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Sharing assessment & grading strategies that help students learn

Pretend you are your school's Grade Coach (if there was such a thing) and your job is to help teachers ensure that the grades assigned in their class represent a student's level of mastery.

A teacher has come to you to ask for advice about his grades.  He shows you the following list of assignments and scores:

Homework Topic A: 10/10

Quiz 1 Topic A: 40/50

Homework Topic A: 10/10

Classwork Topic A: 0/20

Homework Topic A: 0/20

Quiz 2 Topic A: 50/50

Classwork Topic A: 20/20

Homework Topic A: 10/10

Quiz 3 Topic A: 0/50

Quiz 3 Topic A RETAKE: 40/50

Homework Topic A: 5/10

Quiz 4 Topic A: 45/50

Notebook Check: 10/30

Test Topic A: 95/100

Review Game Extra Credit: 5/0

Homework Topic B: 0/10

Quiz 1 Topic A: 50/50

Homework Topic B: 0/10

Classwork Topic B: 20/20

Homework Topic B: 0/20

Quiz 2 Topic B: 40/50

Quiz 2 Topic B RETAKE: 50/50

Classwork Topic B: 20/20

Homework Topic B: 0/10

Quiz 3 Topic B: 35/50

Quiz 3 Topic B RETAKE: 50/50

Homework Topic B: 10/10

Quiz 4 Topic B: 30/50

Notebook Check: 50/50

Test Topic B: 90/100

Review Game Extra Credit: 3/0

Progress Report Signed: 0/10

For this activity, pretend that the assignments and scores listed above represent the entirety of the course.

What would you say to this teacher?  How would you suggest the teacher use this data to determine the student's level of mastery or learning?  You have complete freedom to do anything or suggest anything.  For example, you could recommend that the teacher:

  • Change point values of some or all assignments
  • Use category weights
  • Not count certain assignments
  • Convert to only letter grades
  • Convert to only percentages
  • Add additional assignments that would provide different or additional data
  • Replace scores on some assignments with scores on others
  • Allow retests or retakes on certain assignments

There is nothing you can't recommend to this teacher.  The goal is to make sure the grade represents learning.  What do you suggest?

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One of my main suggestions would be to re-evaluate the points you give for each assignment.  Personally, I don't count homework for more than 10 points, and usually use this simply as a check for understanding or to go deeper into the content than class time allows.  I like the quizzes averaging around 50 points, but I would probably increase the number of points on the tests to something more than 100, but it would depend on the number of questions on the test.  I also would suggest moving away from the "notebook check", as I think it takes away from the focus on grading for "mastery of content".  

One of my big struggles as a teacher, and this kind of goes along with what Thad was saying, I want my students to take each assignment seriously, and I believe that each assignment builds on previous assignments, and paves the way to the next assignment.  Thus, the quizzes build off the homework assignments, the tests build off of the quizzes, and ultimately the SOL will build off the information contained in my tests.  Thus, I assign point values for each assignment for fear that the students either will not take them seriously, or simply not do them.

I definitely agree with Justin that the point values seem to be off.  I would probably make sure that the quizzes were minimal in comparison to the test grade, as I see the test as a place to really demonstrate the mastery of the content.  My tests are normally worth many more points than 100.  Math folks can correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that you could also achieve this result by weighting categories as well if your grade book is arranged by category type (like quizzes, tests, etc.).

I would also jump in and say that the extra credit is probably inflating grades unnecessarily.  Instead of extra credit, could the student redo previous work or make up missing assignments?  That seems a better solution than random extra credit.

What my students call extra credit is actually a redo in a different medium...another way to show mastery that might be better suited to their learning style.

I agree.  I'd rather a student make up missing assignments and/or retake quizzes than issue extra credit.  Students should be demonstrating learning, not doing things for points.  Also, the notebook check was 50 points- that seems high for a non-learning task.  -Andrea and Kathleen

Yes, Allie. You could could use category weights to accomplish a similar result.

I also feel that extra credit can inflate grades. When students ask if I offer extra credit, I state that they can improve their grade by redoing previous assignments and/or completing make-up work. Before students can retake a quiz, I often make them redo smaller practice assignments (or different versions) to demonstrate that they have prepared for the requiz. Also, I try to make sure that the requiz is slightly different, so that results are valid (and not skewed by previous attempts).

I think Justin is spot on about points. The test scores need to increase dramatically to show mastery in my opinion. 

Regarding the previous posts about the counting of homework, etc....

You can assign a point value (though small in comparison to the assessments). However, if the student shows mastery on the test/quiz, but scored low on homework (whether responsibility or content), we can always "uncount" it for a particular time period. If it is a problem that will affect mastery, then that will be accounted in a quiz/test score. If the student's lack of doing homework/classwork continues, then that can also be another issue to be addressed in another way rather than a grade.

Regarding retakes:

I don't offer them every time I give assessments. I base them on an individual assessment basis. Students can become too used to the opportunity for retakes. Thus, sometimes corrections or other assignments to show mastery might be in order without giving a blanket retake.

Also on extra credit:

I too fear  they inflate grades. Thus, if I use extra credit, it is always very small in points (yet kids feel like they have a better chance of success) and it is always based upon either old material (forcing review) or more challenging opportunities.

The most recent assessment is the most accurate reflection of a student's mastery therefore retakes would replace the original grade.  What I am currently doing with this is to count the most recent assessment a higher weight and diminish the weight on the earlier assessments.  For example the first assessment could count 100 then the second 400 and then third 600.   A the same time going back and reducing the first assessment to 50 and so on so that the brunt of the numerical powerschool grade is based on the most recent assessment.  It is also important to assess content many times never leaving anything in the past.

Extra credit and homework do not(for a huuuuuuuuuuge percentage of examples) demonstrate a student's mastery and should not be included in the grade.

I would suggest that the teacher review for and give an assessment that covers both topics and that while assessing topic B the teacher continually review and reassess topic A.  This could eliminate the desire for retakes because the teacher would always be getting fresh data on mastery.  In addition, the student' s retake scores are very good and mostly better than the 'end' test scores and could be super short term memory.  I would ask what has to take place prior to a retake and how soon can they occur.  It may be a good idea to not allow retakes but to repeat the content on each successive quiz and test so that new data constantly comes in.(This could also help students who miss a lot of school might not have to go back to take quizzes/tests because the material would be coming up again and again.

I would suggest outlining ahead of time (beginning of the year syllabus) the weight of each category.  i.e. - HW 10%  quizzes-25% Tests 50% etc.  I like a homework grade to have the ability to help a dedicated student (push them from a B to an A) but not devastate a grade.

If the goal is to accurately report the level of mastery then tests and retakes should count for the bulk of a grade.  However, if the retake test is identical or extremely similar then is the student mastering the content or are they briefly memorizing the material?  I am in favor of retakes in some form or fashion but have seen students not study for an original test knwing they can have the benefit of going over the test and then retaking it.  I would encourage the retake to be in a different format. 

I feel that the student knows the material and they are avoiding the homework assignments and they should turn in the homework assignments.  Every day the assignment is not turned in then the assignment will be dropped a letter grade.

Homework is typically not representative of learning because it can be either checked for completion which doesn't reflect understanding, or checked for accuracy in which case there is no way to know if it is the student's work or not.

Quiz 3 Topic A should be adjusted because the retake demonstrated that learning did eventually take place.

More retakes could be offered if the teacher really is interested in whether the student has mastered the material or not.

Notebook checks are a reflection of 'good student skills' and not reflective of learning, so shouldn't be included in grade.

Extra credit games don't necessarily reflect learning.

Progress Report Signed has nothing to do with learning and is a means of using a grade to force students to comply with the request to complete a necessary task...should not be included in grade.

I would say that the teacher needs to keep the end goal in mind......the grade must reflect the student's level of mastery...nothing more, nothing less.  

To me, it looks like this student is one who does not do his homework or turn in his classwork as often as the teacher would like.  For unit #1, his average on classwork and homework combined is around 60%.  For the second unit, his classwork and homework average combined is a mere 45%.

Looking at the quizzes - factoring in the retakes - he is averaging 88% on unit #1 and 90% on unit #2.  I like that the teacher allows retakes on quizzes.  In my class, I only allow retakes on the unit tests, but I do allow those grades to replace or exempt previous quiz grades if the student can show mastery by the end of the unit.

The main factor that I think the teacher needs to consider is this student's test average (93%).  

My thoughts are that this kid knows 93% of the material that was presented to him.  He may have chosen to not do the homework, not turn in some of the classwork, but he OBVIOUSLY knows the material.  He may not have mastered the material along the way when taking quizzes (some of the quizzes were only 80%), but by the end of each unit, he had shown growth.

If this were my student, they would have a 93% average for the year.  My job is not to grade on laziness, effort, etc.  I want my grade to reflect mastery.  I want my grade to correlate with their SOL score (a kid who has a 70D in my class shouldn't be getting a 500 on the SOL test; likewise, a kid with a 94A in my class should not be getting a 400 on the SOL test).

Just my thoughts! :)


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