The field of education is replete with "educationese": all manner of terms which make us feel special and enlightened. They are the pretentious secret handshake of the profession. It was with great relief that one of the terms associated with grading is not nearly as precious as "transparent" or "capacity." It is darned plain. The word is "hodgepodge," and it is used to refer to a single grade which represents both learning and student behavior (e.g. on-time work, effort...).
Hodgepodge was the first word to come to mind when I read the piece in the WaPo on Do Grades or Standardized Test Scores Make the Student? The mother writing in is distraught because even though her son is topping out on AP tests, the SAT, and other standardized indicators---he is having trouble getting into college because his GPA is only a 3.275. Why is there the disparity? Because her son doesn't do his homework. He knocks the top off the classroom tests---he shows that he knows the information---but he doesn't play the game. Therefore, his teachers average in a lot of zeros. Their grades represent the hodgepodge problem. If they only considered learning, the child would have a 4.0.
This is very common with secondary school teachers---there is plenty of research out there documenting just how very unwilling they are to let go of hodgepodge grading. The primary reason cited is that teachers believe that work ethic behaviors are important. I agree with this, but I don't agree that they belong with a grade for learning. They should be reported separately. As a teacher, do you care more that the student has learned the material...or that he learned it in exactly the way you prescribed at the specific moment in time you prescribed it?
It is my suspicion that hodgepodge grading tends to play "Gotcha!" with boys (especially gifted boys) more than any other population. (This would be another great research project for someone.) I've had any number of young men over the years who refused to do their homework, but could ace any test. Punishment by zeros was in no way motivating. They had their own learning goals and that was that. I sense a similar attitude in the young man described in the WaPo article and also in something happening to Ms. Bees (read Part I and Part II of "Wonder Mother"). A young man turned in a project late: "He received a 248 out of 250 before the 50% penalty. The note I left him on his project indicated how disappointing it was for me to have to give such a low mark to such a good project, and that I hoped he would manage his time better in the future." Guess what? Mom is upset now---as she should be. In this case, Ms. Bees is only applying the grading practice set forth by the mentor teacher she is paired with, but one hopes that this lesson becomes more instructive about best practices in grading rather than parent dodging---because frankly, the practice (long-standing or not) is indefensible.
I would love to relegate the word "hodgepodge" to the same dustbin in which other educationese terms belong, but I don't see that its application is going to disappear anytime soon. As long as teachers---and colleges---continue to value grades more than learning, hodgepodge will be part of the classroom.