Rethinking Grading Practices

As part of my work on the board at OPRFHS, I wanted to take a serious look at grading practices. It’s going to take me a while to get up to speed on high school grading; one of the staff sent me some resources to look at, and we have a preliminary meeting to discuss this afternoon.

So far, the most interesting has been this 30 minute podcast (transcript included), which I think does a good job of laying out some of the issues with how we currently do grading:

“Joe Feldman: I’ll start with talking about a common practice that perpetuates inequities and what to do instead. One example is the traditional idea that we average a student’s performance over time. And actually grade book software does this by default. If you imagine students do some homework, and then they do a quiz or two, and then there’s some summit of assessment or test at the end of some unit.

The way that we traditionally grade those things is that we assign point values for all those things, and students score a certain number of them out of a certain number of possible. Then we add up all those numbers and divide the number earned by the number possible. What that is doing is it’s averaging all of the performances together into a single grade.

The problem with that, is that for the student who does well from the very beginning and gets A’s on everything, their performance is fine, their average is an A, but for the student who struggles at the beginning and gets very low grades, D’s and C’s and even F’s as they are in the process of learning, and even on early quizzes when they demonstrate mastery on the test and let’s say they get an A on the test, because they have those earlier grades that ostensibly were for assignments and assessments that were on the path to learning, that they were supposed to learn from, and that they weren’t even supposed to have learned everything yet, when we include those early scores, it pulls down the final grades, so it actually misrepresents the level of mastery that a student has ultimately demonstrated.

The reason why that’s so inequitable, is that for the student who, before coming to class, attended summer workshops or had parents who gave them a much richer educational environment because they had the time, and the education, and the money, or the students who had a great teacher the year before, they’re going to come in at the beginning of that unit and do much better, and the student who hasn’t had those resources and privileges is going to start lower. When you average a student’s performance over time, you are actually perpetuating those disparities that occurred before that student came into your class. The alternative then, is that you wouldn’t include earlier performances. You would only include in the grade how a student did at the end of their learning, not to include the mistakes they made in the process.”…/harvard-edcast-grading…

Two other pieces I looked at this morning, just in case you’re curious:

• Undoing the traditions of grading and reporting. The School Administrator, 78(5), 32-35.…/SA21-Undoing-Traditions-of…

• Leading leaders in rethinking grading: A case study of implementation of standards-based grading in educational leadership. Journal of Research Initiatives, 5(3).

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