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“So,... What’d ja get?” SONOMA LEADERSHIP NETWORK – Advanced Cohort Sonoma County Office of Education January 21, 2010 The Culture of GRADING PRACTICES: Problems & Pitfalls

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Let’s Look At 3 Questionable Grading Practices: 1.Averaging to obtain a course grade. 2.Giving zeroes for work missed or work turned in late. 3.Grading on a curve.

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Temperature Readings in Santa Rosa, CA Average: 55.2 degrees This is inaccurate for what really happened, and therefore, unusable. * (forgot to take the reading) Week of November 16, 2009 MONTUEWEDTHURFRISATSUN 65 °66 ° 64 °0 °63 °

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“Can I, or Can I Not, Shoot a Basketball?” Mon.Tues.Wed.Thurs.Fri. 00024 5810 49 100 Result of 2 Weeks Practice Result of 1 Week Practice 6 100

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Accurate grades are based on the most consistent evidence... We look at the pattern of achievement, including trends, not the average of the data. This means we focus on the median and mode, not mean, and the most recent scores are weighed heavier than earlier scores. Median: The middle test score of a distribution, above and below which lie an equal number of test scores. Mode: The score occurring most frequently in a series of observations or test data.

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The Case Against “Zero” The four point scale is a rational system, as the increment between each letter grade is proportionate to the increment between each numerical grade – one point. The common use of the zero today is based not on a four-point scale but on a 100-point scale. This defies logic and mathematical accuracy. Dr. Douglas Reeves, the Case Against Zero, Phi Delta Kappan, 2004

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The Effect of Zero Mean calculated with 50% instead of 0 = 78.8% Student A 86 0 86 Mean = 68.8% +Does this accurately reflect what the student knows and can do? Median = 86% Mode = 86%

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Zeros Kill Averages! 90-100 = A (10 points) 80-89 = B (9 points) 70-79 = C (9 points) 60-69 = D (9 points) 0-59 = F (59 points!) Just 2 or 3 zeros are sufficient to cause failure for an entire semester, and just a few course failures can lead a student to drop out of high school. Most sentences for punishment ultimately come to an end, while grades of zero on a 100-point scale last forever. The mathematically accurate value of an F is 59, not 0. It is almost impossible to overcome many zeros in a grading period. If our lowest score was a 59, many would still fail, but many more would believe they can overcome their low averages.

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Imagine the Reverse… A=100–40 B =39–30 C =29–20 D =19–10 F =9–0 What if we reversed the proportional influences of the grades? That “A” would have a huge, yet undue, inflationary effect on the overall grade. Just as we wouldn’t want an “A” to have an inaccurate effect, we don’t want an “F” grade to have such an undue, deflationary, & inaccurate effect. Keeping zeroes on a 100-pt. scale is just as absurd as the scale seen here.

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Supporting Research... “ When we record 50% for student zeros in our grade books, we are not giving students something for nothing. We are adjusting the grade intervals so that any averaging we do is mathematically justified and more importantly, that any grade we determine from the pattern of grades is a valid indicator of mastery. A zero has an undeserved and devastating influence, so much so that no matter what the student does, the grade distorts the final grade as a true indicator of mastery. Mathematically and ethically this is unacceptable.” -Rick Wormeli, 2006

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The Problem With the Zero... on a 100 point Grading scale Very Simple Math (100 + 0)/2 = 50 F (4 + 0)/2 = 2C So, how many perfect scores does it take to raise a 0 to a C on a 100 point scale?

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Answer: 3! (100 + 100 + 100 + 0)/4 = 75

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A Simple Change If the lowest score on a 100 point scale is not 0, but 50... (100 + 50)/2 = 75C

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Let’s Be Clear: Grade Inflation is NOT the Issue! Students are not getting points for having done nothing. The student may still get an F. We’re simply equalizing the influence of each grade in determining the overall grade.

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Consider the Correlation 1004 903 802 701 600 50-1 40-2 30-3 20-4 10-5 0-6 A (0) on a 100-pt. scale is a (-6) on a 4-pt. scale. If a student does no work, he should get nothing; not something worse than nothing. How instructive is it to tell a student that he earned 6-times less than absolute failure? Choose to be instructive, not punitive. -Doug Reeves, The Learning Leader, 2006

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What About Missing Work? “...the appropriate consequence for failing to complete an assignment is to require the student to complete the assignment. That is, students lose privileges—free time and unstructured class or study-hall time—and are required to complete the assignment.” -“The Case Against Zero”, Doug Reeves, 2004

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News Flash: “Low Grades Don’t Motivate” “Low grades push students farther from our cause, they don’t motivate students. Recording a “D” on a student’s paper won’t light a fire under that student to buckle down and study harder. It actually distances the student further from us and the curriculum, requiring us to build an emotional bridge to bring him or her back to the same level of investment prior to receiving the grade.” -Guskey (documented by Guskey and Bailey)

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Zeros as Punishment Despite evidence that grading as punishment does not work (Guskey, 2000) and the mathematical flaw in the use of the zero on a 100-point scale (Reeves, 2004), many teachers routinely maintain this policy in the mistaken belief that it will lead to improved student performance. Defenders of the zero claim that students need to have the consequences for flouting the teacher’s authority and failing to turn in work on time.” -Reeves, 2008 Educational Leadership Vol. 65 #5

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Grades as Weapons “... some teachers consider grades or reporting forms their ‘weapon of last resort.’ In their view, students who do not comply with their requests suffer the consequences of the greatest punishment a teacher can bestow: a failing grade. Such practices have no educational value and, in the long run, adversely effect students, teachers, and the relationship they share.” Guskey, Thomas R. (Editor) Communicating Student Learning: The 1996 ASCD Yearbook ASCD, Alexandria, VA, 1996, 18

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“No studies support the use of low grades or marks as punishments. Instead of prompting greater effort, low grades more often cause students to withdraw from learning.” Guskey and Bailey, Developing Grading and Reporting Systems for Student Learning, 2005, 34-35

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