common ground in the proposition that
grading should be accurate and fair.
Even those who disagree vehemently
about grading policy should find
offer opportunities for lower failure
the grading debate from “my grading
Our first presumption should be that
rates, improved discipline, better time
policies for my classroom” to a collegial all involved in the discussion love kids
management, improved organization,
responsibility for the decisions of every and care about their futures. Sugges-
and greater respect for teacher feedback teacher and administrator in the educa-
tions of reform are not a criticism of the
past but a hope for the future. In that
When school systems improve grad-
spirit of professionalism and collegiality,
Focus on Systems Thinking
ing policies, they enhance their work
let the debate begin. EL
Grading policies are only one part of a
on curriculum, instruction, assessment,
complex system of instruction, assess-
and leadership; when school systems
ment, and feedback in schools. Fullan
maintain toxic grading policies, they
Erickson, J. A. (2010, March). Grading prac-
(2010) makes a compelling case for sys- undercut even their best work. Grad-
tices: The third rail. Principal Leadership,
tem alignment. The systems perspective ing, in sum, is a high-leverage strategy
10( 7), 22–26.
Friess, S. (2008, May 21). At some schools,
reminds us that we can get many parts
that will, when effectively implemented,
failures go from zero to 50. USA Today.
of a system right, but when one part is
help every other element of the system
Retrieved from www.usatoday.com/news/
out of alignment, it affects every other
part of the system—for good or ill.
improve. When done wrong, however, it can have a deleterious effect
For example, when the inappropriate systemwide.
use of the average in a grading system
leads to student despair in the last
Keep It Collegial
Fullan, M. (2010). All systems go: The change
imperative for whole system reform. Thou-
sand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
Guskey, T. R., & Bailey, J. M. (2001).
two months of a semester, discipline
In Africa, Australia and New Zealand,
Developing grading and reporting systems
problems tend to increase. Teachers’
Asia, Europe, South America, and
for student learning. Thousand Oaks, CA:
and administrators’ time and attention
throughout North America, the subject O’Connor, K. (2007). The last frontier:
are diverted from effective instruction to of grading can, in an instant, transform
Tackling the grading dilemma. In D.
disciplinary issues, and school resources otherwise polite discourse into rhetori-
Reeves (Ed.), Ahead of the curve: The power
are forcibly directed toward remediation cal combat. As a profession, we can do
of assessment to transform teaching and
and course repetition.
better than this.
learning. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.
When, by contrast, effective grad-
Perhaps we should start by presum-
Reeves, D. B. (2004). The case against the
zero. Phi Delta Kappan, 86( 4), 324–325.
ing policies reduce failures, there’s a
ing the good will of our colleagues. Peo- Reeves, D. B. (2008). Effective grading
cascade of unexpected benefits: reduced ple who disagree with grading reforms
practices. Educational Leadership, 65( 5),
discipline problems, increased college
are not cretins but experienced profes-
credits, more elective courses, improved sionals who have arrived at their convic- Reeves, D. B. (2011). Elements of grading: A
teacher morale, fewer hours of board of tions by dint of years of experience and
guide to effective practice. Bloomington, IN:
education time diverted to suspensions hard work. People who propose reforms
and expulsions, and added revenues
are not wild-eyed neophytes, but col-
for the entire system based on a higher
leagues who have compared the present Douglas B. Reeves is the founder of
number of students continually enrolled system of grading with our potential
the Leadership and Learning Center;
in school. Systems thinking reframes
and found the present system wanting. dreeves@LeadandLearn.com.