I’ve been writing about Assessment & Grading for a while. That writing has earned me slots presenting at the local, regional, and national level, which means this is a hot topic not to be overlooked. I’m not surprised. Grading systems influence assessment, which drive content, and even the slightest adjustments can have profound effects on one’s teaching. For example, the simple decision to grade homework comes with considerable baggage…
The teacher needs to determine a) what is even graded (e.g. completion? a rubric? other criteria?), b) late, or makeup policies (e.g. partial credit? diminishing scale per day late? accounting for excused absences?), c) grade weighting (e.g. 5%, 10%, 20% of the course grade), and d) then make the time to evaluate the homework based on a. Any experienced teacher knows that b is probably the most frequent, yet most headache-causing aspect of grading anything, especially homework. Kids will be out of class for a host of reasons, and there’s nothing that will ever change that. Why not establish policies that anticipate and avoid, rather than complicate and frustrate?! So, with this one deceptively simple decision to grade homework, the teacher has created a considerable amount of more work for him/herself, and has complicated the daily goings-on for the student. Nevertheless, many schools still require homework, and there need to be solutions for sanity.
In this blog post, I present my current classroom setup. It combines new district mandates with my own practices retaining the underlying principles that I’ve found to be most effective, clear, and quite liberating.
This year’s syllabus can be found here, which outlines everything below in more detail.
Aside from the beautifully updated illustrations I now use for DEA that actually represent the skin tone of my students, (courtesy of of Picturae) I get to go back to DEA in its purest state. This year’s Daily Engagement Agreements (DEA) will remain posted as classroom rules, with no impact on a students course grade, and no “violations” recorded.
2017-18 Grading System
This year’s grading system is aligned with a district policy of 80/20, with 80% being “Assessments,” and 20% “Academic Habits.” These categories are loosely defined, and I know that there’s considerable variation among schools and teachers district-wide as it is. Many teachers in other buildings place most “graded” items in the 80% category, and reserve the remaining 20% for homework, and other items completed in class.
First of all, I’m keeping my Proficiency Rubric, and reserve the right to assess a student on a lower proficiency level goal if their internal syllabus would otherwise lower their grade. I’m also keeping my 0% weighted digital “Portfolio” to report the kinds of things others would place in that 20% “Academic Habits” category (like what I presented on this past summer at NTPRS). This grading hack has been the cornerstone of simplifying grading and assessment, and I haven’t heard of a single case in which a teacher wasn’t able to use it in addition to even the most Draconian grading systems. The Portfolio also avoids the pitfalls of writing oneself in a corner and having to invent additional assessments in grading categories with few numbers by the end of the term. The Portfolio is so flexible that you could assign various tasks without having to plan for X number of them, or stick to any particular format.
Moving along, I’m calling the 80% category “Summative Proficiency,” and the 20% one “Formative Proficiency.” This actually works out nicely. Periodically, students will self-assess using a proficiency rubric, which will go into the 20% “Formative Proficiency” category. I can do this many times throughout the quarter, and will just update the score (e.g. Quarter 1 Formative Proficiency), rather than create new gradebook assignments that keep averaging with old ones. At the end of the term, the students will self-assess again, but this time the score goes into the 80% “Summative Proficiency” category. This, essentially, gets my classroom back to being graded 100% on Proficiency, which is the most-realistic and least-restrictive way to represent language acquisition (aside from not assigning grades at all!).