What are your grades reporting?

I have been teaching long enough to have made every mistake possible, so I am not judging anyone in this blog. It is not too late to change.

It is this time of the year, when I get frustrated with meaningless grading. After two weeks completed, my students are setting the tone for their level of academic acceptance. For those students that are not off to a good start, I want to fix the problem before it becomes a norm.

My first step is to visit with the students I am concerned about. Since I do not have a strong rapport with them yet, this is just a casual visit. My next step is to check on their historical grades. Unless a previous teacher used Standards Based Grading (or something similar), often all I get from a previous report is what a student (or parent) accepts as their minimum grade.

My third step is to check on their current progress in their other courses. This is where it truly shakes me. I hope my students know what 100% means. Unfortunately, most of my students have more than 100% in at least one course. Again, don’t get me wrong. I have offered extra credit in the past to get “parent notification” returned or something similar. I often see 200% or higher on my student grades at this point. Whoa, I got off topic.

Since I was converted to Objective Based Grading, I see the ridiculousness of extra credit, based on bringing supplies or behavioral practices. I had to see and hear about Standards Based Grading for about three years before I implemented what I call Objective Based Grading. Since being converted, I am flabbergasted at what little my past grading practices reported.

Chapter 2 –  83%

What does that even mean?????? Even if you put the title of the chapter on that grade (Chapter 2 Polynomials), it still has very little meaning. How much of that grade is based on assignments, which could be anyone’s work (or with huge amount of outside help). And don’t get me started on extra credit again… OK, confession: I sometimes give extra points on an in-class project when a student demonstrated mathematical understanding beyond what was expected. You can even put a standard in your grading, that is based on something other than mathematical understanding, and I believe that is acceptable, if it is not a huge part of a final grade. The problem occurs when a mathematical standard has a grade influenced by behavior or unrelated extra credit.

If a student’s grade were based on assessments (with integrity), and broke down into standards or objectives, they may have meaning.

  • Add and Subtract Polynomials
  • Multiplying a monomial by a polynomial
  • Multiplying a binomial by a binomial

If grade report had metrics assigned to topics such as these, an observer would know how a student performed at that point in time, on those objectives. Now that I have colleagues that are reporting grades with meaning, I can look back at a student’s previous course and see what math topics they excelled in and with what topics they struggled.

Now grade reporting has meaning. My apologies to all my previous students and parents that just “received” a standard letter grade, claiming that it was that simple.

It seems that over time, it always took me three or four times of hearing a great idea before I implemented it. If you do not already have grades with meaning, please speed the process up and make the change. Do some research, find something you can justify within your school system and jump in. At the very minimum, please break your individual assessment grade (Chapter 2 Test) into multiple grades with meaningful titles.

I use a grading rubric on each objective on an assessment and put multiple grades in the grade program each time my students take an assessment. For the skeptics and the teachers that worry that this is time-consuming, using this rubric to grade assessments is much faster for me than traditional grading. I need to plug my reporting into a traditional system and my parents and students want a nice neat percent (because that has meaning for them), so I like the 10 point rubric.

Here are links to my grading rubric (it may not be perfect but improves every year) and several examples of objectives used by @jwbrackney and myself.