"Fair" grading practices seems to be a topic that comes up more and more these days. Should students be allowed to turn in work...whenever? Does it matter when a kid masters a task, as long as they do? Is a 100-point grading scale fair? If not, what are the alternatives?
Some schools in Virginia are taking a look at some possible alternatives. After all, they've given the goose egg speech to their students just as I have with mine. Kids still don't absorb it like they should. And yet, perhaps it isn't completely their fault. Maybe the grading scale is slightly stacked against them. An A, B, C, or D has a 10-point scale. An F (or E) has a 59-point range. But does it make sense to give a kid who has not done an assignment a "50" vs. a "0"? What if teachers just recorded things as letter grades and averaged from there? Or perhaps the whole grading scale is moved down from 100 possible points to only 50. Maybe we just adopt a 4-point scale.
Here is an idea from Robert Marzano (probably a lot of you have read at least one of his books) that I think has some promise:
Look at a student's assignment. Then, apply the heuristic below in order to assign the grade. It's simple...makes marking and record-keeping a snap for teachers...and also allows students to easily graph their progress toward a certain standard.
Are there any major errors or omissions?
- If no, the student's score is at least a 3.0
- Can the student evaluate the task and/or his or her performance on the task (i.e. Can the student exhibit Level 4 behavior?)? If yes, the student's score is a 4.0.
- If yes, can the student perform a rough approximation of the task independently? Then the student's score is at least a 2.0.
- If the student does not meet the criteria in step 3, then can the student perform a rough approximation of the task with help? If so, then the student's score is at least a 1.0. If not, then the student's score is at least a 0.0.
It's simple, but it more or less gets at what we're trying to do with kids in terms of measuring progress. It also means that a missing assignment will not have as great of an overall impact on a student's average. It seems fair (to me). Adopting this and putting into practice is another matter, I realize. (By the way, more info about Marzano's approach can be found in Transforming Classroom Grading Practices, having a training at your school or if you're lucky enough, taking a short course at MCREL based on this.)
I'll be thinking more about all of this over the summer. I'd like to find a way to unburden my colleagues of grading...a way that is "fair" to both their students and them. A way that still holds kids accountable and helps teachers see in a moment whether or not a kid is going to be able to meet a particular standard. If anyone out there already has the answer, clue me in.