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Fifteen Fixes for Broken Grades Ken OConnor. How confident are you… …that the grades students get in your classroom are consistent, accurate, meaningful,

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Presentation on theme: "Fifteen Fixes for Broken Grades Ken OConnor. How confident are you… …that the grades students get in your classroom are consistent, accurate, meaningful,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Fifteen Fixes for Broken Grades Ken OConnor

2 How confident are you… …that the grades students get in your classroom are consistent, accurate, meaningful, and that they support learning? …that the grades you assign to students accurately reflect our desired learning outcomes?

3 Why would anyone want to change current grading practices? The answer is quite simple: grades are so imprecise that they are almost meaningless. Bob Marzano, 2000

4 Problems with Subjectivity Researchers made copies of two English- language exam papers written by Freshman These papers were sent to 200 teachers. 142 of the teachers graded and returned the essays. Both papers were graded on a percentage scale on which scores could range from

5 Problems with Subjectivity, cont. For one paper, the score ranged from 64 to 98. The other paper received scores ranging from 50 to 97. One of the papers was given a failing mark by 15% of teachers while 12% of teachers gave it a grade of more than 90 points.

6 Problems with Subjectivity, cont. Critics blamed the results of this study on the subject area chosen – English – which they said was prone to subjectivity. But when the same study was repeated the following year by math teachers using geometry exams, researchers found even greater variation in the grades. Scores on one exam ranged from 28 to 95 points: a 67 point difference!



9 Fix 1 Dont include student behaviors (effort, participation, adherence to class rules, etc.) in grades; include only achievement.

10 Fix 2 Dont reduce marks on work submitted late; have the learner finish the assignment If Rory is a brilliant writer who always hands in assignments late, both aspects are hidden if she gets a C or a D. But if she gets an A and the report says, brilliant writer, but always late, then we have accurate information.

11 Fix 3 Dont give points for extra credit or use bonus points; seek only evidence that more work has resulted in higher levels of achievement.

12 Fix 4 Dont punish academic dishonesty with reduced grades; apply other consequences and reassess to determine actual level of achievement.

13 Fix 5 Dont consider attendance in grade determination; report absences separately. District policy for Out-of-school Suspension: Students may not be allowed make-up privileges for assignments missed as a result of being suspended out-of-school.

14 Fix 6 Dont include group scores in grades; use only individual achievement evidence. There is a pattern to classroom life summarized as learn it in a group, perform it alone. Johnson and Johnson, 2004

15 Fix 7 Dont organize information in grading records by assessment methods or simply summarizing into a single grade; organize and report evidence by standards / learning goals.

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23 How many learning goals? 180 days in a school year. 180 learning goals are too many. 18 learning goals are too few.

24 How many learning goals? Typically, learning goals per grade level, per subject is appropriate and doable. This gives you 3-5 days per learning goal. At the primary and secondary applied arts areas, this drops to about 25 learning goals. Select the number of learning goals for which you can realistically provide quality feedback to students.

25 Fix 8 Dont assign grades using inappropriate or unclear performance standards; provide clear descriptions of achievement expectations.

26 Traditional vs. Research-Based Link letter grades to percentages This has created a grading scale with 101 levels and the illusion that grades are mathematically precise. Fewer Levels Excellent Achievement Proficient Achievement Basic Achievement Insufficient Achievement

27 The Grade Book Concepts/Learning Targets/Objectives NOT assignments! Page 87 tells us nothing! If concepts are listed in the grade book: Teachers can easily tell parents, students, and administrators what concepts are mastered. IEP goals and objectives are easily written. Incomplete grades can be given to individual concepts- helping to identify areas that need more instruction.

28 Aligning Achievement Indicators Edmonton Catholic Schools, 2006 WowYesYes, butNo Excellent Achievement Proficient Achievement Basic Achievement Insufficient Achievement Exemplary, Exceptional, High quality, In-depth, Superb, Outstanding Skilled, Adept, Appropriate, Solid, Capable Limited, Predictable, Within reason, Generally accurate Unsuccessful, Partial, Well below, Inadequate, Misconceptions, Omissions, Errors Some students will be within this level, very well prepared for the next grade level or course. Most students should be within this level, well prepared for the next grade level or course. Some students will be within this level, needing more direct support to succeed at the next grade level or course. Students who are achieving within this level should be screened for alternate programming AB-CC-DN %75-89%60-74%Below 60%

29 Fix 9 Dont assign grades based on students achievement compared to other students; compare each students performance to pre-set standards.

30 Youre a teacher. You should know better than to grade papers on a curve.

31 Fix 10 Dont rely on evidence gathered using assessments that fail to meet standards of quality; rely only on quality assessments.








39 Fix 11 Dont rely only on the mean (average); consider other measures of central tendency and use professional judgment Whenever I hear statistics being quoted I am reminded of the statistician who drowned while wading across a river with an average depth of three feet. (McMann, 2003)

40 Fix 11, cont. Using the mean overemphasizes outlier scores. For example: 91, 91, 91, 91, 91, 91, 91, 70, 91, 91 Total: 889, Mean = 88.9, Final Grade = B Median = 91 Mode = 91 Determine grades – dont calculate them. Grading should be an exercise in professional judgment, not just a numerical, mechanical activity.

41 Fix 12 Dont include zeros in grade determination when evidence is missing or as punishment. Use alternatives, such as reassessing to determine real achievement or use I for incomplete or Insufficient Evidence.

42 Forgot to check thermometer! Recorded temperature as 0º Average Temperature: 63º

43 Fix 12, cont. A zero has an undeserved and devastating influence, so much so that no matter what the student does, the score distorts the final grade as a true indicator of mastery. Mathematically and ethically this is unacceptable. Wormeli, 2006

44 Fix 13 Dont use information from formative assessments and practice to determine grades; use only summative evidence. i.e., Dont grade homework or class work assigned as practice.

45 What is the point of homework?

46 Parent Concerns? If we did in basketball what we frequently do in the classroom, the game would not start 0-0, but each team would start with a score based on an assessment of the quality of their practices in the days leading up to the game. This would be absurd – and is equally so in the classroom.

47 But if I dont grade it, they wont do it. Really? Do you know this for certain? Did you quit doing homework in college because it wasnt included in the final grade? Do 8 th grade basketball players quit playing during practice because the scoreboard isnt on? Do kids quit playing video games because the character they are playing with dies? Do you quit teaching on days you arent evaluated by your principal?

48 Student Grade Profiling Homework Results Assessment Results High scores on homework Moderate scores on homework Poor / missing scores on homework High scores on assessments Moderate scores on assessments Poor scores on assessments

49 49 Homework Rubric – 10 points Category3 points2 points1 point0 points Completion Homework is 100% complete. It is clear that the student attempted every problem. Homework is 70% complete. The student attempted most problems. Homework is 30% complete. The student attempted a few problems. No homework was turned in. Student Work Student work is thorough, clear, and legible for all problems. Student included all relevant diagrams. Student shows an adequate amount of work for each problem and it is legible. Student included some relevant diagrams. Student shows some work, but it is inadequate. Student did not include relevant diagrams. Student shows no work. Accuracy Homework is 100% accurate or student has made thorough corrections on all missed problems. Homework is 70% accurate or student has made thorough corrections on some missed problems. Homework is 30% accurate. The student did not make corrections on missed problems. All problems are incorrect. Format Student used lined paper, wrote name, date, period, and HW# in the upper right hand corner, wrote the page number and original problem down, did the necessary work in only two columns, stapled multiple sheets together, and used pencil. Student did not follow the homework format.

50 Fix 14 Dont summarize evidence accumulated over time when learning is developmental and will grow with repeated opportunities. In those instances, emphasize more recent achievement.


52 Fix 15 Dont leave students out of the grading process. Involve students; they can – and should – play key roles in assessment and grading that promote achievement.

53 Expectations Behavior Students expected to behave Students expected to follow/obey rules Students expected to follow procedures Zero tolerance Misbehaving is not an option! Academic Students expected to complete/submit work? Students expected to follow directions of the assignment? Students expected to pass? Zero Tolerance? Failing is not an option!

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