Starting the Con
The first task in successful grading reform is to
reach consensus on the purpose of grades.
Susan M. Brookhart
When I talk with teachers about grading, feelings often run high. Teachers tend to assume that others agree with their positions, but in fact I hear a range of opinions. Some talk about the academic meaning of grades:
Our state test scores were rising, but our grades weren’t. Aren’t we supposed to be
measuring the same standards?
Our kids used to complain that with some teachers they’d get an A, and with others
they’d get a B. We’re trying to be more consistent.
Some address the importance of effort:
They can’t get an A if they don’t do the homework. If you only do half the work on
your job, you get fired.
Everything students do counts in my classroom.
Some think about the motivational aspect of grades:
It’s very important to keep hope alive. Once kids give up, you’ve lost them.
But even though opinions about why grades are important differ, more and
more educators are beginning to question traditional grading practices that were
developed to sort students into learners and nonlearners, not to support learning for all. Today’s standards and accountability movement, which holds schools
responsible for the learning of all students, has its counterpart in standards-based
grading, which could just as easily be called learning-focused grading.
Decide on Purpose
As school districts contemplate a journey toward standards-based grading, they
must make quite a conceptual and practical shift. With most conventional grading practices, one grade sums up achievement in a subject, and that one grade
often includes effort and behavior. With standards-based, learning-focused