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The Science Goddess

Grading and reporting are near and dear to my heart. I'm currently knee deep in my doctoral study of how teacher grading practices impact student motivation.

I have been implementing standards-based practices in my classroom this year and would encourage anyone who might be interested to have a look at what I've been doing here: http://whatitslikeontheinside.com/labels/grading.html

You can find my policy and sample record-keeping book...how I've conferenced with kids...and other tools.

In addition to the resources you listed above, I highly recommend "How to Grade for Learning" by Ken O'Connor. It's much more accessible than Marzano and really sets the stage for best practices in grading.

Some of us are headed to Portland next month for the Sound Grading Practices conference. Feel free to join us!


I agree. But for so long the end result has always been a grade, as in "I got a 76 in English," not "I learned how to analyze a poem this six weeks." I finally came to realize that I needed to grade a student on his/her own progress and learning, not some arbitrary scale with which everyone is measured. It was actually freeing and created a safety net for the students. Their best work would be "excellent," and, therefore, an A. I would not compare their best to the student next to them. As a teacher I knew then I could truly evaluate their learning, not their memorization or following instruction skills. Incredibly, it was less work for me and much more enjoyable. I think teachers need to be given permission to think this way and experiment with it in the classroom.


Thanks for joining the conversation. We are moving toward a more standard based report card and I will take a look at O'Connors work.
One thing I am curious about is what level you both work with...I work in a K-8 setting and I am interested in how this effects our understanding of grading vs the 9-12 perspective.
Angie I am curious about your statement... "I would not compare their best to the student next to them." While I agree that grades are not based on a comparison of students in any one given class I do think their are some objective standards that define mastery.


I teach in a K-5 schools and these are the sorts of conversations we are just starting to have. Rick Wormeli's book, Fair Isn't Always Equal, really got my thinking rolling on this.

One of the things that drives me craziest is when my students ask, "Is this for a grade?" It gets me for two reasons; they aren't focused on the learning, only the grade, and I'm clearly not engaging them as much as I would like if they are stopping to think about the grade.

It's very difficult for us to move away from grading as we have always done because everyone understands it (or thinks they do). Parents and teachers feel comfortable with it. I'm impressed to hear such discussions and debates from administrators.

Scott McLeod

Jenny, Alfie Kohn's classic book, Punished by Rewards, sheds light on the "is this for a grade?" phenomenon. If you haven't read it, it's fabulous. Basically, there is a TON of psychology research out there that shows that intrinsic motivation disappears or decreases substantially when we attach external rewards (e.g., grades) to activities.

On another note, I know that many elementary schools have tried to go to a more performance-based report card system (i.e., "your kid can do X, Y, and Z" rather than "your has an A (or O)"). Parents, however, often push back hard on that. Even though they're getting better, more detailed information on what their children know and can do, they still want to know "what grade my kid got" and "how is my kid doing compared to the others?"


"It's very difficult for us to move away from grading as we have always done because everyone understands it (or thinks they do)"

This really the truth. It was quite an eye opener to discover that we did not understand it...
Grades are not going away anytime soon but we will continue to seek ways to focus on preformance. It is easier in the primary grades but as Scot says at some point they want to know the grade.

The Science Goddess

I teach 10 - 12 kiddos, but have worked with k - 12 on different aspects of grading. Our district currently uses standards-based grading and reporting in most of our elementary schools (the rest are coming on board next year).

The conversations with kids in my classroom are much more focused on learning this year. I almost never hear "Is this for a grade?" or "What's my average?" It's a very different power dynamic and I'm happy about that.

Tracy Rosen

In Quebec we had been gradually moving away from number grades and towards mastery vs. non mastery of competencies ala this child has mastered or not mastered (or somewhere in between) this competency over the past 8 years aka performance-based reporting.

I say had, because Quebec's education minister changed the rules on us this year (a few weeks before reporting...) by bowing to pressure from parents to revert back to number grades (percentages) for high school and introducing them for the first time in elementary schools.

Who is reporting for? Evidently parents, who are voters.


It is hard to change the system.. the High Schools want grades, the Universities want Grade point averages and the parents want to know where their student rank against other kids.
The question I have is if we accept the above as reality what kind of change should/could we advocate. Marzano's book advocates mastery grading. I can't do justice to it in this comment but I think it is recognizes the reality of our grade driven world while also helping the students focus on mastering content. In my experience at K-8 we teach in too many discreet chunks and we grade that way too.

Scott McLeod

And in Quebec we now have explicit proof that schooling is about sorting for others, not for learning...


I taught high school. I agree with Marzano that grading should be done on mastery of subject. The standards (or TEKS in Texas) would say "write in a voice and style appropriate to audience and purpose." For the advanced student, his/her writing would be amazing from the start. But where does he/she go from there? Should I measure that he/she can complete the objective or improve personally? For the student who is struggling just to write a sentence, being able to construct writing with voice is a major accomplishment. A typical grading practice (in my experience) is to mark the advanced student with an A and use that as a benchmark as to the level of writing of others. That, I believe, is a mistake. My goal as an educator (besides achieving the TEKS) is to make sure the students grow and learn, regardless of where they begin. If a student goes from a 20 to a 60, that's major growth, but still failing. If a student goes from 90 to 94, not so much growth, but labeled as excellent. Which student put forth more effort and gained more learning as a result? That's where I think grading should be focused.

Tracy Rosen

Scott - it is interesting that you say that. It makes me reflect on the difference between reporting and learning. For they are different things.

Quebec's Education Program is great. I love it. I hate the way it was and is being implemented but I love the program.

Definitely there is a drastic schism between the educational philosophy behind the program and the way we are now having to deal with reporting.

I think it typifies top-down mandated programing. The government with some consultation from teachers, school boards, and independent consultants, delivered a new education program about 8 years ago. Parents, most teachers and administrators, and of course students were informed of this after the fact. School boards (who perhaps didn't quite get it) had to explain it to administrators (who perhaps didn't quite get it) who had to explain it to teachers and parents (who perhaps didn't quite get it) who had to explain it to students....and now because much of the public never really 'got' it, there is a scramble to make adjustments to make people happy.

Very often the only side of the education system that a parent sees is the report card. So while learning may be the focus of the system from the system's POV (and the learning can be great - the program is filled with student-centered project-based work that focus on mastery of competencies), reporting is the focus from the parent's POV.

I'd like to think that if ALL stakeholders had been involved in the creation of the program then things would be running much more smoothly right now.

That is my take on the phenomenon in any case!

I'm wondering how this compares to education reforms in other areas.


I am fresh out of session by Dr. Marzano and I asked him to stop by our conversation to add a comment. We will see. I know it is hard when you are moving from conference to conference.

In any case his presentation spent some time on the issue of formative assessment. I will post on my blog more about the conference. I am now even more convinced that grading is a critical issue for creating an effective school. One of the powerful tools we left with was his template for rubric grading. Just on its own it is a valuable tool- the product of several years work- But the point was that having clearly defined levels of mastery your assessments must then align providing "questions" for level 4, 3 and 2. The result is that you can quickly assess and discuss where a student is and what they need to work on giving on...it was masterfully explained... I am sorry if i do not do it justice here.
I guess one of my points is that when we talk about reforming grading we also have to look closely at assessment.

sandi k itts

I'm sending a copy of a grading document that may be helpful in your dealing with grades. We developed it as a 3rd point of discussion to help us begin changes with our schools. It is a work in progress, so we appreciate your input & feedback. http://www.prairiesouth.ca/component/option,com_docman/task,doc_download/gid,1444/Itemid,54/

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