Foundations and Assessment of Education/Edition 1/Foundations Table of Contents/Chapter 14/14.1.2

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The ABC's of Grading

by Leanna James


Having attended school for all my life, I have not come across one person who has not either been intimidated or anxious about grades. Grades almost define who you are according to college boards and the business world. Grades are somewhat similar to a caste system in that it predetermines who you will be professionally, sometimes even socially. Whichever way you may look at it, grades are essential in progressing to the next level. Thus the importance of grades and the purpose in which they exist must be understood by teachers and students.

Idontknow.gifPurpose of GradesIdontknow.gif

Grades in the most basic context can simply be seen as a measure of what one knows. More specifically, grades are a “mark for the quality of work and/or level in scale of progression (2007).” The purposes of grades are manifold. According to a research study found by Robert Manzano grades are “primarily used for (1) administrative purposes, (2) to give students feedback about their progress and achievement, (3) to provide guidance to students about future course work, (4) to provide guidance to teachers for instructional planning, and (5) to motivate students (2000).”

1) Administrative Purpose

Grades primarily used for administrative purposes reiterate the point that one’s educational career can predetermine the professional career in one’s future due to the fact that grades serve the purpose of the following as outlined in Manzano’s research:

•“Student matriculation and retention

•Placement when students transfer from one school to another

•Student entrance into college” (2000)

Euro exchange rate to RUB.svgA survey conducted by The College Board in 1998 reported 81% of schools use grades for Administrative Purposes. (2000)

Cornflower blue check.svgPros : Encourages competition amongst students academcially

EtruscanX-01.svgCons : Neglects students strengths and talents

2) Feedback

From the perception of students, it is understood that grades are primarily used for feedback concerning the progress and achievement of themselves. Students are expected to learn material, and grades are meant to be evidence of the progress or achievability of students’ understanding of material - in this particular translation of grading. According to Susan Brookhart in her article “Feedback that Fits”, “effective feedback focuses on describing the student’s work commenting on the process the student used to do the work, and makes specific suggestions for what to do next” It is evident through this type of translation of grades that grades come in forms other than numerically or alphabetically.

Euro exchange rate to RUB.svgManzano’s research indicated from a study by Austin and McCann, “that 25 percent of school board documents, 45 percent of district documents, and 65 percent of teacher documents mentioned reporting student achievement as a basic purpose of grades (2000).”

Cornflower blue check.svgPros: Describes student's work in detail (both for good and bad); "describes where student is in relation to the learning goal (Brookhart2007&2008)";

EtruscanX-01.svgCons: The feedback itself maybe ineffective thus costing the student to misinterpret feedback as criticism or judging;

3) Guidance

“When used for guidance purposes, grades help counselors provide direction for students. Specifically, counselors use grades to recommend to individual student courses they should or should not take and schools and occupations they might consider (2000)” Again, this is a reflection of how grades can predetermine the professional path a student can or cannot take.

Euro exchange rate to RUB.svgManzaon’s research again indicated from Austin and McCann “that 82 percent of school board documents, 40 percent of district documents, and 38 percent of teacher documents identified guidance as an important purpose of grades (2000).”

Cornflower blue check.svgPros: Much more easier and more organized to route student's to careers and/or schools that may compliment and/or complicate student's grades

EtruscanX-01.svgCons: May misinform or mislead student's in a schhol/profession that may not be where student feels best comfortable or equipped ; Possible bias

4) Instructional Strategies

As teachers we are obviously going to have to assess our students; however, assessment isn’t just for the purpose of maintaining the progress of students but to also benefit teachers in their teaching strategies and methods. “Throughout the day, students produce work (journals, responses to questions, graphic organizers, and verbal responses) that is an indicator of their understanding. These formative assessments provide a much more accurate measure of how students are progressing… A formative coach guides teachers in using student work to determine the course of instruction, curriculum, and their own professional development (Niddus and Sadder 2009).”

"Niddus and Sadder’s example of dialouge a teacher may have with a formative coach to anazlye students’ work for the intructional refelction:Instructional Strategies Example Dialouge

This example excellently exemplifies the appropriate interaction between teachers and guided help.

Euro exchange rate to RUB.svg“44 percent of school board documents, 20 percent of district documents, and 10 percent of teacher documents emphasized this purpose researched by Manzon. (2000)

Cornflower blue check.svgPros:


5) Motivation

The theory that good grades promote consistent success and bad grades encourage students to do better until success is reached is frowned upon yet is evident in some US schools.

Euro exchange rate to RUB.svgAccording to Manzon, “7 percent of school board documents, 15 percent of district-level documents, and 10 percent of teacher documents emphasized motivation as a purpose for grades (2000).”

Cornflower blue check.svgPros:

EtruscanX-01.svgCons: Theory has not been proven accurate

Why even give grades?[edit]

As you can see above there are many purposes of grading. All of these aspects of grading are essential to teachers. To reiterate the two main reasons why grading or assessments are done are because of accountability and improvement of teaching and learning.

“1)Accountability : to determine if students have met benchmarks, to assign grades, to promote, to determine teachers, schools, programs, and school districts are effective.

2)To improve teaching and learning: To help teachers tailor their instruction to student’s needs, to help students understand their own strengths and weaknesses.”(Kidd 2009)

On the other end of the spectrum, some believe grading isn't a true measure of what one has learned. Grades are given once tests are administered, then afterwords out the window the information goes!

“Grading and learning just don’t go together” – SCampus 1972-73

If So... What kind?[edit]

Assesments again are used for accountability and improve teaching and learning, yet what matters is not the style or format of the assessment, but how the results are used! (Kidd 2009)

1.Summative: after learning has taken place

2. Formative : while learning is still going on

Styles / Formats of Tests

1. Norm referenced tests - Student scores are determined by comparing a performance to an established norm ( a group of students with established characteristics who have taken the test) EXAMPLES


•AP Tests

•Stanford 10


2. Criterion referenced tests - Scores are based on established criteria. Determines how well a student has met a standard. EXAMPLES



•District Quarterly Tests

Grading Scores

Raw - the actual number of test items answered correctly

Scales - Raw score is converterd to scale score which typically range from 200 to 800

Percentages - Indicates the number correct as a ration to the total number of questions

Percentiles - Indicates the percentage of students outscored

Averages -

•Mean - all scores added together divide by number of scores

•Median - Middle score ranging frm smallest to largest

•Mode - most often occurring score

Assessment methods

Selected response - M/C , T/F, matching, fill in the blank

Extended responses - essay or show your work math problem

Performance assessment - ability to perform taks/skills

Personal communication - journals, interviews, oral exam , observations


1. According to the research study done by Robert Manzano grades are primarily used for 5 purposes. Which of the following is not described to be one of the purposes of grades?

A. Administrative Purposes

B. Feedback

C. Instructional Strategies

D. Comparative / Competitive Purposes

2. What are the two main reasons why assessments are given?

A. College entrance / Accountability

B. Accountability / Improve teaching and learning

C. Accountability / Improve learning

D. Improve teaching/ Accountability

3. Mrs. James, a science teacher, wants to give her students a fair advantage in doing well on their exam. Her lectures have been primarily focused on hands on activities and lab work. Which form of assessment method would be BEST for Mrs. James to utilize for her students?

A. Selected Response

B. Extended Response

C. Performance Assessment

D. Personal Communication

4. Mrs. Williams has not only observed her student's uninterested attitude toward the new science cirriculum but their inability to retain the information. She decides to try a new method of teaching the cirriculum before giving them a formal assessment. Which of the following has Mrs. Williams demonstrated?

A. Formative Assessment

B. Summative Assessment

C. Observational Assessment

D. A&B


December 2007/Jan 2008 Volume 65 Number 4 Informative Assessment pp 54–59 “feedback that Fits” Susan Brookhart

Transforming Classroom Gradingby Robert J. Marzano

Educational leadership. Dec 2007/jan 2008 volume 65 number 4 informative assessment pgs 8-13 “learning to love assessment” carol an Tomlinson

Old Dominion University Course ECI 301 Powerpoint Lecture Spring (2009) L5, L6, L8 Professor Kidd.

Answers : 1.d 2. b 3. c 4. a

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