Reporting Scores vs. Grading

**Update 4.11.16** See this post for some Grading & Reporting Schemes

If you’re one of the “lucky” teachers who has those classically typical, or absurdly unexpected grading restrictions, I don’t envy you! Nonetheless, the key is to find the wiggle room within these restrictions, and focus on delivering understandable messages in the target language (= Comprehensible Input, CI).

2 Grades Per Week
This one’s easy, and it uses a gradebook tactic I like to call “zero-weight.” It’s when you create a grading category that counts for 0% of a student’s grade. This grading category is a “container” that holds scores. Scores from what? Anything. Anything you ever used to assign grades for (that would eventually be averaged) now go into a place everyone can see, but has no effect on a student’s overall grade. DAPS (Department, Admin, Parents, Students) should be fine with this because the scores indicate that something’s going on in your class, and take care of the “how’s so-and-so doing?” What if you have to follow department grading categories?

Department/School-Mandated Grading Categories
This one’s not so easy. Does this look familiar?

Homework – 10%
Participation – 25%
Quizzes – 25%
Tests – 40%

Sure it looks familiar, but there’s no sense to it. When I questioned a category setup like this at one of my schools, the rationale was that “various grading categories provide multiple opportunities to succeed.” OK, but they also provide multiple ways for students to fail, especially when the higher percentage categories usually contain only one or two grades (e.g. that “summative” test added just before the term ends because you realize there was only one other test because of Spirit Week disruptions to your schedule, etc.). They also turn students into hyper-aware amateur mathematicians who find out that they can still get an A or B by not doing any homework, etc.

I contend that “multiple opportunities to succeed” should be provided every day in class, regardless of grading categories. If one student is a clever artist, I should accept their work as evidence of understanding without requiring the rest of the class to draw me pictures. The quiet student who’s picking up the target language should be able to prove their proficiency during a Fluency Write without having to speak to me in complete sentences. Yes, this is a Participation requirement in some language departments. The point here is that language acquisition is too complex to be explicitly taught and tested.

When a department follows the status quo and establishes a grading system requiring specific evidence from multiple categories, that’s when teachers get caught up in creating many different assessments. These assessments  take up too much class time, and likely end up promoting the explicit learning about a language instead of the communication and acquisition of it.

The fix for this one requires much discussion and tact in order to create that wiggle room. Try opening the channels of communication by stating that different assessments do not improve acquisition. That is, they don’t ensure any improvement just because they’re there. Once that’s out of the way, your department might be open to ditching the traditional grading category model.

Here’s a post on how to rename some categories while still allotting as much to Proficiency as possible.

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5 thoughts on “Reporting Scores vs. Grading

  1. Not only is reporting this [the traditional] way damaging, it’s also unhelpful and doesn’t give any useful feedback to the teacher or the students. To find out what skills the students are able to do and which ones they are not, a teacher (and a student) would have to go back through each task (homework, quiz, test, etc) and see what was being assessed and break it up. If the grade book were to be categorized by skills, then it would be obvious to all involved in which areas a student excels and which areas a student is weak. Then a plan for the student to build deficient skills can be created. We are not teachers per se as much as we are coaches. We are looking for the weaknesses in our team, not to point them out, but to bring them to strengths.

    If you must report on the tasks, then they should be a subset of the skills!

    • …If the grade book were to be categorized by skills…then a plan for the student to build deficient skills can be created…

      Scott, that’s a very organized, logical, and SBG-way to do things, but we have different views on how much control there is over language acquisition. Under the language acquisition principles that I follow, the plan, for ANY student in ANY situation, is to read and listen to more target language. Let’s abbreviate that to RLMTL. If a student appears weak in reading, they need to RLMTL. If a student appears weak in writing, they should RLMTL. Weak in speaking? RLMTL. For me, there’s no need to track weakness/strength when the solution is always to RLMTL. You can, but there’s no need.

      By reporting on the 4 skills, parents, students, and even teachers might misinterpret that to mean 1) speaking more improves speaking/writing more improves writing, and 2) all skills must be equally mastered; if they’re not, one must spend more time on the less-mastered skill. That’s not true, and won’t be more effective than RLMTL. Also, there is no evidence to suggest that one must practice writing in order to write better, at least in terms of language acquisition. Once students have acquired a sufficient amount of language, however, skill building certainly has a place (e.g. essay-writing in 11th grade English), but we don’t see students of that second language proficiency level in the secondary and even SOME of post-secondary school systems.

      • I wholly agree with what you’re saying! But if you’re grouping by product (hw, tests, quizzes, etc), then the answer to the question how do I improve is do your hw and study for your tests and quizzes which is unhelpful. Now the conversation is I need help on my writing and to that I answer you need to read more. Let’s find some appropriate reading material for you to read to better your writing. Or for speaking, they need to listen more, but when the issue is in listening and reading, you can’t just read and listen more to improve. It has to be COMPREHENSIBLE (I know that you know this), and for this to happen they may need to go back to basics and learn some vocabulary and/or go back to easier listening and reading texts, and/or have someone to help make them comprehensible.

        So yes, RLMTL is generally the answer, but it can be more targeted (not that we learn or acquire in a linear fashion), but we can optimize the input to focus on where the student is struggling.

  2. Pingback: Your Latin Program: Basing a Program on Acquiring Latin (2 of 3) – The Inclusive Latin Classroom

  3. Pingback: NTPRS 2017 Resources | Magister P.

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