Thursday, August 5, 2010

Grading Practices Re-examined

With a new school year approaching, a month from now, there is so much to prepare for in schools and classrooms. With a refreshed, often times rejuvenated, focus on the "calling" recognized as student learning achievement, this seems the time to consider how best to serve students. Much of our decision making is based on student work and the assessment and grading practices used to get as accurate a picture for meeting learner's needs.

What will follow is a series of posts focusing on grading practices. While I have a bias, which will become obvious, my intent is to offer information and examples for people with experience about grading to consider and join me on a reflective journey to discover what practices are best suited to meeting learners' needs. Those "people" include anyone who has ever been (or currently is) a student, teacher, administrator, business, and/or a parent.

To begin, what's needed is a agreed upon description for the primary purpose of grading. Much is taught from academics to citizenship, to responsibility. Yet, promotion to the next grade and graduation at the HS, MS, and Elementary** level is determined based on academic progress. While "social promotion" happens it's never been the standard by which students are expected to move forward. Our first impression on looking at a report card is that the "Grades" are indicative of academic understanding and skills based on a standards or learning objective orientated curriculum. Tom passed Freshmen English, so he's ready for Sophomore English, Susan is starting the year as a 4th grader, so that means that she has sufficient understanding of 3rd grade curriculum.

**Universities share a similar focus, and are included in this exploration. Their culture has some different challenges, grading practices share some common problems to study.**

Consider this statement, and does it, in general terms, address a commonly accepted view, your view, for the purpose of a Report Card?
The primary purpose for a Report Card grades is to represent a student's level of academic proficiency.
  • Primary is underlined to recognize there may be other factors which schools wish to report and/or parents want to know about in the student's development.
  • Academic Proficiency is underlined to emphasize that instruction and student learning expectations are keyed to academic curriculum. Look at the Common Core movement, and the impact that NCLB (wiki) has had on states developing common learning standards as proof. (ex. Michigan standards: GLCE and HSCE).
  • Proficiency is used instead of Mastery because expectations are not always expecting mastery. Students do need a level of proficiency which could range from recognition to mastery.
The primary purpose for a Report Card grades is to represent a student's level of academic proficiency.
Does this statement reflect or come close to your understanding for the primary purpose of grades?