4 - SBG Components

Emphasis on Most Recent

According to Thomas Guskey, an educational researcher, a key question that needs to be asked is, "What information provides the most accurate depiction of students' learning at this time?" In nearly all cases, the answer is "the most current information."  Guskey goes on to explain that if students demonstrate that past assessment information no longer accurately reflects their learning, that information must be dropped and replaced by the new information.  Continuing to rely on past assessment data miscommunicates students' learning.

If the report card grades are to communicate the status of students' achievement, they should reflect what the student can do at the time the report card is issued.

In situations where learning is a progression, averaging across a whole report period does a disservice to the concept of learning, which is about growing and changing.  If a student didn't write very well at the beginning of the year but has improved by the end of the grading period, that student should not still be saddled with the effects of a low grade, which will pull down the achievement level reported.  

In some cases, this progression might not be across a semester but is instead during a unit.  In these cases, teachers use the most recent information to determine the grade for the unit.  Grades for unrelated units are then be combined as determined by the PLC through weighting, averaging, or using the median.

Formative vs. Summative

Assessments can be formative or summative in nature.   Formative assessments are used to inform instruction and guide learning; they occur before or after instruction. Formative assessments can include practice, preparation, or revision. Summative assessments are used to evaluate or judge student achievement and occur after instruction. Summative assessment can include checking correctness of understanding, application, extension, and/or transfer.

Paradoxically, one grading practice that supports student effort and motivation is knowing when not to grade.  According to best-practice research, on formative, practice assessments, teachers should give descriptive feedback, not grades (Brookhart, 2008).

For more information about formative and summative assessment, view the YouTube clip below or reference an article at the end of this page.

Formative and Summative Assessment

What is the role of homework?
The purposes for assigning work, regardless of whether it is completed in school or at home, include the following:
  • to help students master learning targets;
  • to prepare students to learn new material;
  • to provide extension and application of skills taught in the class to new situations;
  • to integrate and apply many different skills to a larger task.
If the work serves as evidence for a learning target, it is considered summative and will be evaluated and recorded in the gradebook.  The student's score will indicate how well s/he has mastered the content, not whether s/he completed the assignment.

Practice homework is designed to help students understand learning targets and better prepare students to learn new material.  Students who do not complete this type of work would probably not score as high on later assessments due to lack of practice.  Failure to complete assigned work will be reflected in the scores of these later assessments.  Additionally, teachers may indicate a failure to complete assigned work in a 'learning behaviors' or 'responsibility' portion of the gradebook.

Evidence completed outside of school is used as an opportunity for students to integrate knowledge taught in class and to demonstrate extension and application of learning target knowledge and skills.  Failure to turn in this type of homework may negatively impact a learning target grade no as a punitive measure, but rather because a key piece of evidence needed to verify a certain level of student understanding is missing.  In these cases, a teacher will use an 'IE' (MS) or 'NC' (HS) to show that the assignment was never submitted; these scores are calculated as zeroes.

For more information about the role of homework, view the YouTube clip below or reference an article at the end of this page.

How Much Should Homework Count?

Individual vs. Group Grades

A grade should reflect the learning achievement and performance of the student whose grade it is.  According to Spencer Kagan (1995), the researcher who established the concept of 'cooperative learning,' group grades 1) are not fair, 2) debase report cards, 3) undermine motivation, 4) convey the wrong message, 5) violate the principle of individual accountability, 6) cause parents, teachers, and students to resist cooperative learning, and 7) may be challenged in court.  The alternative to group grades is to assess individuals, to see what they know and can do.

Teachers can - and should - give feedback to a group about how they work together, share responsibilities, listen, and question.  They assess group performance (as opposed to ignoring it) and use their observations and judgments about it to work with the group.  This information is formative in nature and should not be included in a final score on an assignment or the overall grade.

Late Work

Penalties for late work distort the achievement record the grade is intended to communicate, can actually harm motivation, and for many students do not result in changes in behavior (O'Connor, 2011).  As Ken O'Connor, a grading expert, goes on to state, "it is critical to emphasize that we want students to exhibit responsibility and submit assessment evidence in a timely manner.  The difficulty we face is, what do we do when students do not demonstrate these qualities?  What policies and procedures are most likely to get them to learn as much as possible and exhibit the desired behaviors?"  

As Doug Reeves, an educational researcher, states, "The appropriate consequence for failing to complete an assignment is completing the assignment.  That is, students lose privileges, free time, and unstructured class or study hall time, and they are required to complete the assignment.  The price of freedom is proficiency, and students are motivated not by threats of failure but the opportunity for greater freedom and discretion when work is completed accurately and on time."

One argument for using penalties for late work is that is fairness: everybody gets the same amount of time.    Dr. Richard Corwin, an expert in the fields of school discipline, motivation, and classroom management, shares that "in education, fair does not mean equal.  Students are not the same.  They have different motivations for their choices, different needs, different causes for misbehavior, and different goals.  No one would go to a doctor who treats all headaches the same, since the cause for one may be allergies and the other a tumor.  Identify treatment for two students who don't do homework for different reasons - one who has to help watch younger siblings because parents are travelling and one who watches too much television - is no different than that doctor with the single cure for all headaches."

Another argument for using penalties is that it prepares students for the real world.  In the "real world" timelines are frequently negotiated (real estate, legal matters) or adjusted to circumstances (contractors and consultants); deadlines range from fixed to considerably flexible.  We prepare students better for the real world when we offer a variety of deadlines in school.  For example, the deadline for specific work that needs to be done on a given night as part of an instructional sequence might be fixed but timelines for long-term assignments might be framed more flexibly.

When assignments are late, teachers are asked to keep records of this behavior and, if it becomes a pattern, report it through comments on the report card.  They are also asked to assign consequences as they would for any other unacceptable classroom behavior.  This might be parent contact or coming into during lunch or break to finish the missing work.  

On Late Work

Scores vs Grades

Grading is to reflect achievement of essential learning targets, both curricular (i.e., subject specific) and schoolwide (i.e., Desired Student Learning Outcomes - Character, Collaboration, Communication, Creativity and Innovation,  Critical Thinking, and Cultural Competence) based on evidence of learning.  

Scoring is the process of evaluating an individual assessment task (e.g., a project, test, essay, performance). Grading is the process of evaluating overall performance at periodic times (e.g., mid semester progress or at the end of semester). Both processes use letters that represent student performance.  When scoring, these symbols are referred to as scores.  When grading, these symbols are referred to as grades.

Scoring and grading cannot be entirely objective and professional judgment is essential to determining the level of student achievement. Teachers at ISR use a wide range of assessment strategies including select-response (e.g., quizzes, tests, audience response systems), extended written responses (e.g., entrance/exit slips, tweets, essays, blogs), performances (e.g., research papers, lab projects, debates, demonstrations, musical and physical performances), and personal communication (e.g., conferencing, noticing non-verbal cues, questioning).

Separating Achievement from Other Factors

The recommendation to remove effort and behavior from grades in not as revolutionary as it sounds.  Even under traditional grading practices, teachers never graded everything, even if it seemed they did.   Reporting achievement separately from behaviors means that everyone can know as accurately as possible what a grade means in achievement terms.  It avoids grade inflation or deflation.  As Susan Brookhart, educational researcher shares, "Teachers can use achievement-based grades as indicators of the success of their instruction and as information to help them plan next steps in instruction for students.  Students can use achievement-based grades to self-assess and to set goals."

Brookhart also emphasizes that "basing grades on achievement doesn't mean we don't care about students' behavior, attendance, ability to meet assignment deadlines, degree of effort, and so on.  All of these factors have a direct impact on learning, and it is in this light that we should interpret them to students.  Developing good habits in all of these areas will help students be the best learners they can be."  ISR teachers will report on non-achievement factors through comments. 

Source: Singapore American School