The Assessment Network

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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Lately, I've turned more "little things" over to the students. If I sent a progress report home to be signed, I would note in the grade book those students who returned it, but I would not grade it. Grading that kind of activity serves no purpose. I don't believe in creating graded assignments simply for the sake of reward or punishment. The same may or may not apply to a "notebook check". I don't grade my English 12 CP students' notebooks, but I do grade their journal twice a semester because I feel it is very important for them, as developing writers, to keep and add to a collection of their own writings.

I feel differently about homework grades. I design homework assignments that show student learning, but also student participation in his or her own progress. For example, reading a poem and then answering Questions 1-8 will not only check the student's comprehension of the poem, but also give him or her something to bring to a continuing, more advanced discussion of the poem. So, I take homework grades very seriously because I expect my students to participate in class and in their own progress. Those zeros, then, may say something about student commitment, which I see as part of student progress.

If I give a quiz and then a retake, I let the retake replace the original grade. Again, however, I have to consider why the student has a zero on a quiz. If he or she is simply too preoccupied to make up the grade, then they are choosing not to participate in their own progress.

I really appreciate what you have to say about homework here.  This kind of homework shows learning, independent learning (!), and helps the student contribute meaningfully to class discussion.  I would add, and I think this is what you are already saying, that If a student has learned these skills already then I think assessing this type of homework is fair.  If you're having them do it on their own to see how they do BEFORE instruction, then it is probably not fair to grade that assignment.  But you can use that data to guide instruction.

I would look at re-evaluating the points system that is in place. Perhaps making the homework and notebook checks worth 10 points (in my class all classwork and homework are worth 10 points, and I use it for feedback for understanding and at times to go more in depth with the content), and use it as a check for understanding, not for mastery. If the notebook checks aren’t showing mastery, then why score it so high? You could also use category weights, making the quizzes worth more than homework/notebook checks, and the tests weighing the most. I do allow retakes on most of the assessments I give, and it takes the place of the original grade, showing mastery from the first test to the retake after the material is reviewed/retaught. 

  One idea on retakes that I might suggest, is having the student go back and actually complete any missing assignments, or classwork grades, before allowing them to take that Retake.  I do believe that students should have a chance at a retake (or a second chance to show mastery); however, without extra practice/study, should we expect the grade to be better?  Many students rely too much on the retake and don't prepare for the original assessment. I also agree with others that the retake score should replace the original grade.

  I also agree that getting a grade for non-learning items is not a way of showing student mastery.  Thus the extra credit assignment that involves getting something signed, is not truly appropriate.  

  I also agree with Wes that content should never be left behind. Continual review past ideas and continual assessment should happen.

I think the number of points for homework and classwork is too high.  Furthermore, is the homework being graded or is it a compliance grade?   On one of the classwork grades, the student received a 0.  Why was he not doing work in class?  I agree with several people in that the notebook checks have no place in the grading scheme, except maybe as a non-graded activity to indicate organizational skills.  With regard to retakes, as others have mentioned, they should replace the original grade, if mastery is the goal.

Tests are supposed to be a way of assessing material throughout an entire unit and therefore should be a good indicator of how well the student mastered the material.  If one were to look solely on the level of mastery from that stand point, the student would have a just below an A for an overall grade.

It would appear that this student could grasp the material even with little effort put forth with homework and other little assignments.  Maybe they were deemed unnecessary in the eyes of the student.  However, I am still a firm believer that practicing the material can/will give rise to understanding for more important assessments such as quizzes and tests.

Not only that, but aren't teachers supposed to do more than just be assessment pushers with these students?  Are job is not only to teach material, but to make them all around better individuals for when they leave us and go out into the real world.  By holding high standards and expectations as far as homework and other more "minuscule" assignments in the eyes of our students, we teach them aspects of responsibility and accountability that the will see in the real world.

The student does seem to grasp the material however, but maybe is just more lackadaisical when it comes to the less important parts of class (at least what he/she deems unimportant).  

The thing that stands out the most to me is that getting a progress report signed should not be a grade. That has nothing to do with the student's mastery of the subject.

Just from quickly looking at this I automatically look at the point value of the quizzes.  2 quizzes can outweigh 1 test.  In my opinion a quiz should be used to frequently assess students mastery levels on topics as you go.  Quizzes should be used as indicators of weak areas to help students prepare for the test.  I don't think that the quizzes should be worth 50 some points. If they decide to not change that then maybe they should double their test points or triple them to outweigh the quiz grades.  

Also, the classwork shouldn't be worth that many points either in my opinion because is it just 'practice' for the students, are they getting answers from you going over it, and is it really showing what they students are learning?  If not, then I don't think it should be such a large portion of their grade/worth that amount of points.

Robin, I agree with many of your points here. I noted the same thing about two quizzes being equivalent to a test. I also believe many of the homework/classwork grades are worth too much, especially when the focus should be on practice. 

I would change the point values for the assignments and the zero on the homework assignment is not acceptable.... a "goose egg" on homework can mean many things (child does not understand the work or does not attempt the assignment) two different things that received the same grade....... this needs to be readdressed... the quiz retake grading does not reflect what the student knows because the "0" is will there........

Retakes should take the place of previous tests or quizzes and I believe practice is important but it doesn't  reflect what they know it only aides in the learning process. 


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