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Classroom Assessment

A Practical Guide for Educators


by Craig A. Mertler

Chapter 10

Grading Systems

Introduction

Grading is the primary means by which the results of assessments are summarized and communicated.
It is seen as the culminating activity following the instructional process:

planning instruction assessment grading & evaluation

Grading should not be an afterthought; it should be treated as an integral part of the instructional process.

Rationale and Purposes of Grading Systems

Grading: The process of using a formal system for purposes of summarizing and reporting student achievement and progress. Very important professional responsibility of teachers (especially due to important consequences). Grades can be assigned to individual measurements (e.g., a test or paper) or to assessments (groups of measurementstypically at end of grading period or school year). Essentially involves comparison of performance to standards or criteria.

Rationale and Purposes of Grading Systems

Grading (continued) Primary reason for grading is that school districts require summative judgments about students. Highly reliant on teachers judgments. Should be based on accumulation of valid and reliable evidence. Main purpose of grades is to communicate information about students achievement and progress. Can serve as source of motivation (typically for already high-achieving students).

Rationale and Purposes of Grading Systems

Grading (continued) Important, necessary criteria for grading systems: Must be fair. Must be accurate. Should be based on sufficient amount of valid data. Therefore, should be defensible. Not a good practice to grade everything. Grading for formative purposes versus grading for summative purposes.

Rationale and Purposes of Grading Systems

Grading (continued) Types of work to be included in summative grades. Results of formal assessments (written tests, large projects). Quizzes, homework, seatwork? Nonacademic factors (e.g., attendance, effort, attitude, participation, etc.)? Perhaps as basis for raising borderline grades. Summative grades should be based on academic achievement.

Categories of Reporting Progress and Achievement

Categories of Reporting Systems

Categories are based on types of comparisons of performance: to performance of other students; to predefined standards of performance; to students own ability level; or to students prior performance.

First two types of comparisons are most common in regular classrooms.

Categories of Reporting Progress and Achievement

Categories of Reporting Systems (continued)

Norm-referenced comparisons: Grades are assigned based on comparison of performance to that of other students in a class. Sometimes referred to as relative grading, curving the class, and grading on the curve. Basis of comparison is performance of all other students. Not all students can receive the highest possible grades.

Categories of Reporting Progress and Achievement

Norm-referenced comparisons (continued) Designed to ensure that grades that span all possible categories will be received. Distribution of grades is predetermined. No absolute system exists; teachers construct their own distributions by knowing their students, subject areas, and beliefs about grades. Tend to create highly competitive classrooms. Students success depends on their ability, but possibly more so on performance of others. Meaning of letter grades is not always clear.

Categories of Reporting Progress and Achievement

Criterion-referenced comparisons: Student performance is compared to a preestablished set of performance standards. More fair since sole basis is individual students performance. Used by most classroom teachers. Possible for all students to earn top grade. Two types of performance standards: Performance-based criteriasimilar to scoring rubric. Percentage-based criteriabased on total points.

Specific Types of Grading Systems

Types of Grading Systems

Letter grading system Oldest and most commonly used system.

ABCDF (or others).


Can summarize entire terms work with a single grade (an advantage as well as a limitation). Potential for imprecisione.g., high A versus low A.

Can be remedied with +/ system.

Specific Types of Grading Systems

Types of Grading Systems (continued)

Numerical or percentage grades Instead of converting points to letter grades, simply report total number or percentage of points earned. Both points/percentages and letter grades can be reported in a multigrade system. No feedback on areas of weakness; only provide overall indication of achievement.

Specific Types of Grading Systems

Types of Grading Systems (continued)

Pass/fail grades Often used for college courses outside chosen field of study. Not included in grade-point average. May be recommended in K12 for students with learning disabilities. Advantage is the reduction in anxiety. Only two categories provide little formative feedback.

Specific Types of Grading Systems

Types of Grading Systems (continued)

Checklists Variation of pass/fail system; represents a type of dichotomous grading. Primary goal is to provide detailed analysis of strengths and weaknesses. Since all factors are assessed separately, nonachievement factors (e.g., effort and participation) can be included.

Specific Types of Grading Systems

Types of Grading Systems (continued) Portfolios Purpose is to facilitate progress, document growth, and showcase student work. Can be used summatively or formatively. Narrative reports Typically used in early years. Provide thorough description of strengths and weaknesses. May be used quite effectively as a supplement to letter grades.

Calculation of Grades

Methods of Calculating Grades Most common method is total point approach. Each assessment is allotted points, which are added up and the sum divided by the total number of possible points. Variation is the calculation of percentages with relative weights. Important issue related to calculation of grades is measurement error, which can affect a students observed score:
observed score = true score error score

Calculation of Grades

Methods of Calculating Grades (continued)


Measurement error can cause grade to be higher or lower than actual evaluation. The importance of this concept and its relation to calculating grades, especially in borderline cases.

For example, a student who earns 89.5% when the cutoff point for an A is 90%.

Grades are typically maintained by teacher in a gradebook.

Reporting Progress to Parents

Methods of Reporting Progress Most common method is through use of report cards. Typically only provide overall indication of performance; not very useful in providing indepth feedback. Letters to parents provide a permanent record of a teachers communication with parents. Parent-teacher conferences permit face-to-face dialogue; communication is a two-way process (no longer unidirectional, as with report cards or letters to parents). Can be used to effectively supplement information provided on report card. Time consuming; scheduling can be difficult.