Rethinking Grading

Previously I had read a book by Cathy Vatterott called Rethinking HomeworkRethinking GradingGrading which is also by Vatterott.  Grading harmonizes a lot with Homework and shares Vatterott’s base philosophy that grades should be grounded in learning objectives, should be as objective as possible, and behavior should be kept separate.

For example, some teachers incorporate attendance as one of the categories that factor into the overall grade.  While attendance is important to the educational process, does it relate to how well you wrote an essay?  Now, is participating in a group discussion or presenting a speech to the class part of an academic grade? I’d answer yes.  It’s topic like these that Votterott discusses in her book that made me think about what I give grades for and what a grade in my classes represents.

Another topic that I thought about a lot was what an “A” represents on my rubrics.  Does it mean exceeds expectation or does it mean that it meets expectation?  When Vatterott asked the question in the book it seemed like a no-brainer, but then she posed the next question, does earning a 100% (what an A usually means) show that you’ve exceeded the expectation or that you’ve completely met the expectation?  And if “A” means you’ve exceeded the expectation, does a “B” or 80% mean that you’ve met the expectation?

Vaterott gave me a lot to think about and like I’ve said before I appreciate that she presents the material in a conversational/dialogue style and avoids sounding preachy.  My only critique is that I would like to see concrete evidence of how other teachers have incorporated what she’s suggesting into their classes.

If you’re looking for an introduction to standards-based grading including where the idea grew out of, this is a great book. There are a few specific suggestions for how to implement the program in a classroom but since this is only a jumping off point, I recommend looking at some of the resources mentioned and digging deeper.

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