What Does a Grade Mean?

I’ve spent the past week prepping to facilitate an upcoming workshop about grading for high school teachers. I thought I’d share some of the information I found, as it seems to me a valuable conversation for administrators to explore at a faculty meeting, coaches to examine with teachers, facilitators to discuss with PLCs, and mentors to investigate with beginning teachers.

  • Here are some conflicts that exist among many teachers’ practices regarding grading:
  • How to use formative assessments for progress monitoring that is not part of grading?
  • Are grades raised or lowered by behavior? Attendance?
  • What consistency exists within a school regarding what a grade represents?
  • Do extended learning opportunities enrich student learning or raise grades for working more?
  • What is learning and how do we “record” that to a grade?
  • Can I require assignments that aren’t graded?

I found a blog by Robert Ryshke  where he examines grading, sharing some key discussion questions from Susan Brookhart, the author of Grading and Learning: Practices that Support Student Achievement:
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  • Grades should reflect achievement of intended learning outcomes.
  • The primary audience for messages conveyed in grades are students and parents.
  • Grades should reflect a particular student’s individual academic achievement only.
  • Grading policies should be set up to support student motivation to learn.
  • Grades should be based on a student’s standing among classmates.
  • When students receive “poor grades” for their performance, they are motivated to do better next time.
  • A grade should reflect the student’s achievement, work habits on responsibilities like homework, class participation, and behavior.

Slide3In her book, Brookhart explores information to be reported as differentiated from graded:

Growth and progress information – Change in achievement of learning goals within subject area over time…used to report progress

Learning skills information – Information from observing student behaviors that promote learning (like effort and work habits).

Grading Information – Information from summative classroom assessments used to communicate achievement of intended learning goals against standards.

Here are the questions I’m planning to ask the teachers to explore.

  • What key learning standards have been mastered by anyone receiving a grade of C? B? A?
  • What assessments will be graded and how will they be weighted to measure learning standards mastery?
  • How will test be used to measure learning standards met?
  • What additional items or criteria will be included in a grade?
  • How will you present your plan for grading to your student?
  • In what ways do you see your plan for grading motivating students?

My power point with this information is available to you. If you use any of what I presented, I’d love to hear your experiences.

Slide4

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Steve Barkley

For the past 30 years, Steve has served as a consultant to school districts, teacher organizations, state departments of education, and colleges and universities nationally and internationally, facilitating the changes necessary for them to reach students and successfully prepare them for the 21st century. Read more…

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