Tag Archives: healthy grading practices

Repairing Grading One Fix at a Time – part 3

This is the third in a series of posts devoted to sharing my experiences in a Standards Based Grading classroom. Each is focused on one ‘fix’ for broken grades From Ken O’Connor’s book A Repair Kit for Grading – 15 Fixes for Broken Grades. (O’Connor, 2011)

Fix 3 – Don’t give points for extra credit or use bonus points; seek only evidence that more work has resulted in a higher level of achievement.

In my experience there are at least two general categories of extra credit – tasks that are unrelated to the learning experience, and additional (extra) assignments or items that either address a deeper understanding of a standard or allow students to make up missed points. Both are at best unnecessary and at worst inappropriate.

I have seen it all (and done it all in my early teaching) with extra credit…giving points for donating kleenex and markers, points for bringing in food for the food drive, points for dressing up during homecoming week. Although we need things like kleenex and markers in our classrooms, these have absolutely nothing to do with the academic achievement of students. When they are included in a grade, it is in turn inflated and does not accurately communicate a student’s proficiency level.

When teachers give a bonus question on an assessment or an additional project that can be completed for extra credit the message to students is clear. These tasks are for some, but not for all. Many of our students won’t even attempt these items or assignments. Don’t we want everyone to practice and be assessed at all proficiency levels? This is how we can truly know where our students are in relation to the standards. Give each one the opportunity to showcase his or her learning at its highest level.

With regard to giving an extra assignment for students to make up points, why would we create an entirely new assignment if the original one was not completed? All this does is add to the workload of teachers who are already inundated. A better choice – have the student go back and do the missing assignment. If it was important enough to assign, it is important enough to complete. Save yourself some time!

I besides the ‘extra’, I have a problem with the word credit. To me, this implies that students are being compensated with a grade instead of it being communication of a proficiency level. This breeds extrinsic motivation for learning which works against our drive to create lifelong learners. An engaging environment that supports and guides students to be intrinsically motivated is created when we communicate that learning is not simply a collection of points, rather an enduring experience in which all can be successful. 

In my classroom, the words extra credit were eliminated from our common language. Students were given every opportunity to learn, and knew that if they did not complete the work, the only option was to complete it. All were expected to work toward mastery of the standards and shift their focus away from grades. Once they understood why we didn’t ‘do extra credit’, the questions about it subsided and we better focused on the task at hand, learning.

Repairing Grading One Fix at a Time – part 2

This is the second in a series of posts devoted to sharing my experiences in a Standards Based Grading classroom. Each is focused on one ‘fix’ for broken grades from Ken O’Connor’s book A Repair Kit for Grading – 15 Fixes for Broken Grades. (O’Connor, 2011)

Fix #2: Don’t reduce marks on “work” submitted late; provide support for the learner.

Late work…the bane of a teacher’s existence. What to do when students aren’t timely with their work? How is timeliness given the weight and importance it deserves if I am not including it in their grade?

In my experiences with kids, students who are late with their work are late regardless of whether it is a part of their grade. There is usually some underlying issue that is causing the tardiness; kids want to meet the deadlines you set and know they are important.  But could it be that something is going on outside of school impacting their focus or the amount of time they are able to devote to work? Does the student simply need more time to complete the assignment well? I am definitely not arguing that deadlines shouldn’t be set or enforced in some way. When a student is late with their work, it warrants a conversation. As with anything else, relationships are what matter in schools and classrooms. Talking with students to problem solve and determine goals for future assignments will encourage them to rise to the occasion so much more than some type of punitive grade.

When late work is assigned a reduced grade, academic achievement is not reported with accuracy. Grades should report where students are in relation to the standard(s) at that moment in time. A ‘no tolerance’ policy for late work with reduced grades or zeros has several detrimental effects. It will work against student motivation – some students will stop trying when they feel there is no way to pass. It communicates that this assignment is not important enough to complete or that the content or skill is not important enough to practice. It tells students that you, as a teacher, value compliance over learning.

Students don’t know less because they hand-in something 3 days after it was due, but if we lower the grade that’s what we’re saying. – Tom Schimmer

But they will have to have everything on time to be successful adults, right? No, adults frequently complete tasks late. This doesn’t mean that an employer doesn’t want assigned work completed. Deadlines are often mutually decided upon and employees still must complete the work they were given. If the work was assigned, it is important to complete it well. This holds true in education as well – if the assignment was important enough to give, then it is important enough for all students to complete. I would much rather have a student produce quality work that demonstrates their level of proficiency than something completed haphazardly just to get it in on time.

How do we solve the problem of late work? Meet students where they are. Help them understand the importance of the work they are undertaking. Don’t take no for an answer with regard to finishing quality assignments. Agree to deadlines jointly with students to guide the learning process.

Something’s missing…

Something’s missing…do you ever get that feeling? You can’t put your finger on it right away, but something is just not quite right. When I think about some classrooms, I get this feeling. The student hands are up as a teacher explains an assignment. Kids are persistently asking whether it will be collected or graded, how many points it is worth, how they can ‘earn’ a grade, is there an opportunity for extra credit…

Something’s missing…

Do these students know what they are learning and how it is relevant? What skills they are working to develop? What key understandings they must take forward to demonstrate proficiency? With all the time spent on those other questions and discussions, the focus on learning gets lost in the mix.

Something’s missing…

In traditional classrooms with traditional grading practices, students rely on compliance, assignment completion, and point collection to ‘achieve’ and/or ‘prove’ learning. Because so many of us (students, parents, and educators alike) have been immersed in this type of culture for so long, it may feel as though all the puzzle pieces are in place, the classroom is running well, and learning is happening because of this.

But something’s missing…

In standards based classrooms and culture, something is missing as well, actually several things. Percentages are missing, points are missing, frequent grades in general are missing.  Averaging is a practice of the past. Behavioral grading has been replaced with relationships based on trust that garner positive behaviors and intrinsic motivation. Students and parents may miss the percentages and points, especially at the beginning of the move toward standards based grading. Students who play the game of school well will also miss these and need reassurance along the way that when the learning happens, the grades will follow.

The missing pieces in standards based culture don’t need to return for our students to learn. They don’t carry a meaningful place in the journey of learning. Instead of missing pieces to the puzzle, they can become roadblocks that are at the very best cumbersome for our students and at the worst insurmountable. Even without them, the feeling of something lacking disappears and all the pieces fit together. Students are developing skills and understandings to be lifelong learners.

This newly constructed puzzle will transform education for our students. It will remove obstacles to learning that eat up those all important instructional minutes and opportunities to practice crucial skills and understandings.

At last, nothing is missing.