Thursday, January 19, 2012

reflections on grading

Grades. Such a point of tension and anxiety for new teachers. Especially as many of you are now finalizing first semester grades for your students.

Grades can serve many purposes: evaluation of student learning, feedback to students and families, instructional planning for teachers, incentive for progress, and administrative purposes - matriculation, retention, transfers etc. And not all educators share the same philosophy on grades - some educators grade on effort while others see grades as evaluation of academic achievement only. These varied purposes and perspectives makes grading within a team/grade level and/or school difficult - when an A carries different meanings in one class from another.

Regardless of our philosophies on grades, students often think of grades as a mystery, not really understanding what a grade is communicating, if anything! I remember my first year of teaching, I was surprised to hear how varied my teammates' grading policies and philosophies were, and I hadn't really done a lot of reflecting on how I was grading and what purpose grades served in my own classroom. No wonder my students were stymied!

As you finalize semester grades, if you haven't already, talk with students about how their grades are determined. If you haven't had a chance, let them know specifically what they can do to maintain or improve their grades next time. This will vary depending on whether you include effort, growth, or completion of assignments or projects. And whether you allow redos (something I'll talk more about soon).

Perhaps your grading policies need revision based on your experience the first half of the year. And if you change something, be sure to communicate the changes to your students (and why the change). Parents are sometimes left out of these conversations, so let them in on the policies and any changes. The more clear you are with students and parents, the greater the chance that students will be able to attain the high standards you set for them.



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