Recently I was able to spend two days in Fort Nelson, BC with a group of dedicated high school educators. They were taking time to reflect on what was working in terms of grading and reporting as well as what was not working. Like other high school educators, they are serving students whose needs are changing rapidly. Using classroom assessment in the service of student learning, while being respectful of the curricula they teach and the policies under which they work, is a challenge. We all shared ideas and challenged our assumptions and our practices. One frame we used was, Reasons to and Reasons Not to... I enjoyed our rich interesting discussions.
As we ended, I reminded them that there are many 'right answers' when it comes to this work - 'right answers' that are respectful of students' learning needs, teachers' needs, and the outcomes of the curricula. And, that said, there are important guidelines that support quality grading and reporting practices. They can be summed them up with seven questions (Herbst and Davies, 2014). I invite you to consider your grading and reporting practices through this lens.
Question #1:Are students' report card grades reflective of a student’s most consistent, more recent pattern of performance in relation to agreed-upon standards, criteria, and pre-determined levels of quality and given for the full range of educational standards or outcomes?
Question #2:Are students' report card grades based upon a wide array of evidence selected because of its alignment with outcomes and standards and do they reflect informed teacher professional judgment of the level of quality of student work in relation to the standards or outcomes?
Question #3:Have you ensured that students' report card grades do NOT reflect data related to factors such as effort, attitude, attendance, and punctuality?
Question #4:Are students' report card grades determined after students have time and opportunity to learn, understood by students (both expectations and acceptable evidence) and after students have been involved in co-constructing criteria and collecting evidence of their learning?
Question #5:Are students' report card grades derived from evidence of learning present, not absent (thus devoid of practices such as assigning zeroes, grading on a curve, averaging, penalty deductions)?
Question #6:Are students' report card grades done in an environment where there are quality assurance and control processes to ensure consistency of interpretation? That is, are they validated by and anchored in collaborative conversation and analysis of student work against agreed-upon criteria, by teachers, across grade levels and subjects, to ensure consistency and fairness in judgment?
Question #7:Do your classroom assessment practices support student learning? If not, how might you change them so that they do?To read more, go to A Fresh Look at Grading and Reporting in High Schools (for teachers) and Transforming Schools and Systems Using Assessment: A Practical Guide (for leaders). To locate more helpful resources on this topic, join our FREE members' site here.