Monday, November 14, 2011

Creating A Sense of Urgency for Grade Reform

This article was initially published on Nov. 3, 2011 at  You can access the link to the article here.  

For those of us working in the trenches in education to overhaul grading practices, the recent Educational Leadership journal from the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) is a timely publication.  Each article is dedicated to providing information about effective grading practices.  The journal implies (actually it SHOUTS) the fact that grading practices are not effective in our schools. 

So what can we do as educational leaders to fix the grading problem?  First, we have to acknowledge that the current system for grading students is broken.  Let me share with you an example from our school.  A student in a high school class recently scored poorly on an assignment.  Here is the email he sent to the teacher.

Dear Teacher,
I was wondering if there was a time we could meet. Before, after, or even seminar during school. When I turned in my [assignment], you just said I needed more. I would like to go over it and get some more feedback from you. I feel like I could be a better student. I would like to get more feedback and work through it with you. 
Concerned Student
His grade on this assignment gave no feedback on learning targets that were mastered and those that were not.  This student was left with a feeling of unease and wants to know what he can do to improve.  If this is a student in your school, you need to act now to prevent this from happening to other learners.  
Below is a list of things you can do as a school leader to move your school toward more effective grading practices.
  •  Start with assessments.  Teachers in our building are working on creating common assessments that are tied to essential learning targets.  When teachers discuss and create assessments, they have ownership of the learning target.  Then, when an assessment is given, it allows the teacher to focus on the feedback from students to help guide instruction.  The ultimate goal is for teachers to focus on student learning rather than simply teaching the concept. 
  • Effective grading is about effective student learning.  Share that message often with all stakeholders.  Feedback is critical to the learning process. 
  • Share articles with the teachers to improve their understanding of effective grading practices.  We utilize a Google doc to share articles and to gather input to allow all voices to be heard. 
  •  Create grading guidelines for your district and have your board adopted that as local policy.
  • Start a book study group with staff.  We started by reading Checking for Understanding by Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey or Fair Isn’t Always Equal by Rick Wormeli. 

As Thomas Guskey stated, we can’t allow ourselves to say, “We’ve always done it that way.”  Our school is taking on this challenge.  Is yours?

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