Formative Assessment FAQ: How can we support and communicate sound grading practices?Back to FAQs
The imprecise and abstract notion of grading practices must be challenged by districts, giving students and parents, as well as teachers and administrators a more authentic understanding of what students are expected to learn and where a given student is on his/her journey of learning. Both the clarity and content of the report card must reflect what Thomas Guskey has termed process (responsibilities), progress (growth) and product (mastery of content). As we are on our journey of learning, we view the grade card as a postcard from the road; clarifying for parents how students are meeting their responsibilities, what type of progress we have made on our trip and when we will reach your eventual destination. This postcard does not motivate us to move faster, it simply communicates highlights from our trip.
When working with teachers on classroom structures for student growth, we find the conversation often moves to district grading policies. Some policies run counter to effectively communicating student achievement. As Ken O’Connor suggests (2007), educators should determine a grade based on quality assessments and professional judgment, and not simply calculate a grade. However, some policies indicate that a teacher must have eighteen summative assessments in a nine week quarter; Thus, creating a ripple effect in the classroom practice of moving some assessments from formative to summative. A district must remove barriers from the effective teacher to report process, progress, and product. (Guskey, 2009).
More on Communicating and Supporting Sound Grading Practices:
Formative Assessment Teacher Journey Snapshot
They had become accustomed to a system that padded their grades by rewarding good behavior, overlooking their copying of each others’ homework and class work, and relying on “completion grading” of poor quality work. They had become accustomed to teachers carrying them into a passing grade, whether they understood the material or not. It was an immense paradigm shift for them to realize that it mattered whether or not they could accomplish the academic standards for the class. It shifted the ultimate responsibility from my shoulders onto theirs. I became a tool to help them accomplish the learning targets, along with their books, their binders, their learning targets, and their checkpoints.
Megan J., High School Science Teacher
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