Monday, November 30, 2009

Leading to change: effective grading practices

Reeves, B.D., (2008). Leading to Change: Effective Grading Practices. Educational Leadership, 65(5), 85-87.

Written for school administrators, Douglas Reeves makes a case for radical changes in school grading policies. In an effort to reduce the student failure rate, Reeves proposes the change does not lie in a new curriculum, new leadership or new technology: he argues schools need a “better” grading system. In this proposed system, is the elimination of zeros for missing work, using averages of scores throughout the semester and the implementation of heavily weighted tests, projects, etc. and the end of the semester. Reeves argues that when grading policies change, in addition to decreased failure rates, schools also see improved discipline and morale in students and teachers. The article outlines three steps for administrators to follow when creating change in grading systems: define a sense of urgency, identify teacher leaders to share grading practices and reassure the community that most grading practices will stay consistent.

When discussing differentiation in the classroom, the topic of differentiated grading must be addressed. While this article does not specifically address the issue of grading when differentiating instruction, it does refer to the concept of re-defining grading in association with specific student needs. Certain students (for many reasons) cannot complete homework at home. Reeves’ proposal differentiates grading by not giving zeros for missing work, therefore different student needs are met. I feel there are many issues with this form of grading, for example it addresses the heart of the grading issue: what do grades really represent? If grades reflect student learning and knowledge, then perhaps missing work should not significantly affect a grade. If grades reflect learning and work ethic then leaving out missing assignments do not accurate. We also need to consider the impact of grades, especially in the high school setting. Most often, a student ‘s GPA are a large part of college entry consideration and inconsistencies in policy can create inequality in admissions. The Reeves article serves as a possible solution to student failure and poor morale, however it makes huge assumptions about the value of grades in general. One must first buy into the argument that grades do not accurately reflect student learning and that grades are a significant motivator in student achievement and behavior. I would challenge Reeves to examine the affect of making changes to policy in the long term and how it affects students in college.

Relevant Quotes/Concepts:
“Grading seems to be regarded as the last frontier of individual teacher discretion” (Reeves, 86).

“Ask your colleagues to calculate the final grade for a student who receives the following 10 grades during a semester: C, C, D, C, B, B, A, F, F. I have done this experiment with thousands of teachers and administrators. Every time- bar none- I get the same results: the final grades range from F to A and include everything in between” (Reeves, 85).

“The difference between failure and the honor roll often depends on the grading policies of the teacher” (Reeves, 85).

“The benefits of effective grading practices are not limited to a reduced failure rate- although that benefit alone is sufficient to justify change” (Reeves, 86).

Other sources:
Guskey, T.R., & Bailey, J.M. (2001). Developing grading and reporting systems for student learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Marzano, R.J. (2000). Transforming classroom grading. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Reeves, D.B. (2004). The case against zero. Phi Delta Kappan, 86(4), 324-325.

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