What is the purpose of grades? To communicate the learning to others. Grades must be:

  • Accurate – The grade must reflect the academic performance of the student when the summative grade is given. Behaviors such as attitude, effort, late work, etc. should not affect the academic grade. DCG is considering a separate behavior or ‘employability’ grade to address this need.
  • Fair – The grade must not be influenced by factors unrelated to academic performance, such as gender, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, etc.

What is the purpose of school? For all students to learn. 

What is the purpose of grades? To communicate the learning to others. Grades must be:

  • Accurate – The grade must reflect the academic performance of the student when the summative grade is given. Behaviors such as attitude, effort, late work, etc. should not affect the academic grade. DCG is considering a separate behavior or ‘employability’ grade to address this need.
  • Fair – The grade must not be influenced by factors unrelated to academic performance, such as gender, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, etc.
  • Specific – The grade is not only an evaluation, but also feedback that can be used to improve the students’ performance. Therefore, formative grades are given to help the student improve (by additional learning and reworking/retaking) prior to the posting of the summative grade.
  • Timely – Students must receive feedback in a timely manner in order to improve performance.

Why isn’t homework/daily work a bigger part of the grade?

Homework or daily work as indicated here is practice. If grades reflect what students know and are able to do, this practice should not deflate or inflate a grade. Practice is just that – practice to help the students learn and perform. Because a student does not ‘get it’ the first time, should not reduce his/her final grade. Students that may let others do their work for them and receive high marks on homework, yet have not learned the material should not have a grade inflated artificially.

Why would a student do the work if doesn’t affect his/her grade?

The work is assigned to help students practice skills and learn the material. This will help them on the summative assessments. Not having the homework affect the final grade also gives freedom for students to take risks and admit when they didn’t understand the material or skills that are expected.

When the work assigned is valuable and leads to increased learning, the students are more likely to do it. Many teachers will require all work to be complete before a student is allowed to retest.

This also helps students to prepare for college. Most college courses assign homework, but it is not collected or graded. The completion of the work is necessary, in most cases, to understand the material.

Homework is a requirement. However, the reward/punishment for doing the homework is no longer a grade. Rather it is praise, specific feedback, extra tutoring time, etc. to aid/ensure student learning.

It’s not fair that one student can redo an assignment or retake a test and get the same grade as the student who performed well the first time!

Fair is not equal. The purpose of school is for students to learn. Do we really think that all students will learn at the same rate at the same time? When you consider your colleagues at work, do they all learn at the same rate at the same time? In the end, it is about learning the skills and competencies, not the speed at which it is learned.

We must be able to give students hope. It doesn’t do any good for students to fail and then dig such a hole they can never get out. Failures and late work must be recoverable.

What about the ‘real’ world? You can’t “redo” in the real world, you’ll get fired!

One, this is simply not true. Two, education is about learning. Three, students’ brain development is immature.

One, this is simply not true. “adult professionals flourish through redos, retakes, and do-overs.... Architects redesign building plans until they meet all the specifications listed….Bar exam, CPA exam, Driver’s licensure [etc.]…. Every one of these assessments reflects the adult-level working world responsibilities our students will one day face.” (Wormeli, 2011)

Two, education is about learning. Our purpose is for students to learn, whatever it takes. When we are first teaching somebody something in which they need to learn, we have a different level of accountability than those who are already competent. We cannot hold students to adult level competencies of meeting deadlines and learning, when they do not have the skills, tools nor maturity to do so, any more than we would have students drive and be responsible for own car insurance.

Three, students’ brain development is immature. “Giedd and his colleagues found that in an area of the brain called the prefrontal cortex, the brain appeared to be growing again just before puberty. The prefrontal cortex sits just behind the forehead. It is particularly interesting to scientists because it acts as the CEO of the brain, controlling planning, working memory, organization, and modulating mood. As the prefrontal cortex matures, teenagers can reason better, develop more control over impulses and make judgments better. In fact, this part of the brain has been dubbed "the area of sober second thought."” Teens are impulsive and at times, do not have the brain maturity to connect current behavior to longer-term consequences. Education is designed to help with this maturation.

How does letting students retake/redo or turn assignments in late teach them responsibility? Students just don’t study for the first test knowing they can retake it.

If a student doesn’t do the work and are given a zero, how does this teach them responsibility? If the student is required to do the work, that is making the student more responsible! And if they do the work and therefore, learn, the grade should reflect the learning.

For students to retest, they must first demonstrate increased learning. This may include additional work, completing all required assignments before retaking, meeting with the teacher prior to retaking, etc. The retest is not necessarily the same format as the original test. For example, the original test may include multiple choice and short answer, where the retake is all essay. It is not easier to retest!

Not letting students turn in assignments late or retake/redo because of poor decisions on the students’ part is akin to not giving medical treatment to a person that doesn’t exercise, or eats too many fatty foods, is obese, or doesn’t brush his/her teeth daily. Many medical conditions are a result of poor daily choices, yet we treat these people just like we would anyone. Same is true for students. They may make poor choices by not doing their work or study for a test, yet we still want them to be successful, just like we want adults to be healthy, even after their poor choices.

Students know there isn’t a deadline, so they don’t do the work in a timely manner.

There are deadlines for work and students are expected to adhere to them, just as in the work world. There are consequences for students that don’t complete their work, those consequences are not directly reflected in their grade.

We do know that after all efforts by the teacher, support staff, and building have been exhausted, a student may receive a zero.

Ensures Consistency

These practices also helps provide consistency between teachers. If students have equal learning in two different classes, these students should have the same grade. It also helps with consistency from one year to the next in terms of the grade representing what a student has learned.

Who else is doing this?

The majority of the schools across the nation and in Iowa are reviewing the research and implementing changes in their grading practices.

Here are some links to videos that explain these topics as well:

 

Bibliography:

O'Connor, Ken. A Repair Kit for Grading: 15 Fixes for Broken Grades. Boston: Pearson, 2011. Print.

O'Connor, Ken. How to Grade for Learning. Arlington Heights, IL: Skylight Training and Pub., 1999. Print.

Wormeli, Rick. Fair Isn't Always Equal: Assessing & Grading in the Differentiated Classroom. Portland, Me.: Stenhouse, 2006. Print.

Reeves, Douglas B. Elements of Grading: A Guide to Effective Practice. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree, 2011. Print.

Spinks, Sarah. Adolescent Brains Are a Work in Progress. PBS 9 Mar. 2000. Web 23 July 2012.

O'Connor, Ken, and Rick Wormeli. "Reporting Student Learning." Educational Leadership (2011): 40-44. Print.

Fisher, Douglas, Nancy Frey, and Ian Pumpian. "No Penalties for Practice." Educational Leadership (2011): 46-51. Print.

Wormeli, Rick. "Redos and Retakes Done Right." Educational Leadership (2011): 22-26. Print.