Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Grading: How We Got it Wrong

The October 2013 "Education Update" (v.55, #10) from ASCD arrived yesterday and I was pleased to see the cover story which is entitled, How We Got Grading Wrong, and What to Do About It.

Among the ideas presented in the article:

~  Grades: Should they reflect effort or achievement?  A common mistake in grading is that teachers tend to reward working instead of learning. "Do the pile of homework and you'll get the grade. Don't do the work - and even if you demonstrate mastery of the skill or content - you won't get the grade." Compliance is a quality often rewarded over achievement/mastery.

~  Grades as a means to punish: Grades should give students, their teachers, and their families information about where to make adjustments to achieve the educational goals in each subject area. But, instead of using grading as a "formative process that can be educative" it is too often viewed in a fixed event. "This fixed outlook invites punitive measures that distort an accurate picture of what students know and are able to do."

~  Comments from experts:
  • Penalties for late work, zeros, and points off for appearance can trade measures of learning for measures of compliance.
  • Possibly worse is the message sent by grading homework. There are all sorts of professions where you have opportunities to receive feedback without being penalized. When we grade homework we're rewarding students who learn the first time. 
  • We grade kids while they're learning and that penalizes kids for taking risks. It's demotivating and institutionalizes failure.

~   Grading: A Broken System? According to the article, "Grading can be so entrenched in the status quo that teachers...are often surprised to realize the ways they've perpetuated a broken system."

~   Why Standards-Based Grading is Preferable: Standards-based grading (SBG) provides clear learning targets, eliminates punitive grading practices, and results in better assessments (tests).

~   What Grades Mean: "When grades reflect everything - participation, homework, attendance, extra credit, neatness - they mean nothing."

~  Old-Fashioned Grading: "Traditionally, all homework, quizzes, and tests were graded and entered in a grade book. However, homework and quizzes should be treated as practice - not points toward a summative score."

~ Most Homework Assignments are Practice: "Homework carries no weight except in its worth for practicing for the assessment."

~ Decrease in Cheating: "Schools that give feedback for homework instead of points see a decrease in cheating because there is no point to it- it's not going to help you pass the test."

~  Re-testing: There are many student-centered reasons to permit re-testing.

~ Grading and Social Justice: "We can do an awful lot to alleviate the effects of poverty by what we do with grades. It's time to consider to what extent our grading rules and assessment practices work to alleviate stressors and support students, rather than measuring, measuring, measuring."

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