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Fifteen Fixes for Broken Grades

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1 Fifteen Fixes for Broken Grades
Ken O’Connor

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
“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!

7 Students should earn grades based on their achievement of specified standards / learning goals.

8 The Fixes

9 Fix 1 Don’t include student behaviors (effort, participation, adherence to class rules, etc.) in grades; include only achievement.

10 Fix 2 Don’t 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 Don’t 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 Don’t punish academic dishonesty with reduced grades; apply other consequences and reassess to determine actual level of achievement.

13 Fix 5 Don’t 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 Don’t 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 Don’t organize information in grading records by assessment methods or simply summarizing into a single grade; organize and report evidence by standards / learning goals.

16 1

17 2

18 3

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21 6

22 7

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 Don’t 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
Wow Yes Yes, but No 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. 4 3 2 1 A B-C C-D N 90-100% 75-89% 60-74% Below 60% Aligning Achievement Indicators Edmonton Catholic Schools, 2006

29 Fix 9 Don’t assign grades based on students’ achievement compared to other students; compare each student’s performance to pre-set standards.

30 “You’re a teacher. You should know better than to grade papers on a curve.”

31 Fix 10 Don’t rely on evidence gathered using assessments that fail to meet standards of quality; rely only on quality assessments.

32 December 14, 2006 A Guide to Grading Exams POSTED BY DANIEL J. SOLOVE It's that time of year again. Students have taken their finals, and now it is time to grade them. It is something teachers have been looking forward to all semester. Exactness in grading is a well-honed skill, taking considerable expertise and years of practice to master. The purpose of this post is to serve as a guide to young teachers about how to perfect their grading skills and as a way for students to learn the mysterious science of how their grades are determined. Grading begins with the stack of exams, shown in Figure 1 below.

33 The next step is to use the most precise grading method possible
The next step is to use the most precise grading method possible. There never is 100% accuracy in grading essay exams, as subjective elements can never be eradicated from the process. Numerous methods have been proposed throughout history, but there is one method that has clearly been proven superior to the others. See Figure 2 below.

34 The key to this method is a good toss
The key to this method is a good toss. Without a good toss, it is difficult to get a good spread for the grading curve. It is also important to get the toss correct on the first try. Exams can get crumpled if tossed too much. They begin to look as though the teacher actually read them, and this is definitely to be avoided. Additional tosses are also inefficient and expend needless time and energy. Note the toss in Figure 3 below. This is an example of a toss of considerable skill -- obviously the result of years of practice. Note that the exams are evenly spread out, enabling application of the curve.

35 They contend that that the exams at the bottom deserve higher grades than the ones at the top. The rationale for this view is that the exams that fall lower on the staircase have more heft and have traveled farther. The greater distance traveled indicates greater knowledge of the subject matter. The bottom higher-grade approach is clearly the most logical and best-justified approach.

36 Even with the grade curve lines established, grading is far from completed. Several exams teeter between levels. The key is to measure the extent of what is referred to as "exam protrusion." Exams that have small portions extending below the grade line should receive a minus; exams with protrusions above the grade lines receive a plus. But what about exams that are right in the middle of a line. In Figure 6 below, this exam teeters between the A and B line. Should it receive and A- or a B+? This is a difficult question, but I believe it is clearly an A-. The exam is already bending toward the next stair, and in the bottom-higher-grade approach, it is leaning toward the A-. Therefore, this student deserves the A- since momentum is clearly in that direction.

37 Finally, there are some finer points about grading that only true masters have understood. Consider the exam in Figure 7 below. Although it appears on the C stair and seems to be protruding onto the B stair, at first glance, one would think it should receive a grade of C+. But not so. A careful examination reveals that the exam is crumpled. Clearly this is an indication of a sloppy exam performance, and the grade must reflect this fact. The appropriate grade is C-.

38 One final example, consider in Figure 8 below the circled exam that is is very far away from the others at the bottom of the staircase. Is this an A+? Novices would think so, as the exam has separated itself a considerable distance from the rest of the pack. However, the correct grade for this exam is a B. The exam has traveled too far away from the pack, and will lead to extra effort on the part of the grader to retrieve the exam. Therefore, the exam must be penalized for this obvious flaw. As you can see, grading takes considerable time and effort. But students can be assured that modern grading techniques will produce the most precise and accurate grading possible, assuming professors have achieved mastery of the necessary grading skills. DISCLAIMER FOR THE GULLIBLE: This post is a joke. I do not grade like this. Instead, I use an even more advanced method -- an eBay grade auctioning system. Posted by Daniel J. Solove at December 14, :09 AM

39 Fix 11 Don’t 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 – don’t “calculate” them. Grading should be “an exercise in professional judgment, not just a numerical, mechanical activity.”

41 Fix 12 Don’t 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 Forgot to check thermometer! Recorded temperature as 0º

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 i.e., Don’t grade homework or class work assigned as practice.
Fix 13 Don’t use information from formative assessments and practice to determine grades; use only summative evidence. i.e., Don’t 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 don’t grade it, they won’t do it.”
Really? Do you know this for certain? Did you quit doing homework in college because it wasn’t included in the final grade? Do 8th grade basketball players quit playing during practice because the scoreboard isn’t on? Do kids quit playing video games because the “character” they are playing with dies? Do you quit teaching on days you aren’t 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 Student 1 Profile Student 2 Profile Student 4 Profile Student 3 Profile

49 Homework Rubric – 10 points
Category 3 points 2 points 1 point 0 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. Notes are not intended to be read verbatim. They are intended to provide basic information upon which you can build your presentation.

50 Fix 14 Don’t summarize evidence accumulated over time when learning is developmental and will grow with repeated opportunities. In those instances, emphasize more recent achievement.

51 Packing YOUR Parachute?
Who Do You Want Packing YOUR Parachute? Student one was not only inconsistent, he rested on his early successes and even though his average might have been good, he didn’t learn much at the end of training. Student 2 was erratic. He had good days and bad days. His average was probably pretty good, but can you count on him to pack your parachute? Student 3 had a lot to learn, and even though it was slow going at first, the light bulb finally went off and he consistently became better and better. He learned and learned well, even though his average is probably like that of the others, or perhaps even worse.

52 Fix 15 Don’t 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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