Sunday, August 26, 2007

Grading Thoughts

(continued from yesterday)

I really started to question what grading means and how grading should be conducted in my classroom. Here is where I am now:

1. Not everything turned in must be graded. Sometimes I just check to see where the trouble spots are by taking quick notes on a pad after reading through student work. Student work is not done for points, but for learning. This is something I pound into the kids' heads from day one.

2. Standards-based rubrics are used with every writing assignment. Each rubric I use is based on the Six Traits of Writing, and the categories are consistent with every writing I assign. The students should be familiar with the rubric before beginning an assignment and should know their grades when they turn in the assignment. All they have to do is to check the rubric to know their score before I even see it.

3. I use categories in every class I teach. For example in one class, I have 20% of the overall grade as tests and quizzes, 20% for literary analyses, 20% for assorted classwork and homework, 15% for vocabulary, 10% for mastery tests, and 15% for the final. This means no one assignment or skill set in a class dooms a student. However, students must be well-rounded to receive the top scores.

4. Students must, orally or in writing, explain why they receive the grades they get. This way they have to understand what they did, how they can improve, and how they got to the grade they received (metacognition--don't you love Marzano?).

5. Students can and will redo assignments in which they receive low scores. Just because it takes one student longer than another does not mean his/her grade should suffer.

6. Writings may be graded for very specific items (say, only organizational structure or just content or simply voice, etc.) without grading the rest. This way a focus is created instead of grading what has not been taught in my classroom.

7. Students will grade as much as possible--yes, their own writing as well. I hand out colored pencils, and we make corrections and suggestions as we go. I grade (sometimes check off) these based on how well they participate and go through the processes.

8. The processes are as important as the final product. Since these are fledgling learners just beginning the complexities of writing, they must first learn processes before being held completely accountable for final products. Eventually the final product is the vast majority of a score, but only after I have fully prepared them.

9. I write down at least one positive comment for every critical suggestion. Praise must be given. No product is unworthy of any affirmation.

10. Accommodations are no problem.

11. Eventually, students must be able to show a skill independently. Without independence, the skill is not learned (ingrained?).

12. Not completing an assignment is a zero until completed. However, students must complete the assignment within a week of the due date to receive credit. There are some exceptions to this, but I determine these on a student by student basis. I don't like the zero grades, but I don't have an adequate solution as of yet. I may give partial credit if a student can explain the desired learning, proving he/she knows the skill or information--haven't decided this one yet.

I have considered an academic citizenship or work ethic grade instead of zero scores for missing work, but I have not figured out what I would want this to look like.

This is how I go about things in my classes. There are more pieces of grading minutiae, but these are the basics.

How badly am I doing?


Jim Anderson said...

I'd say you're doing quite well--but that's because your grading practices are a lot like my own. How that affects your self-evaluation, I leave to you.

DrPezz said...

I'd like to say this bodes well for both of us. :)

Mrs. Chili said...

I don't think you're doing badly at all.

I, too, use rubrics whenever I can. It takes a lot of what the students perceive as my bias out of the equation; if I mark off that they didn't meet a requirement, there's really not much arguing about it.

I'm still trying to work out a lot of the grading question for myself at Tiny Community College. I SHOULD be able to assume that students come to me already knowing certain skills, but I can't. I have to figure out how to teach my content while, at the same time, working the remedial angle. It's a balance I've not quite found yet.

The Science Goddess said...

You're in good shape. I absolutely love the idea of having kids explain why they've received the grades they have. I'm going to steal that!

My only question relates to how you plan to record the marks. Maybe you can help me continue to refine my practices. If you're looking at grades through the lenses of standards and differentiation, then should your gradebook categories reflect that, too? Idea #3 seems to be centered around the value of the kind of assessment you give, not the learning.

Does your report card allow you to report the behaviors of "academic citizenship" and "work ethic"? Is there a column separate from the grade where you could use some sort of symbol to communicate with parents?

Thanks for sharing these!

DrPezz said...

Mrs. Chili,

I think the remedial instruction is a sign of the times at all levels now. Even my seniors (HS) often read at 3rd grade levels or haven't learned grammar, spellings, etc. I'm not sure exactly how this happened or maybe it's always been this way, but now people are more vocal about it.

DrPezz said...


The categories are somewhat restrictive because I am using the course requirements (items listed as the focuses of the courses) for my categories.

My categories do reflect the assessments also because we don't take final assessments until we are ready. If a couple students need a little more time, fine. The idea is to show the learning rather than just be speedy and all at the same point. I guess it's my version of differentiation.

Under each category I make a list of everything we do and what skills must be independently shown for mastery. I just do this in a binder and then transfer scores to the grade book. Does this make sense? (I'm doing this during a dull part of a staff meeting and trying to be fast.)

Our report cards have stock comments, and I can't make new ones. Thus, I have to communicate directly with parents about anything not on the standard report card. Grrr.

Repairman said...

I'd say you're most of the way there, DrP, and none of us are all the way there yet!

I had the best intentions to explore grading in depth on RepairKit, and then summer happened! My intention still stands.

Right now the grading conversation is spread out between the blogs listed on the Edubloggers wiki sidebar (and here on The Doc Is In). The wiki will evolve and become a great source for grading info (and other subjects as well).

The web is full of commentary.

If you're interested in my grading guidelines and can read past the first few paragraphs of this post, you will get an idea of where I'm coming from.

Thanks for taking the time to put your guidelines up! :-)