Step 3 A: Traditional Grading

Read The Case Against Percentage Grades by Thomas Guskey, which provides some historical background on grading and discusses some problems with percentage grades.

Read It’s Time to Stop Averaging Grades by Rick Wormeli, which explores reasons why averaging grades is problematic.

Watch this short video and jot down notes collecting evidence or comments which resonate with you. (Note: if the video above does not load properly on this page, try using the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yq5igA00qc8 )

Take a moment to answer the poll below.

 

xkcd-grading

In the comment section below, cite a piece of evidence from the above readings, video, or cartoon which resonated with you and elaborate on how or why it resonated with you.

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1,029 thoughts on “Step 3 A: Traditional Grading

  1. Hernesto Meza says:

    The video suggesting that the old self will always hold me behind is really eye opening. It really shows how the beginning can affect a student even if they demonstrate growth through out the year. As human being we always tend to learn from our mistakes and look to amend these mistakes. By having the grade that the student received in the beginning of the year, affect them at the end of the year we are truly showing them that while they learned from their mistakes their mistake will always hold them back and have an impact. If we did this in teaching and had this accompany through out our whole teaching career what would this truly mean. For example, lets say that one year you had a not so great evaluation but you learned and grew to become a great educator. However, the people who evaluate us hold that year against us. Though we learned from it, the year that we struggled will always damper our performance on that evaluation. This is not fair, because though like the student we grew and learned from the past we would still be held accountable for that year. Therefore, holding students accountable for something from day one and not seeing there growth and rewarding it is detrimental to their growth and truly does not show them that making mistakes is a natural process to learn from.

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  2. Cris says:

    What stuck in my mind was from the article, “It’s time to start averaging grades.” A student who failed was given the chance to raise a failing grade. Well this particular student studied hard and made sure he/she met the standards, and retook the test. Said, student got an A, but teacher averaged the grades and student got a C. It showed the student that all his/her work was all for not.

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  3. JOSE JARQUIN says:

    The Case Against the Zero

    Grading as a punishment resonated with me because I experienced it as a student and as a teacher. I think that better guidance at the university would tremendously help new teachers to avoid using grading as a punishment.

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  4. Harmony4681 says:

    The video resonated with me because I look at all my students as capable individuals who approach learning in different ways. Some students might not do well right away for various reasons, such as not understanding the whole concept. They might comprehend some elements of it, but they might need additional support in applying what they know to help gain the other aspects of a concept/standard. It makes a big difference when you give students a second chance to demonstrate to teachers how much they’ve improved. Feedback is also very important for students to receive. Without it, students are lost and they won’t know what they need to improve on. They need a map to find their destination. Teachers’ feedback is that map students need in order to know what they need to reach success.

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  5. Mor says:

    What called my attention in the video, “What’s Wrong with Traditional Grading” was that students were never giving an explanation about the reasons why they received the grade they were given.
    In the case of percentage grades its hard on the students. I believe it can be hurtful to most students because % grades can be unfair. For the most part students don’t understand % grades and this can be frustrating for students.

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  6. Harmony Carroll says:

    I am was really fascinated by the history of grading outlined in “The Case Against Percentage Grades”. That as school became more accessible/essential to children in the US, classrooms became more specialize. With this shift came a push away from a holistic evaluation of student progress seen in one room school houses, and a call for percentage grading. The pendulum eventually shifted back to a more holistic grading process after research was released in the early 1900. It wasn’t until fairly recently that teacher again began to use percentages and averaging to evaluate students’ knowledge. even though it does not promote growth or objectivity in grading. In the face of research why did teachers migrate back to averaging? “Researchers suggest that an appropriate approach to setting cutoffs must combine teachers’ judgments of the importance of the concepts addressed and consideration of the cognitive processing skills required by the assessment or items or tasks. By assigning point values to tasks and averaging the scores, little emphasis is placed on the cognitive processing required. Rather students learn to “game the system”, and play it safe when it comes to academic risk taking al in the name of averaging.

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  7. Harmony072004 says:

    Video: “What’s Wrong With Traditional Grading”, the thing that resonated most with me was the fact that a student that instead of making progress in the assessments given was actually decreasing in scores but receives the same grade as a student who has been making steady progress. In the article, “It”s Time to Stop Averaging Grades”, the thing that resonated with me was the difference between an A and a B. “One percentage point is the arbitrary cut-o between getting into or being denied entrance into graduate school. One student gets a 90% and another gets an 89%: the rst is an A and the second is a B, yet we can’t discern mastery of content to this level of speci city. These students are even in mastery of content, but we declare a difference based only on the single percentage point.” I believe the student has the knowledge as the student above by one percentage point and should be given an A and penalize him with a B.

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  8. What resonated with me the most in the video, “What’s Wrong with Traditional Grading” was that grades are subjective. Student’s do not know what they did wrong. Students need feedback to understand and learn from their mistakes.
    In “The case against percentage grades” it seems that students are given more opportunities to fail than to succeed.

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  9. Harmony Figueroa says:

    The statements of the students feeling that they did all of the work they were assigned and they still did not feel like they learned anything, sound very familiar when I was a student. It makes sense why students who feel this way may not try their best and/or lose motivation to learn.

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  10. Harmony Figueroa says:

    Letter grades alone do not reflect a students understanding of the material teachers present. This portion stresses the importance of allowing students alternative ways to show mastery, not solely relying on assessments to do so.

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  11. MRE says:

    Two things stood out for me. The first was the article where the student earned 93.4% and was denied an A because of a .6% deficit. I feel that, had the student been given an opportunity, he/she could have demonstrated that an A was actually the accurate grade. The video pointed out some potential problems. The one that resonated with me is that despite having improved over the course of the year or semester, the grades don’t demonstrate growth because the grades earned early on will always be weighed into the final grade. That seems quite unfair.

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  12. Harmony mhc says:

    The video “What’s Wrong with Traditional Grading?” resonates with me. The amount of points a teacher assigns on a test may be subjective. This could result in a different grade on the same test. Students don’t know how to improve if they just get points and a letter grade.

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  13. msmartinez says:

    What resonated with me the most in the video, “What’s Wrong with Traditional Grading” was the summary grading chart indicating how students that perform poorly at the beginning of a trimester but show tremendous growth at the end of the year, can be unfairly given a “C” grade by averaging scores. I’m a firm believer in looking at where the student is now in terms of success as opposed to where the student has been.

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  14. Katheryne Martinez says:

    The cartoon reminds me of the group of students that believe that, in order to have a successful higher education, they have to be busy and complete what is assigned in the classroom, regardless if they learn or not.

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  15. Lyda Lara says:

    The cartoon shows a reflection from a student that does all the work, participates and is on task, yet feels that student has not learned anything. It just seems busy work.

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  16. Veronica Lopez says:

    I do all that is requires of me in class but I did not learn anything. This statement from the cartoon resonated with me because I have experienced taking a course on not learning much but if a did everything the teacher wanted then I would get a decent grade.

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  17. Rachel says:

    The issues with traditional grading include that “marks constitute a very real and a very strong inducement to work…they not infrequently are determiners of the student’s career.” In addition, grading systems always changing overtime-timeline shows different “divisions” so why do we place such great emphasis on marks.

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  18. Armando Sanchez says:

    “I learn that mistakes are bad, so I avoid taking risks.” is quote that seemed to stand out the most. I was fortunate enough to focus on math this school year and i tell my students those who never make mistakes will never learn. Mistakes are vital in life, that is how we grow emotionally, mentally, and academically. Those who have made the greatest contributions stumbled, but have always got back up and managed to move forward.

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  19. Lorena says:

    The reality is that all students will start with zero points. The student that worked hard doesn’t get an advantage from the start and the student that didn’t work hard doesn’t start off with a disadvantage. Grades are about what kids know at that given point in time… same thing as on a football field game.
    Also… do we really want the initial learning students do in the beginning (when the skills and/or content are brand new) to affect a student’s grade later on down the road? Should students be able to escape the mistakes and roadblocks they faced in the beginning or should these mistakes haunt them the entire grading period?

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  20. Harmony 2S says:

    What really got my attention was the fact that in the traditional system of percentage grading, there is a larger part of the scale allocated to failure than to success. How then can we expect to motivate our students to move up the grading scale when most of it fails to recognize achievement? Students are less likely to progress once they’ve become accustomed to failing.

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  21. D. Gonzalez says:

    One of the things that resonated with me the most was the cartoon of the letter grade that doesn’t necessarily reflect a student’s understanding of the material just because they got a B. This is why it is important to give students different ways to show mastery. Assessments alone should not be the main indicator. I not only test/quiz my students, I also grade them on homework, classwork, notes, and warm-ups all of which are ways in which students demonstrate their understanding of the material.

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  22. Harmony 1 says:

    What resonated with me was the teacher whose student received a grade of 93.4% which prevented him from getting an A and the teacher did not look for other evidence or indicators that would show that the student truly deserved an A, something that could have helped with college admission, scholarships, etc.

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  23. J Johnson says:

    “The case against percentage grades” I grading scale has many levels it may be more effective, but it gives no room to fail or to fail short and try to improve by the end of the semester this grading percentage seems unfair. Give the student a chance to love and enjoy learning.

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  24. Lela Rondeau says:

    Guskey’s article states that percentages give the “illusion of precision,” which also seems true when it comes to averaging grades. There have been times when I was grading work when I could not be certain the same assignment would not have earned a different percentage on a different day- even a rubric, if not well made, can lead to differences in interpretation.

    My daughter is currently in elementary school and the most meaningful information I get about her learning is naturally in the parent/teacher conference. Ideally, it would be great to give comments rather than grades- I think more of our students would be self-directed learners then.

    I’m so excited to be a part of this Mastery Learning process- this is clearly such a needed conversation with wide reaching implications.

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  25. Julia Bugyik says:

    I agree with most of the commentators that grading is very subjective from teacher to teacher but also from subject to subject. How an English teacher will grade an essay is very different from how a math teacher will grade an assignment. In the article written by Wormeli- the part where he spoke about averaging an A, A, F, F and a B to a 67% really hit a chord. Lately I have been struggling with my own grading practices as I see that students who have had a hard start to the semester- have a very hard time improving their grade- leading me to rethink my own grading scales.

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  26. Mark Kavanagh says:

    I think the example of the 93.4 not being an A is a great illustration of how number grades produce a righteous illusion of precision and objectivity, even by the grade givers who at some level have to know just how arbitrary weighting is. If grades don’t help students to figure out what they got wrong, and if they teach that mistakes are bad and tend to suppress risk taking, they become a serious obstacle to learning.

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  27. María D. Soto says:

    The articles and the video illustrate that letter grades are subjective. Letter grades are not good indicators of what a student really has learned or mastered in our classroom. I have assessed my students in different manners to measure their knowledge of a particular concept, if I see that they have mastered that concept, I give them extra points to help them achieve a better grade. It is an excellent idea to have a written statement on how we grade our students academic performance and a letter grade, but too much work, if you have over 220 students.

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  28. Latosha Guy says:

    When combined with the common practice of grade averaging, a single zero can have a devastating effect on a student’s percentage grade. The student’s overall course grade is unfairly skewed by that one, atypical low score. To recover from a single zero in a percentage grade system, a student must achieve a perfect score on a minimum of nine other assignments. Attaining that level of performance would challenge the most talented students and may be impossible for struggling learners. A single zero can doom a student to failure, regardless of what dedicated effort or level of performance might follow (Guskey, 2004).

    This makes me question not only my grading practices but those of my colleagues. When under-prepared students arrive, I wonder if their low grades are the result of them giving up. Nine perfect scores to excise the impact of one zero? Grade alignment should be seriously explored. Gee.

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  29. Helen Cook says:

    In the comment section below, cite a piece of evidence from the above readings, video, or cartoon which resonated with you and elaborate on how or why it resonated with you.

    Special Topic / The Case Against Percentage Grades
    Thomas R. Guskey
    When combined with the common practice of grade averaging, a single zero can have a devastating effect on a student’s percentage grade. The student’s overall course grade is unfairly skewed by that one, atypical low score. To recover from a single zero in a percentage grade system, a student must achieve a perfect score on a minimum of nine other assignments. Attaining that level of performance would challenge the most talented students and may be impossible for struggling learners. A single zero can doom a student to failure, regardless of what dedicated effort or level of performance might follow (Guskey, 2004).
    This is a statement I’ve thought long and hard about. Sometimes I want to make sure that the students who are willing to completely devoid working and receive a 0 should learn the lesson that it is important for them to participate, give an earnest effort for the instructional process. But at the same time, it is unnecessary and rather “too harsh” for the average grade to plummet because of smaller “check-up” points when the student is clearly capable of competent performances.

    Rick Wormeli writes on the same point, which resonates with what I’m struggling with.
    One percentage point is the arbitrary cut-o between getting into or being denied entrance into graduate school. One student gets a 90% and another gets an 89%: the rst is an A and the second is a B, yet we can’t discern mastery of content to this level of speci city. These students are even in mastery of content, but we declare a di erence based only on the single percentage point. The student with 90% gets scholarships and advanced class placements and the student with 89% is left to a lesser path. Something’s wrong with this picture.

    And as the video also explains the same point, mastery grading points to the fact that equalizing point system and providing a platform of strategic scales assist the teachers to create a fairer grading system for students who are willing to work hard as well as present competent, comprehensible learning outcomes.

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  30. Yesenia Medrano says:

    What resonated most on the video is that grading can be very subjective. One teacher might grade a “80 points or B” on a test while another might grade it a whole different percent ranging from a C-D. One way to assess students fairly is by using I using a 4-point rubric, grading can still be very subjective there will not have a huge difference compared to 100 point scale.

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  31. The video reinforces the idea we have at my location that each department must come together and decide on grading so that anyone teaching, let’s say geometry, grades each student in the same way the other geometry teachers would assign a grade. Throughout my 20 years of teaching, common grading rubrics created by our department have made it possible for our teachers to be more alike in our grading of students.

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  32. Steve Lopez says:

    The cartoon resonated with me. The Tornado App got great review average, but the ratings were given for different things. The one that counted, whether it gave a warning, said the app didn’t do what it was supposed to do. The others gave high marks for UI, stability, and multiple locations, yet they bundled/averaged all of these, giving a misleading grade.

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  33. Frank Aguilar says:

    “We can’t resort to averaging just because it feels credible by virtue of its mathematics. There’s
    too much at stake.”
    ~from It’s Time to Stop Averaging Grades

    I too had an “ah ha” moment as I read this. There is too much for me to simply work on averaging the students grade. One must really take into account the knowledge, and skills that the student is able to learn as they work on the targets that we establish.

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  34. O Rodriguez says:

    The cartoon resonated with me, since I get students in my class that received a B in the previous class, but they lack the basic skills to succeed in my class. This is one of the reasons that departments should have the same grading scale and categories so that my B matches a B given by another teacher in my department.

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  35. Jose Reinozo says:

    “From the perspective of simple of simple logic, percentage grading scale makes little sense…” This Statement stood out to me for several reasons. Primarily, through the eyes of a student or outside observer, success is measured in only 40 percentage points. This means that degrees of failure, if one includes “Ds” is well over 60%. On a side note, how can one accurately discern the difference between 59%, an F, and 60, a D? it then becomes a question of the teacher giving grades based on work produced, rather than on mastery of a standard.

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  36. “The Case Against Percentage Grades” states, “From the perspective of simple logic, percentage grading scales make little sense… teachers who use percentage grades typically set the minimum passing grade at 60 or 65. The result is a scale that identifies 60 or more distinct levels of failure and only 40 levels of success. In other words, nearly two-thirds of the percentage grading scale
    describes levels of failure!” This should probably be the most obvious message conveyed by any of the sources provided, but for some reason, it resonated with me. It is this very basic idea, that students are in actuality, given more opportunities to fail than they are to succeed, that has caused me to realize how unfair and even debilitating percentage grades can be.

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  37. Jessica Alvarez says:

    I agree with Wormeli that averaging grades is problematic. The example of Chery where she gets a 97, 94, 26, 35, and 83 on her tests average to 67%=D connected with me because that is what happens to some of my students, the average may not be a good indicator of their overall understanding. Although I offer my students the opportunity to earn back at most half of the points they missed on an exam by analyzing their mistakes, I do not think this may be enough to show the true grade for a student. I am interested in learning other ways to help my students master the skills and give a grade that truly indicates what they learned.

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  38. Lupe Jimenez says:

    In the comment section below, cite a piece of evidence from the above readings, video, or cartoon which resonated with you and elaborate on how or why it resonated with you.

    In the video, “What’s Wrong with the Way We’ve Always Done It?” the part that resonated most with me was the part where a student receives a number or a grade BUT they do not know what they did “wrong”, what they do not know. Oftentimes students are not given the opportunity to improve or demonstrate growth. Students come to learn that mistakes are punitive instead as a “not yet” or a true earning opportunity.

    I recall one particular test in my ICS class in which the majority of my students failed a post assessment on the unit on place tectonics. The post assessment was developed by the vendor who was piloting their program on our campus. I believed my students knew the content so I decided to give the test verbally to the whole class. As I projected the questions and re-read the questions in a student friendlier language students immediately said, “why didn’t they just ask it that way? We know this!” The barrier to the assessment was the language. My students were English Learners and they did not have the vocabulary fluency. This was a learning opportunity for all of us.

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  39. Gohar says:

    I have come across issues with grading for those very reasons. I used to use percentages, but then it was a little arbitrary at the end in terms of looking at the students who showed growth and altering their grades if needed. I did not have a set way of grading that worked for every student.

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  40. Jessica Insco says:

    “We can’t resort to averaging just because it feels credible by virtue of its mathematics. There’s
    too much at stake.”
    ~from It’s Time to Stop Averaging Grades

    This really sticks out to me because, on the surface, it seems like it is the most objective way to handle grading- there are numbers, I crunch them, there’s an average, it gets recorded. That way, no one’s feelings have to become a part of the equation. Except the student’s. What happens when my student gets an 89.4% and if I handed him the exact same three questions he got wrong on the test ten minutes after the test is over, he would answer at least one of them correctly? We’ve all been there- “careless mistakes” that, only minutes later, we recognize and could rectify if given the chance? To leave a student’s fate to a grade average is detrimental to their overall growth and success in the course.

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  41. Mabel L. says:

    “Even if I make a dramatic change for the better, my old self is holding me back”…how heartbreaking is that comment? When put in this context, it makes complete sense why a child may not try! It makes Mastery over time make THAT much more sense!

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  42. FT Lyn Almustafa says:

    Video: “Traditional grading doesn’t account for growth of children”. I feel that the growth of a child correlates to how they learn. Grades are subjective. Teachers need to remember to grade on what the child knows, even if it takes them awhile to learn it. The honest truth is they may have received a Fail for not understanding a concept at 5 weeks, but, at 6.5 weeks, they show evidence of understanding a concept. Why not give them the A, in stead of averaging the grade. Teachers remember we are to service our students. We are not “Gods” to determine their fate. Many high school teachers feel they should not give the best grade, because they have to average. They are so worried the student will fail in college. Well, the teacher just failed the student in high school and life. .
    Thank about it.

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