Inequitable Grading Practices: Averaging

For my third poll in a large Facebook group of 12,600 language teachers in this mini-series on inequity and grading, I asked about averaging. A FRACTION of teachers responded this time, with a total of just 80. Compared to the previous poll participants of 585 for late work penalties, and then 625 for homework, I wonder if this is because averaging is something teachers let the gradebook handle without giving it much thought. Most teachers don’t question homework, but they still play a more active role in creating and assigning it, right? Even setting late policies is something teachers…do. Averaging, though? Looks like we might be in a “set it and forget it” situation. The thing is, the gradebook only does what we tell it to (or its default setting), so if we’re not thinking about that, well…

Poll results had the majority (60) doing some kind of averaging. Let’s unpack all that.

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Inequitable Grading Practices: Homework & Zeros

Like grades, homework in school is just as expected as yellow buses, questionable cafeteria lunch, rank & file desks, band, and of course, football. Homework is such a part of school culture that it’s hardly given a second thought by the teachers who assign it. I’m sure there’s the following definition somewhere, too:

teacher (n.) = Overqualified and underpaid professional who assigns homework over vacation

Unlike using the lens of standards-based grading (SBG) to illustrate the inequity of late work, the inequity of homework should be self-evident: we cannot monitor student learning, and the home environment—if there is a home—differs from student to student. Some of those environments are conducive to learning, and others not so much. When teachers grade homework, they contribute to keeping those with privilege soaring high while those without get hit with more obstacles. Most teachers not giving homework much thought at least understood how to play the school game (whether or not they did it as students, themselves). Therefore, I’m guessing that the thought of not having a quiet space to do homework, the freedom of not needing to take care of family members, or responsibility of working at the family’s restaurant is questioned by probably just 1% of teachers assigning it. And it’s quite possible that in some communities these situations are completely unheard of. Or, they’re just lurking in the shadows, still there.

For the second week, I polled a Facebook group of 12,600 language teachers, this time on their homework grading policies. After about a week, 625 responded. A little under a quarter (139) grade homework one way or another (e.g., completion, rubric, etc.), with the majority of them (109) dropping a zero in the gradebook if not done.

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Grading: A Zero-Autonomy Quick Fix

After reviewing my NTPRS 2018 presentation with someone earlier today, I stumbled upon a way to demystify the concept while also providing an option for immediate implementation without ANY changes to those pesky school-mandated, unchangeable grading categories (if you’re in that unlucky situation). In each grading category:

  1. Create assignments that do NOT count towards the final grade (usually a check box)
  2. Create ONLY ONE assignment that DOES count towards the final grade
  3. Use a—ANY—holistic rubric to arrive at that grading category grade

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Grading & Reporting Schemes

Over the years, I’ve heard from many teachers in different situations looking to move towards Proficiency-Based Grading (PBG), or possibly beyond. Elsewhere on this blog, I’ve written very long explanations about grading practices. Here are various grading scheme options presented in a straight-forward manner. If you’re in a situation that seems very different from those listed below, comment and we’ll think of something!

Latest Expectations-Based Grading Scheme

Expectations-Based Grading (EBG) **NEW, added 3.4.18**
100% – Input Expectations Rubric, includes Proficiency Levels
0% – Quick Quizzes, or anything else you want to report a score for
Use this scheme if you have complete control, want maximum freedom, and want to focus on students receiving input.

Zero-Autonomy Quick Fix **NEW, added 8.2.18**
Percentages vary based on wacky school requirements
In each grading category:
1) Create assignments that do NOT count towards the final grade (usually a check box)
2) Create ONLY ONE assignment that DOES count towards the final grade
3) Use a—ANY—holistic rubric to arrive at that grading category grade
Use this scheme if you have absolutely no control, and people are telling you what kinds f things to assign, and how much value to give them.

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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).

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