Communication in Grading

I want to preface this post by saying that in my perfect world, we wouldn’t grade at all. But currently, that isn’t my reality. I will continue to do the best I can with the rules and requirements placed on me.

My ever-present clipboard

We have progress reports coming up this week and as I was sitting and staring at my spreadsheet, I began to think about grading again. Let’s get deep.

One thing I love about my teaching is that I’m committed to Standards Based Grading as part of my Flipped Learning implementation. It communicates ideas and progress much more clearly than traditional grading practices do.

Essentially, there are two kinds of students in my class: those with an A and those with an F. Now, without getting too political about grades, I want to say that I really like the way my book plays out. Here’s why.

First, I don’t have to rationalize all of those middle areas. SBG eliminates point-grubbing because you’re marked on your ability to demonstrate your understanding in any way you choose. It is a binary system (for me, at least)…you know it, or you don’t. Therefore, any student who can demonstrate their understanding of a concept automatically is marked with a 100%.

Second, as the teacher, I do not feel like I have the right to assign a letter that describes a student’s learning other than a simple yes or no. I want my students to be able to explain the nuances of their learning, not hear it from me. This happens with reflection and discussion as we go through the problem-solving and application process in class.

Third, it simplifies my life. I’d rather not focus on grades at all. When I’m constantly hunting for points for students (“Why did I get an 18 instead of a 19?”), I cannot focus on supporting their learning. The student is also not focusing on learning. Grading with a binary system helps keep the conversation on skills and demonstration, not completion for points.

Finally, the conversation about grades changes with parents. We don’t discuss which assignments their child can turn in to improve their grade. We can focus on what learning strategies might work best for their son or daughter. School becomes a place where teachers are supporting learning rather than just somewhere to go and work for the day.

How do your grades communicate learning to parents? I’d love to hear more examples in the comments.

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