurately represents the students’ level of learning.  I made major changes to my grading to allow this to happen. I shared and discussed grading systems and structures with my colleagues.  I presented during professional development days at my school and other schools on these topics many times. I left the sessions feeling good that I have shared a way to accurately assess and measure student learning.  Educators left my sessions feeling encouraged and supported. I was happy that I was sharing my grading system and pedagogy to educators who want to try to create better environments for learning in their classrooms and schools. Continue reading

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Why Re-Quizzes Change Everything

Ben ArcuriBy Ben Arcuri

It is so simple, provide a student with some guidance and time to get better and then offer another opportunity to show if his or her understanding and learning has improved.  From my experience, a student’s understanding WILL improve, and you have started the most important change in that student’s educational life.  This might sound dramatic but it’s not. I’ve seen it happen, and it not only changes the students’ lives, but it will change yours as well.

Here is how I do it and why it works so well. Continue reading

High-Quality Assessments and Standards-based Grading and Reporting

natalie-bolton130x140By Natalie Bolton

Standards-based grading and reporting policies are becoming a norm in P/K ­‐ 12 schools, districts, and states. However, as policies are created calling for shifts in grading and reporting practices, it is imperative that time be spent on making sure that classroom assessments, both formative and summative, are of high quality. So, what tools or checks are in place to assist teachers in making sure their classroom assessments are of high quality, prior to reporting if a student has met a standard?

I’ve found that using the assessment development cycle as described by Chappuis, Stiggins, Chappuis, and Arter (2012) is a great tool to critique an existing assessment or to provide guidance as an assessment is being designed. Using the assessment development cycle helps ensure I can accurately communicate about student mastery of standards. All assessments, regardless of assessment method, should go through the cycle to ensure assessments are of quality. Three stages make up the cycle and are described in Figure 1. Continue reading

Grades as Communication

Ken MattinglyBy 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

This I Believe

By Ken O’ConnorOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As I have been involved in some interesting and at times, contentious, discussions about grades over the last few weeks, I thought that this would be a good place to reaffirm my beliefs about grading. I agree that the ideal would be narrative feedback only K-16, and I am a great fan of colleges like Alverno in Milwaukee. However, for the foreseeable future, grades will be required in almost all colleges and high schools, many middle schools, and some elementary schools. I believe we should continue to try to move not having grades as high up the grade levels as possible, but we also have to fight to make traditional grades better — more accurate, meaningful, consistent, and supportive of learning. So this is what I advocate: Continue reading

Redefining Accountability

By Tom Schimmer105046605 - New Photo #2

The issue of accountability often serves as a source of tension between those on either side of the grading reform ledger. For those still not sure about a move toward standards-based grading, the pushback often centers on the notion that “students need to be held accountable!” To be clear, the collective movement toward standards-based grading is not some misguided attempt to make school easier for students or to relieve students of their responsibility to fully invest themselves in their own learning. In truth, most would agree that students need to be held accountable, but the difference is that standards-based grading establishes a new kind of accountability.

For some, the term accountability is code for punishment, which sounds harsh, so the word consequence is often used as a substitute to present the illusion of a more logical response. As thinking goes, punishments need to be applied by adults whereas consequences are the natural result of student missteps. Either way, this version of accountability is a distraction that focuses on the student’s behavior (not learning) and compromises the validity (accuracy) of what is ultimately reported about student proficiency. While some may philosophically justify this approach, philosophical justifications aren’t enough to neutralize the role this version of accountability plays in diminishing the meaning and clarity of the grades student earn.

What is needed is a new definition of accountability where all learning is mandatory. With late penalties, struggling students have almost no incentive to complete essential learning activities after three or four days. Give a student a zero and, if he or she is still passing as a result, it is unlikely that the work will ever get turned in; that’s not accountability. The irony is that while many claim standards-based grading makes it easier for students, the traditional accountability practices actually do more to make school easier by rendering essential learning as optional. Real accountability doesn’t allow students to opt out of what is essential nor does it allow students to play a numbers game to decide which assignments need to be completed and which ones do not.

Punishing irresponsibility doesn’t teach anyone how to be responsible; it only teaches someone that they should have been responsible, but it doesn’t teach them how. If the life lesson of responsibility is that important, we would be proactive in teaching responsibility in the same way we teach math, ELA, or any other subject. As a point of comparison, we don’t use the threat of lower scores to teach respect. Almost every school expects students to be respectful, holds students accountable when they are disrespectful, but never needs the gradebook to do so; responsibility can be handled the same way. What a student knows and when they hand their teacher something are two different constructs–both important, just different. If you want students to learn how to be responsible, teach them. Playing the life lesson trump card because we’re annoyed that a student was non-compliant is no way to ensure the accuracy of what is reported or to establish a culture of optimism about learning moving forward.

I am looking forward to sharing more on this topic at the Pearson-ATI Sound Grading Practices Conference (Dec. 4-5, 2014) in my session entitled “Redefining Accountability.” In addition to my keynote address, “Grading from the Inside Out,” I will also be presenting “Reassessment the Right Way and Effective Leadership for Standards-Based Grading.”

If you’re unable to attend the conference, please take some time to follow the hashtag #ATIcon on Twitter while the conference is in session.

What Happens Before the Reassessment?

Jeff_EricksonBy Jeffrey Erickson

The topic of reassessment has spurred many “lively” conversations and debates in schools. Some argue that it isn’t fair that some get a second chance for learning and believe that it doesn’t reflect the real world to have second chances (forgetting the fact that many would not be able to drive to work if there weren’t redos.) Others contend that reassessments provide students an important opportunity to improve their learning and show proficiency. However, what I’ve learned over time, as a building principal, is that we need to shift the conversation away from reassessment and towards what happens before the first summative assessment is even given.

My school, Minnetonka High School, is an International Baccalaureate (IB) school. As teachers of IB courses complete course assessments, they are required to review all of the assessments, compare them against the rubric, and predict students’ final IB scores (from a 0-7 point scale). In turn, IB moderates the teacher’s predicted score. The process of predicting individual students’ scores is intriguing because of the amount of evidence of learning required to predict them.

A teacher who starts with the end in mind should be able to go around the classroom as he or she passes out the summative assessment to the class and accurately predict each student’s performance. The outcome on the test should not be a surprise to either the teacher or student. Sounds simple? In reality, no—to do this, the teacher must have a preponderance of evidence about each student’s performance gathered over the unit of study. There has to have been a series of formative assessments that provide the teacher with accurate feedback about the student’s learning. Each of the formative assessments helps drive and shape the instruction of the teacher so that mid-course corrections can be made. Rather than being reactive after the summative, the goal is to be proactive during the learning process and intervene long before the first test is given. If the evidence of learning shows that students are not ready, why would a student take the assessment the first time?

In the end, the testing results should never be a surprise. The criteria for success should be clear to all parties. Students should receive timely, specific, and targeted feedback throughout the learning process. With this information, proactive interventions can happen just in time for remediation—not the day after the summative assessment.

More on Late Work

Recently a teacher wrote in liking our post on late work but had the following question: “How can my feedback be effective if student work isn’t timely? How can I be expected to give late work the same attention as work that comes in on time?” This is a very real concern for teachers when considering whether or not to eliminate late penalties in their assessment practices.

Tom Schimmer writes:

The question about teacher time is an important one that can’t be ignored. In order for any new practice to be successful in the long term, we need sustainable routines or we risk “burnout.” No late-penalties doesn’t mean no deadlines, however. When deadlines are missed, we need both an individual response and a “system” response in order to make sure that students are as current as possible. Some quick points…I’ll try to be brief.

1) Distinguish between “can’t do” and “won’t do” issues. A “can’t do” means the student actually doesn’t fully understand what to do to complete the work. A “won’t do” is not necessarily outright refusal; however, it does mean that the student knows what to do but hasn’t done it. Each of those requires a slightly different response.

2) “Won’t dos” need a place to go (AM/at lunch/PM) to complete the missing work. Who supervises, who confirms attendance, etc. are all “system” questions that principals and teachers have to come together on. If they “no-show,” then who gets the referral? Is it a “code of conduct” issue? Something else? “Can’t dos” need further instruction and, therefore, need a different response from the teacher.

3) In the schools I’ve worked in, we set an unwritten guideline of two weeks. That meant that we wanted work to be missing for no longer than two weeks. We actually preferred one week, but knew there would always be extenuating circumstances and/or the scope of what’s missing may take longer.

4) Ask yourself whether the missing “evidence” is necessary or whether the standard(s) addressed in the missing work will be addressed again very soon. I call this overlapping evidence. Taking a standards-based approach means we look at “meeting standards” and not necessarily “getting everything done.” For example, missing homework could likely be covered on an upcoming quiz, so it might not be necessary for students to complete all of the homework as you know you will be assessing the very same standards shortly after. The big question with missing work is this: Is this piece of evidence necessary for me to accurately assess the student’s level of proficiency? If yes, then you need it; if no, move on.