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Ready for a Few Rounds: Morning Minutes, May 3, 2016

One hundred years, No research to support.

Traditional grading practices have been used for over one hundred years, and to date, there have been no meaningful research reports to support it (Marzano, 2000). In an era of data-driven decision making, that’s critical to note. Most teachers have not received adequate training in reliable and valid assessment methods in their teacher preparation and often default to the way they saw their teachers grade when they were in school. As a result, grading practices may vary widely from teacher to teacher (Reeves, 2004) based on style, preference, and opinions and without a research-driven rationale (Cox, 2011; Guskey & Bailey, 2001; Zoeckler, 2007). Contributing to this irregularity is the fact that many schools lack a specific, unified grading policy for teachers (O’Connor, 2009). Parents of students today were also graded using traditional methods (we all were) and thus this wildly inconsistent way of communicating achievement and growth of students has been entrenched and accepted in the way we think about schooling.

The absence of research supporting traditional grading practices is concerning. As schools continue to adopt a standards-based approach to teaching, learning, and assessment, it is critical to understand the research literature on the topic. The purpose of this primer is to provide an overview of the research literature on the topic of standards-based grading.

Matt Townsley, and Tom Buckmiller, Ph.D.l art

Link to full article below.

I happened upon this article in the Twitterverse this morning, and I decided to share it in attempt to show that though I may be crazy, I am not alone. Indeed. And crazy, like misery, loves company.

Okay, I am taking a radical–maybe crazy–step with the A approach. I get that. But I feel that anything less may not really bring the necessary attention to the issue of grading reform in education, so I am seeking attention, and I believe I’ll get it. Of course, as I like to say, “If you call attention to yourself, you better be prepared to deal with it.” And while I certainly do not have all the answers for all the questions, I do feel I am prepared for the attention I anticipate for the next two years.

Anticipated Objection #5: There’s no research to support what you are doing.

Reasoned Response #5: Well, there is, but I’ll get to that in a second. First, let me commit a logical fallacy, Argumentum ad Ignorantiam (appeal to ignorance), which aims to prove that something is false simply because it has not been proven to be true. Point of fact, there is no evidence to support traditional grading practices, but it remains nearly universally accepted and practiced in public education. But my approach will be immediately called into question for having no backing, and it will be summarily dismissed as such. But. And this is the big but here, folks, standards-based grading (SBG) does have some meaningful backing, and ultimately that is where I am heading, have been heading for some time now.

I have been practicing SBG for nearly five years–well, to varying degrees anyway. I tried to go “all in” five years ago but found it to be frustratingly difficult as I tried to make it fit the traditional system at report card time, so I abandoned the full-meal deal, keeping and practicing tidbits here and there, such as no-zeros and retakes, all the while trying to develop the capacity to try it again. Thus, my present approach. The giving an A thing is not a component of SBG, but it does take traditional grading off the table, liberating me to truly dig into SBG. I do not plan to give A’s for the next twenty years, but I do plan to force change, a change to a more meaningful approach such as standards-based. Much will depend on what happens over the next two years in regards to where I will go after, and while I’d like to see some great change come about sooner than later, I know how things work in education, so it is likely that I will be giving A’s longer than I anticipate. We’ll see in two years.

There’s no denying that the status quo carries a lot of weight, and it will be a hefty opponent in the ring. But other contenders are gaining weight and form and soon will be less hard to knock around.  I am just trying to do my part from my corner of the ring. And as I prepare the big day, I look forward to the sparring matches I encounter along the way.

Happy Tuesday, all.


4 Replies to “Ready for a Few Rounds: Morning Minutes, May 3, 2016”

  • Grades are a huge part of any education. I want to go to college and that requires good grades and even more so if I want to be a college athlete. But when every class I have grades different how do we know how much I know? People around the country have different learning standards. How can we try to keep a fair society if some people are not getting the same education or are being graded differently? Every week I come home and hear my mom who is a teacher talk about the crappy standards she has to teach and how every teacher she works with has lower standards than she likes to have for her students. I have always wanted to do something in education and everyday I see the unfair grading scales being used, my mom told the other day changing these unfair grading ways and useless standards would be a great job for me. The more I have thought about what my mom said the more aware I have become about our school´s policies. I think what you are doing with the grades for your next couple groups of students will bring the change needed for schools! We need to have more even standards throughout our country.

  • When I graduated from EWU in 2013, SBG was all I’d been taught. I had the luxury of resubmitting tests and papers. In my capstone class, I sat down with my professor to determine how I would be graded- what mastery would look like (thanks, Sean!). I felt safe. It was liberating to learn without fear. I had grand ambitions of using these practices in my classroom as a brand-new baby teacher. It would be generous to say that I had mixed results. I found that SBG practices involve a lot of moving parts. Most of my failures during my first two years were a result of skills I had yet to develop. For resubmission to be useful, students need face-to-face feedback right away. Accepting late work can be a godsend, but if the teacher doesn’t have an adequate accountability system, it can cripple some students. At the end of my first year teaching, I felt like I had been deceived in college. All those airy-fairy idealistic practices just didn’t work in the real classroom. I’m finding as I develop organization and planning skills, more and more of those practices are working for me. Halfway through this year, I figured out how to plan assessment into class time. I mostly use a level of mastery scale instead of points on assignments, and I don’t accept student work until they have assessed themselves. We conference together and agree on a score. They get detailed feedback on how to strengthen their work, and scores go in Skyward right away. I’ve tried so many new practices this year that have yet to work for me, but assessment conferences have been a real victory. I look forward to all the ideas you share. I may not have all the skills I need to try them yet, but one step at a time, right?

    • One step at a time. Of course, those steps are less difficult, when they are taken with others. Thank you for joining the conversation; thank you, too, for having the courage to step through the ropes and into the ring. The revolution is already on its way. One step at a time.

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