Friday, October 9, 2009

Thoughts on Grading at the JH Level

The Only Place We Should See % and Grade Together

I am comfortable with using percentage grades. They are familiar to me, I know generally how to interpret them, and I find percentage grades a pretty good descriptive snapshot. Most teachers feel the same level of comfort and understanding, and I know most parents do too.

For those reasons, it is an annual occurrence, when discussing grading and reporting with parents, to have parents ask us to "...explain what these numbers (i.e. rubrics) mean..." and having to answer when they ask "Why don't you guys use percentages like we had?" They are not used to rubrics, and miss the comfort of the understanding afforded by percentages.

The problem is, we need to get rid of the percentage grading system at the JH level. For lots of reasons.

I think we are on the verge of being able to do so in my district, with the advent of our new standardized elementary report cards. As parents develop a comfort level for this manner of reporting, one day we will be able to move to using more appropriate methods of reporting for our older students too, but it will take a very solid implementation plan to get there.

To that end, I wanted to share a few passages from an article I read earlier today that was written by Dr. Thomas Guskey, a general assessment guru and professor of Ed Psych at the University of Kentucky:

"To recover from a single zero, a student must achieve a minimum of nine perfect papers."


"To move from a B to an A in most schools, for example, requires an improvement of only 10% at most, say from 80% to 90%. But to move from a zero to a minimum passing grade requires six or seven times that improvement, usually from zero to 60% or 70%."

(you can read Guskey's whole article here:

I realize what I am discussing above is much more than just how we report. The changes will need to strike first at the very heart of how we teach and what kind of feedback (and engagement) we give kids on a daily basis. It is important to start thinking about it changing how we report, because change is needed, and I believe it is on its way!

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