Grading Practices

2016-09-02 07.13.38

School started about two months ago.  Since then so much has happened and the first trimester is closing upon the school.  Report cards are starting to creep up on teachers and the very busy month of November is knocking.  My school has parent/teacher conferences as well as a bunch of professional development sessions planned for the turkey month.

While thinking back about the last two months there’s a lot that comes to mind.  Specifically, I made a change in my grading policy.  I wrote about that here. I decided to move from a point-based system to something that better resembled a standards-based approach.  It’s definitely not 100% standards-based, but it’s moving towards that model.

Basically, students complete a quiz or project and receive it back with my feedback.   Students either get a M or NY.  If they receive a M they file away the papers.  A NY means that the students are required to redo/change the assignment so that they meet the expectations on the second attempt.  I keep the score on the second attempt.  It’s not a perfect system, but I believe this policy is making positive ground.  My reflections on the first two months of using this are below.

1.)  Students are much less anxious about the quizzes and projects.  Maybe knowing that they get another opportunity allows them to take a risk or try a new strategy that they otherwise wouldn’t have considered.

2.)  I’ve become more precise in what I expect students to complete.  Part of this is due to wanting to make sure that a boat load of students don’t have to redo the assignment because of unclear directions.  I’ve been using a “criteria for success” indicator on each project.  This eliminates the points aspect, but also gives students an opportunity to evaluate their own progress on the assignment before turning it in.

3.)  Students are a bit more assertive in looking at their own misconceptions/simple mistakes when they look at a NY that’s returned to them.  Some students ask for additional help or resources before completing the assignment a second time.  Students aren’t allowed to redo the assignment at home so some have used technology tools in the classroom to research the skill before making a second attempt.

4.)  When I first started using the M/NY criteria I found that time was an issue.  It still is although it’s managed a bit better with some clear expectations upfront.  Students that receive a NY have to redo the assignment before the end of that unit.  Some students finish it on the day I return the sheet, while others wait until close to the last minute. I don’t accept the assignment after the unit is over.

5.)  It’s not perfect.  I don’t think any grading policy is perfect.  It takes students more time to complete assignments, especially if they have to take it twice.  There’s also more feedback involved, which takes additional time.  Also, this policy is in place for assignments, but not necessarily tests.  What happens to students that take more than twice to achieve mastery?  Good question and I haven’t answered that yet.  The district still requires letter grades at the upper elementary level.  My district current doesn’t use standards-based grading, but at some point it may move towards that model.  I’m already seeing positive strides in my own classroom and a slight change in how students view assignments.  It’s more of a focus on moving towards the mastery of a concept vs. look at my points.  We’re making positive progress.

Author: Matt Coaty

I've taught elementary students for the past 14 years. I enjoy reading educational research and learning from my PLN. Words on this blog are my own.

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