A Repair Kit for Grading: Fifteen Fixes for Broken Grades

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Ken O'Connor

A Repair Kit for Grading: Fifteen Fixes for Broken Grades

Communicating about student achievement requires accurate, consistent and meaningful grades.

Educators interested in examining and improving grading practices should ask the following questions:

• Am I confident that students in my classroom receive consistent, accurate and meaningful grades that support ...

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Overview

Ken O'Connor

A Repair Kit for Grading: Fifteen Fixes for Broken Grades

Communicating about student achievement requires accurate, consistent and meaningful grades.

Educators interested in examining and improving grading practices should ask the following questions:

• Am I confident that students in my classroom receive consistent, accurate and meaningful grades that support learning?

• Am I confident that the grades I assign students accurately reflect my school or district’s published performance standards and desired learning outcomes?

In many schools, the answers to these questions often range from "not very" to "not at all." When that’s the case, grades are "broken" and teachers and schools need a "repair kit" to fix them. A Repair Kit for Grading: 15 Fixes for Broken Grades gives teachers and administrators 15 ways to make the necessary repairs.

The "fixes" are in four categories that reflect common grading challenges: distorted achievement, low-quality or poorly organized evidence, inappropriate grade calculation and linking grades more closely to student learning. Student achievement isn’t only about "doing the work" or accumulating points. But, when students receive points for merely turning in work on time, or when teachers put a mark on everything students do and simply count them up to determine a grade, the message is clear: success is determined by the quantity of points earned, not the quality of the learning taking place. In fact, messages about learning quality get lost. Grades are artifacts of learning, and students need to receive grades that reflect what they’ve actually learned. That’s why this book advocates the implementation of grading systems based strictly on student achievement — and shows educators how to create them.

A Learning Team Study Guide is available online at www.assessmentinst.com/resources/ati-study-guides/.

Ken O’Connor is a former Curriculum Coordinator with the Scarborough Board of Education in Ontario, Canada. He is an expert on grading and reporting with a particular emphasis on using these techniques to improve student achievement through student involvement. With over twenty years of teaching experience in secondary schools in Australia and Ontario, he has presented hundreds of workshops for teachers at every grade level, and is the author of the very successful How to Grade for Learning.

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Ken O’Connor is a former Curriculum Coordinator with the Scarborough Board of Education in Ontario, Canada. He is an expert on grading and reporting with a particular emphasis on using these techniques to improve student achievement through student involvement. With over twenty years of teaching experience in secondary schools in Australia and Ontario, he has presented hundreds of workshops for teachers at every grade level, and is the author of the very successful How to Grade for Learning.

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Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Preface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xiii

Chapter 1: Setting the Stage. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

Key Definitions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

Purpose(s) for Grades . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

Underpinning Issues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9

Fairness.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9

Motivation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10

Objectivity and Professional Judgment . . . . . . . . . . 12

Student Involvement. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13

The 15 Fixes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14

Chapter 2: Fixes for Practices

That Distort Achievement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17

FIX 1: Don’t include student behaviors (effort, participation,

adherence to class rules, etc.) in grades;

include only achievement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19

Student Involvement. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22

Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24

FIX 2: Don’t reduce marks on “work” submitted

late; provide support for the learner . . . . . . . . . . . . 26

Student Involvement. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29

Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30

FIX 3: Don’t give points for extra credit or use

bonus points; seek only evidence that more work

has resulted in a higher level of achievement . . . . . . . . 31

Student Involvement. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34

Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34

FIX 4: Don’t punish academic dishonesty with

reduced grades; apply other consequences and

reassess to determine actual level of achievement. . . . 36

Student Involvement. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41

Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42

FIX 5: Don’t consider attendance in grade

determination; report absences separately. . . . . . . . . . 43

Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45

FIX 6: Don’t include group scores in grades;

use only individual achievement evidence. . . . . . . . . . . 46

Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48

Chapter 3: Fixes for Low-Quality

or Poorly Organized Evidence. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51

FIX 7: Don’t organize information in grading

records by assessment methods or simply summarize

into a single grade; organize and report

evidence by standards/learning goals . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53

Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60

FIX 8: Don’t assign grades using inappropriate or

unclear performance standards; provide clear

descriptions of achievement expectations. . . . . . . . . . . 61

Student Involvement. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70

Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70

FIX 9: Don’t assign grades based on student’s

achievement compared to other students;

compare each student’s performance to

preset standards . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72

Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73

FIX 10: Don’t rely on evidence gathered using

assessments that fail to meet standards of

quality; rely only on quality assessments. . . . . . . . . . . 75

Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78

Chapter 4: Fixes for Inappropriate

Grade Calculation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79

FIX 11: Don’t rely only on the mean; consider

other measures of central tendency and use

professional judgment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 81

Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 84

FIX 12: Don’t include zeros in grade determination

when evidence is missing or as punishment;

use alternatives, such as reassessing to determine

real achievement or use “I” for Incomplete or

Insufficient Evidence. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85

Student Involvement. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 91

Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 91

Chapter 5: Fixes to Support Learning . . . . . . . . . . . 93

FIX 13: Don’t use information from formative

assessments and practice to determine

grades; use only summative evidence . . . . . . . . . . . . . 95

Student Involvement. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 104

Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 105

FIX 14: Don’t summarize evidence accumulated over

time when learning is developmental and will grow with time

and repeated opportunities; in those instances, emphasize

more recent achievement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .106

Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .109

FIX 15: Don’t leave students out of the grading process .

Involve students; they can–and should–play key roles in

assessment andgrading that promote achievement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .111

Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .114

Chapter 6: Summary and Reflection . . . . . . . . . . . .115

References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .119

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