Step 5 A: Digging Deeper

Part 1: What does the data say about grades?

Sample Grade vs. SBAC Data

Consider the scatter plot above, which represents data from an LAUSD high school. On the scatter plot,  each point represents a student. Student grades in 11th grade ELA (x-axis) are compared to their scores on the 11th grade ELA SBAC (y-axis). SBAC scores: 4=Standard Exceeded, 3=Standard Met, 2=Standard Nearly Met, and 1=Standard Not Met.

Given this information, what story does the scatter plot tell?  What might be some areas of concern?  Support your analysis with evidence.

Part 2: What do students say about grades?

Students Answer Questions About Grading – Consider asking your students what they think about grades.  You could have them respond orally, on paper, or create a Padlet (a free electronic Post it notes forum).  Here’s an example of the responses one teacher got when she did exactly that.

Part 3: Would you like to read more on this topic?

“Grading Policies That Work Against Standards . . . And How To Fix Them” – In “Grading Policies That Work Against Standards. . . . And How To Fix Them” Thomas R. Guskey, author of numerous books on Standards-Based Grading, suggests remedies to four traditional grading practices:  grading on a curve, valedictorian selection, punishment grading, and using zeros in grading.

A History of Grading -This academic article provides a brief timeline and description of the evolution of grades.

Making the Grade: A History of the A-F Marking Scheme – This lengthy academic article on the history of grades outlines the origins and permutations of grades over time since 1785.

Read one or more of the resources above. In the comments section below, cite textual evidence and explain “what might be some problems with traditional K-12 grading practices?”

1,207 thoughts on “Step 5 A: Digging Deeper

  1. Yolanda casas says:

    It was interesting to study the scatter plot. Many of the students’ academic grades do not correlate with their SBAC scores. For instance, some students earned a grade of F, but scored a 4 on the SBAC. At my school some parents have questioned the discrepancies between their children’s classroom grade and their SBAC performance scores. They have expressed concern about their children passing their classes, but not meeting the standard on the SBAC. According to the articles, it is important to look at the progress students have made since the beginning of the school year, and how much they have learned than the grade they received in class. The letter grade itself does not show what the student has mastered, or what needs to improve.


  2. Francisco Robles says:

    In this article we learn that the grading on our report card does not reflect the scores on the SBAC testing, instead we need to focus on curriculum and assessment issues, we must expand our perspective to consider organizational policies that can hinder success, especially in the area of grading and reporting students achievements.


  3. Debby says:

    Part 1:The data show that there is not correlation between SBAC performance level and academic marks. The dots on the graph are scattered. If the dots were forming a diagonal line moving straight up there would be a visible and strong positive correlation. The other issue is, that there are too many students that have not met or nearly met the standards. This should not be the case if teachers are using effective teaching strategies to help students achieve the standard of proficiency or advance. What is the issue the specific issue per group of students, and are they college ready and prepared? Not according to this data.

    Part 2: After reading the article, “Grading: Purpose? Should it Change? the issue that arises in K-12 grading is that there is not clear, visible or intentional way to grade when students are graded on percentages or letter grades. You cannot see the potential growth or the set back of the student when the grading is not clear, visible or intentional. There is a ranking system, but having that ranking system can affect a student positively or negatively. Many of the students shared both, for some it’s a motivation. For others it ranks them as “poor” students, but there is no solution to just knowing it. There is no clear understanding of what you truly know. You just know I passed, I am average or I am not passing. There is not tangible evidence that states, “if you work on this area you are closer to nearly meeting the standard or you have not met the standard you should…” If the feedback was clearer based on a 4 point grading system, it is the students responsibiity to initiate a growth mind set not fixed.


  4. Stacie Kortkamp says:

    Gusky’s article discusses grading on a curve. One of the issues with grading this way is that it makes students compete with each other instead of learning in a cooperative learning environment. It can create animosity between all of the parties when students feel that they are being treated unfairly. The author also states that grading on a curve is not an accurate measure of what students have learned. I also liked the discussion about valedictorians. Instead of having the top student compete for just one position, why not have more spots available to hilight academic excellence by a group of students?


  5. HP- Julian Mendez says:

    The scatter plot and article as well as student posts show that a grade is not directly correlated to actual learning and understanding. Some students have better understanding of content but lack memorization skills necessary to achieve a high grade. Learning can be a bit arbitrary and a test like the SBAC only assesses that which a particular group or individual feels is achievement.


  6. HP_Stevens says:

    The scatter plot demonstrates what experienced teachers already know: the criteria we use for assigning grades do not always correspond to students’ academic skills or knowledge. The obvious question is, should we use grades as a reflection of what students know and can do or as a tool for holding students accountable for the work we assign them and/or the knowledge we directly teach them? The answer might appear obvious, but any discussion must consider society’s, politicians’, and school boards’ emphasis on accountability as the measurement of teachers’ competence. If a paradigm shift is called for, it’s MUCH more complicated than a teacher simply deciding to grade differently.


  7. HP_Stevens says:

    In “An A Is Not An A Is Not An A: A History Of Grading,” Mark W. Durm explains the tortuous origins of our current standard grading system, revealing along the way its many deficiencies. One is that it places emphasis on the grades themselves rather than where it should be: on learning. “It seems, for some,” he writes, “that securing a higher grade point average takes precedence over knowledge, learning career-related skills, and other aspects needed to compete in today’s world.” Another problem is that the correspondence between a mark and the development of skill or knowledge is largely arbitrary. At present, we have four levels (A-D) that represent acceptable success and one (F) for failure. Each of the passing levels is ten percent – but ten percent of what? Of knowledge? Of skill? Of points earned? Meanwhile, the largest level – by a factor of 599%, versus any of the others – is failure. It was not always this way, though. Earlier systems contained anywhere from three to six levels of distinction, and not all used percentages to determine the grades. All of this demonstrates the arbitrariness of grading practice vis-a-vis its value in identifying students’ proficiencies.


  8. S.C. HPHS says:

    The data shows some correlation between student grades and student SBAC scores. A good amount of students with an F or D scored a 1 or 2; students with a C scored primarily a 2 or 3; there is a heavy concentration of students with a B that scored a 3; and a fair amount of students with an A scored a 3 or 4. Then there are the outliers (students with an F who scored a 4 on the SBAC and students with A who scored a 1) that poses the question: How can we, educators, do better to assess a student’s true knowledge and represent it in a more accurate way? My students are more interested in their own individual progress in the class than their actual letter grade. I would be interested in reading more on this topic as I am a new teacher who could benefit from reading past and present failures and triumphs of grading students.


  9. Cristal Diaz says:

    Part 1: What does the data say about grades?
    The scatterplot shows that class grades and SBAC results do not correlate. Students who are successful in class might not be good test takers and vice versa. So grades in the traditional way are not really accurate in what a student has learned and mastered compared to what they score on the SBAC. A teachers grading system is does not correlate to the grading of a test such as the SBAC.

    Part 2: Some students say that grades “motivate them” while others say that it really puts them in a negative situation. Just like we are all different type of learners, grades affect students differently. For those who are struggling it makes them feel like failures and does not motivate them to try harder. Others like the accountability of it. This puts into perspective that we as teachers should be giving different ways to show mastery on a topic.


  10. Jose Cervantes-Larios says:

    Part 1: The data demonstrates that tests scores do not always connect to students grades. As teachers we may, or may not agree with standardized tests. However, we have a responsibility to lead our students to do better in these tests. We also have a responsibility to reflect our students’ learning with our grading. If we can create strategies that can help connect students’ learning through grading, and strategies that can help them do better in standardized tests, then grardes and scores will be much more similar. The question that I ask myself is: what are are some of these strategies and how can I use them to help my students become better learners?
    Part 2: This article states that some students are motivated by getting good grades, while others tend to get more anxious due to the pressures of obtaining these grades. My biggest concern as a teacher is that I get the sense that most of my students prioritize getting good grades over the actual learning. I get constant questions from mys students such as “why I am getting this grade? Or what do I need to do to get an “A.” I have never had a student ask me “how can I improve my learning of this concept.” It is my duty as a teacher to emphasize to my students that learning the material is just as important as earning the grade. To do so, I must connect my grading to reflect students’ learning.
    Part 3: The quote that caught my attention the most from Guskey is that “teachers should identify what they want students to learn.” One of the things that I have been practicing with my class is reading my daily objective. Doing so allows students know what the purpose of lesson is about. My job now is to connect grading system to the objectives and standards so that grading and learning align.


  11. Suzanne Silverstein says:

    Part 1: The data presented in the scatterplot told me what I already knew to be true: test scores do not always correlate with actual work done in a classroom. Some students received As in their ELA classes and scored a 4 on the SBAC. In contrast, there were students who received as who scored 2s and 1s on SBAC. But there were also students that excelled on the SBAC that received low grades and vice versa. This indicates that there is no perfect measure of a student’s ability and many factors play into how well a student does on any type of assessment.

    Part 2: It is interesting to see how students view grades. For some it is a motivating factor, but for others, it creates stress and anxiety.

    The part that resonated with me was about grading on a curve (which never happens in elementary school, but I hear about from my children in college.) “Grading on a curve tells only a student’s relative standing among his classmates based upon ill-defined criteria. At all levels of education, teachers should identify what they want their students to learn, the evidence they will look at to verify the learning, and the criteria they will use to judge the evidence.” That is standards based grading in a nutshell.


  12. Humberto Chaidez says:

    So what the data said to my group was that Students are not meeting the SBAC assessment, yet being matriculated forward to the next grade level. Is this grade inflation? Negative correlation between SBAC scores and student GPA (SBAC not meeting yet grades could be C’s or better). 80% of K-12 students are NOT ready for College in terms of their Math and Literacy scores, which is consistent with the article about Kashawn Campbell. I think if education is going to improve, it starts with being student centered. So the survey is perfect for moving forward. In the survey, even the student can see the flaws of our current grading system; Ben S stated “…students think about the grade instead of what they learning….” So what happens to that almost 80% that is NOT college ready (in terms of Math and literacy)? Enter the work force, cycle of poverty, incarceration, mental health, entertaners, etc…?


  13. Ani Perez says:

    Part 1: The scatter plot depicting student grades and SBAC results show that academic grades and standardized test results do not always correlate. If there weren’t so many flaws in the traditional K-12 grading, perhaps the correlation would not be so far off. Many factors go into grading during the school year and also in standardized tests. Not all students are able to show their abilities on a single test and some students have test anxiety. Both issues coupled together can give teachers and administrators an inaccurate depiction of student abilities.

    Part 2: In the survey that a teacher gave to her students asking them about how they felt regarding grades, it was interesting to see what students thought. Most students had similar feelings, “grading has a negative influence on learning.” This particular group of students felt that grades were arbitrary marks or numbers that told them very little; if anything about what skills they need to improve on or what further things they needed to learn. I thought this was interesting and true because at times I feel that my students and their parents might feel the same way, I try to use rubrics as much as possible so that students have a clear understanding of what is expected and what was lacking in their work.


  14. Alvita Sarkisyan says:

    What I got from the data is that grades don’t always reflect knowledge. As we can see from the data, there are students that did really well in academic grades, yet they failed to do well on the SBAC. On the other hand, there are students that excelled in the SBAC test, but tend to have lower grades in class. What this tells me is that not everyone is a great test taker and there are many factors that can hinder a student’s results on a test, one example being text anxiety. Some people just are not great test takers, but might do really well in a hands-on project.
    As I was reading the article “Grading Policies that Work Against Standards… and How To Fix Them”, by Thomas R. Guskey, once again I have realized how horrible our grading system is. And I don’t think schools or teachers use this “bad” grading systems on purpose, but we all do because we don’t know any better. We all pretty much follow similar grading practices, and the article points out many disadvantages with each one. I found it to be true when the author mentions that “…low grades more often cause students to withdraw from learning.” I believe that is one of the reasons why we have such a high percentage of drop-outs. After failing year after year, some students just give up on themselves and on school in general. What we have to do is find better solutions to motivate these students.


  15. LD says:

    The data shows that class grades do not always result in similar test scores. Test scores will vary depending upon the test, and questions. Classroom assignments are even more variable depending upon teacher to teacher, grade to grade, school to school, etc. Even a college course with the same title will have variable grades depending upon the professor. What is important to one, may not be to another. All assignment grades in school are not standardized, and there is more subjectivity than educators admit, even on SBAC scoring.


  16. Corey Roberts says:

    Of concern in part one is that there is merely a low to moderate correlation at all grade levels between academic mark and SBAC Performance Level. In some cases, this correlation is due in large part to students with low grades achieving low scores, while the remaining data provides even less of a link between in-class performance and test performance. For example, among students receiving an A in Grade 11 ELA, those who meet or exceed standard are roughly as numerous as those who do not meet or who nearly meet standard.

    Part 3: According to the text, some problems with traditional grading are as follow:
    •A lack of calibration: Per Finkelstein, “Variability in the marks given for the same subject and to the same pupils by different instructors is so great as frequently to work real injustice to the students.”
    • A reliance on non-academic rather than non-academic factors: “In the early years of Harvard, students were not arranged alphabetically but were listed according to the social position of their families.
    While this is illegal in public schools and has likely been mitigated in private institutions, the connection between grades and status remains. As Durm notes, “securing a higher grade point average takes precedence over knowledge, learning career-related skills, and other aspects needed to compete in today’s world.”
    •A lack of rationale behind whatever grading system is being used, as evidenced by the erratic practices at the University of Michigan detailed in paragraph 15.


  17. Sara Roof (Millikan MS) says:

    Before reading the articles, I noticed the scatterplot in Part 1 and I realized that grades and SBAC levels of these students did not reflect the results I would have expected to see. What is challenging is that students can earn an “A” in a class based on their effort rather than ability, and score as a Level 1 or 2 on the SBAC based on their actual abilities, or conversely earn an “F” in a class based on effort, but score at a Level 3 or 4 on the SBAC indicating they are meeting the standards and display grade level ability. This scatterplot shows that grades are not necessarily based on ability at all, and it’s difficult to determine how accurate SBAC test scores are versus class grades because there are several factors that could affect these outcomes (i.e., effort, testing anxiety, attention/focus, time spent, etc.).

    In the article “Grading Policies That Work Against Standards. . . . And How To Fix Them,” Thomas R. Guskey discusses ways in which grades are often used as a form of punishment or motivational factor for students to put greater effort into their classes. He cites Feldmesser 1971 stating, “Studies show that most students view high grades as positive recognition of their success, and some work hard to avoid the consequences of low grades.” I’ve mentioned in the previous Shifts that I work as a Resource Teacher, so the students with whom I work have learning difficulties (SLD, AUT, OHI, ED, etc.) which can make learning and instruction more of a challenge. One student popped into my head from last year who had a specific learning disability and struggled to retain previously learned concepts and was reading at least two grades below grade level. She was an English Learner who could not pass the CELDT when she culminated from 8th grade. However, I worked with her for her three years in middle school, and she pushed herself to earn no less than a B in any of her classes (I think she earned straight A’s her last semester of 8th grade), all of which were very challenging for her. Her earning high grades was very important to her parents, and it became important to her as a result. She worked hard, studying and preparing for tests/quizzes, having a tutor, etc. What was shocking to me was that, even though she was one of my highest achieving students in terms of her grades on her progress reports, her SBAC scores were on the lower side indicating “Standard Not/Nearly Met” and her Woodcock Johnson scores (formal assessment for her 3-year IEP) indicated that her abilities were Limited and Limited to Average indicating that grade level tasks would be difficult for her to complete without support. Her ability to overcome these hurdles and earn these high grades was not only impressive, but it made me realize, firsthand, how grades do not reflect ability in an accurate manner.


  18. Jennifer King says:

    Part 1: The scatterplot shows that grades and test performance at this school do not seem to match up as you would expect. The challenge is that grades and testing show both ability and effort and, especially on standardized tests it is difficult to know how much time and effort a student is putting into the tests. While yes, students receiving a 4 might be expected to receive and A and vice versa, effort plays a significant role in both situations.

    Part 3: The article “Grading Policies that Work Against Standards” explains that assigning a zero on a missed or neglected assignment is seldom and accurate reflection of what a student has learned or is able to do. If grades are supposed to represent how well a student has learned or mastered a learning standard, a zero due to lack of effort might inaccurately reflect that student’s mastery.


  19. James Knutson says:

    One of the issues with traditional grading is that it’s only been refined as the system we use within the last 150 years. After looking at the origins of where our grading came from I can see that it was a small group of people trying to create a system of marks so as to be understand where students abilities fall. The issue is that we have all blindly followed these trends and assume they are good. We now know that as far as data shows that the grading system needs a new way to be looked at. Data has shown how a focused 4 point system can be more beneficial to getting students to pursue learning and mastery instead of an “A” just as the history grading article mentions that when students are asking if the material will be on the test, they are only concerned with their grades.


  20. Herminia Rivero-Henwood says:

    The data shows that SBAC performance and ELA grades do not always correlate. It shows how some students who received F’s on their ELA grades are good test takers, because they scored 4’s on SBAC. The graph also shows how some students who scored A’s, B’s, and C’s on their ELA scored 2’s or 3’s on SBAC.
    In the article, “Grading Policies that Work Against Standards and How To Fix Them” , T.Guskey stated that “Grading requires careful planning, thoughtful judgment, a clear focus on purpose, excellent communication skills, and an overriding concern for students”. These qualities ensure grading policies and practices that provide hugh quality information on student learning in any standards-based environment,


  21. L Olvera says:

    While there seems to be a disconnect, statistically, the clusters do seem to align with the intended correlation between grades and the SBAC results. There are other factors that come into play when taking the SBAC. Not all students are concerned with the outcome or some students don’t plan to attend college and some don’t test well. Another factor that I have personally noticed is the length of the test, seems to result in students tiring and losing focus.


  22. AAT says:

    The data can be interpreted in some cases as showing that we are not grading students in our classes in a way that represents their achievement in regard to the standards. If a students is proficient on the tests, than the classroom grading should reflect that achievement. Grading students on the standards more frequently may be a way to help the bring the test scores and classroom grades together. Our lessons and forms of measurement need to represent the same rigor that the students will need to surpass while demonstrating knowledge on standardized tests


  23. Olga Longi says:

    The data contradicts itself as it shows that some students who are failing the class are passing the tests. I think that some kids are good test takers, other students are lazy in classes and only care of tests when others only care about the process and not the end result.


  24. Saray Aguirre says:

    The graph above shows that ELA grades and SBAC performance levels do not always correlate. Some students received F’s on their ELA grade but score 4’s on the SBAC. Or there are some eleven graders who received A’s, B’s or C’s on their ELA grade but scored 2’s or 3’s on the SBAC. How is this possible? Traditional grading has a lot to do with this.

    One problem with traditional grading is that students do not really understand what grades mean. Many of the students associate A’s to students who are smart. F’s to students who are unintelligent. In the electronically post were students were asked about what they thought about grading many of the students said that grading has a positive and negative effect. For example, according to Lexi R. “I believe that learning has positive and negative. The positive is that it does help you find out how you are doing in the class but it also is the most stressful and annoying part of a teenager’s life.” For this student the grades helped her know how well she was doing, but also she said that grades made her stressful. In other articles we have learned that this stress can cause students to give up and eventually drop out of school.


  25. Dorta says:

    The current grading procedure is broken and not universal. It is in many cases subjective in nature and not the same from teacher to teacher.


  26. Miriam Arato says:

    Part 1: What does the data say about grades?
    The scatterplot shows that ELA grades and SBAC Performance Levels do not always correlate. One area of concern are the students who received a “1” on the SBAC, but an A or B Academic Mark. Another area of concern are the the students who received a “4” on the SBAC but a C, D, or F Academic Mark.

    Part 2:
    Some problems with traditional K-12 grading practices is that students don’t necessarily understand the value of grades. Typically, students who do well, like to receive grades, which are rewards for the hard work they’ve successfully done. Students who are struggling don’t like grades because they feel they are punishments for not doing well, or up to the expectations of the teacher.


  27. Marionette Dallas says:

    Read one or more of the resources above, Cite textual evidence and explain “what might be some problems with traditional K-12 grading practice?”

    In the article, “Grading Policies that Work Against Standards…and How to fix them,” the author, Thomas R. Guskey discusses the organizational factors, or school policies that impede the implementation of standards-based reform initiatives in student learning.

    As discussed in school policy #3 “Using Grades as a Form of Punishment” Guskey draws from the studies of many researches. He states,” …grades and other reporting methods are important factors in determining how much effort students put forth.” Additionally, “Most students view high grades as positive recognition of their success and some work hard to avoid the consequences of low grades.” However, according to the author, “no studies support the use of grades or marks as punishment.” In addition, “Instead of prompting greater effort, low grades…cause students to withdraw from learning.”
    I guess this explains why I had so many students who showed up to class this school year displaying attitudes of withdrawal from learning.

    Guskey further discusses teachers perspective of using grades and reporting as a “weapon of last resort” Students must suffer the consequences of not completing assignments with the punishment of a failing grade. The author explains that these educational practices do not create”educational value …in the long run, adversely affect students, teachers, and the relationship they share.” This could be my AHA! moment.

    As a solution to this practice, the author suggest that “Rather than attempting to punish students with a low grade or mark…teachers can better motivate students by considering their work as incomplete and then requiring additional effort.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s