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?”


959 thoughts on “Step 5 A: Digging Deeper

  1. Hernesto Meza says:

    In “A History of Grading” we get to see how grading has evolved overtime and how realistically speaking these grading systems have been created with no necessary research behind them but out the necessity to set students apart from each other. To imagine that at some point lists of students were created by social class and ranking and not in alphabetical order tells us truly much about how education was dinged to keep those from lower classes out. In addition, grades as we know them became a practice in 1897. Using a system this antiquated that served a possible different purpose today perpetuates that practice and does not truly inform us about what we are doing as educators. How do we know this? When we take a look at SBAC scores, we notice that students who receive a grade of B and C in their course passed the SBAC a higher rate than the students who received A’s. Realistically speaking all students who received A’s should have received a score of met or exceed which they really did not. What does this tell us about our grading practices? Simple its time to reanalyze and see what the students of today will be benefited by.


  2. Harmony4681 says:

    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?”
    The scatter plot data shows that there were more students who received a “B” or “C” grade, scored a 3 or 4 on SBAC Performance Levels and less students who earned an “A” who scored a 3 or 4 SBAC Performance Levels on the SBAC. This information demonstrates that there is a flaw in the traditional grading practice. The 100 point scale of traditional grading does not correlate with how well students will perform on the SBAC.
    Also, in the article written by Thomas R. Gutkey, “Grading Policies That Work Against Standards…”, he states that research shows grading “on the curve” “…is detrimental to the relationship among students and to the relationships between teachers and students” because it becomes highly competitive among students who want to achieve the reward of high grades. It sends the message that helping other students will jeopardize their chances of academic success. This becomes a serious problem because it forces students to view themselves as winners and losers in the game of this traditional grading practice. Grading on the curve does not demonstrate what students have learned and are able to do. Students who received high grades performed poorly on learning the standards, which again, shows that our traditional grading practices need to be changed if we want to reach more students to learn specific learning standards. We are now on a journey to look at how we grade our students in hopes of being more fair and objective towards our students.


  3. Harmony Carroll says:

    There are many flaws in traditional grading practices, and even our students recognize them. I was struck by two quotes in the article “Students Answer Questions About Grading”. One was:

    “The purpose of grading is for colleges to see how intelligent you are.”

    This quote breaks my heart a bit. While this is what we tell our students either explicitly or implicitly, this is simply not true. What a negative impact this must be having on students’ view of themselves. There are many students who are very intelligent that just don’t know how to play the “grading game” Which brings me to the next quote:

    “They try to do the bare minimum to get a good grade without the focus on getting better and improving their skills.”

    Student who watch their grades learn quickly how to play the game and often game the system. High scoring students are so focused on success as measures by the grading system, that learning is really an afterthought. Student often play it safe to maintain good grades. What a negative impact this has on taking academic risks and learning through errors.


  4. Mor says:

    The data shows that more students are failing than succeeding. Every teacher has their own grading system. We need to come together and develop a grading system that is easy to use and understand.


  5. Harmony072004 says:

    “Grading Policies That Work Against Standards . . . And How To Fix Them” – This article talks about grading on the curve and its negative impact on students. It mentions that “students must be graded in terms of what they have learned and are able to do, to in terms of their relative standing among classmates.” This grading practice is detrimental to the relationships among students since their even encourage jealousy and unhealthy competition. Students start competing against each other instead motivating and helping each other improve. Grading on the curve becomes a game of winners and losers and gives the teacher no indication about how the students are actually doing in class.


  6. The scatter plot reflects that a large number of students met or exceeded the standard on the SBAC but they received a grade of a “D” or “F” on their academic marks and vice versa. There is very little correlation between a grade earned in class and the SBAC scores. Clearly there is a disconnect between the academic marks given to students and their performance on SBAC. I feel grading is not consistently and clearly reflecting specific learning criteria. If the grades truly represented the students learning, then students with an A should be scoring at a proficient level. So I ask myself, is this a fair assessment? Or are their other factors impeding student success? For example, test anxiety, undetected learning disabilities, and/or self-confidence/self-esteem.


  7. Harmony Figueroa says:

    What I got from this was that grades do not correlate with the performance on the standardized test. Students who met proficiency, received an D or an F in a class; while students who earned A’s scored not proficient.


  8. Harmony mhc says:

    The data shows that a large number of students met or exceeded the standard on the SBAC but they received a grade of a “D” or “F” on their academic marks. One problem with traditional K-12 grading practices is grading on a curve. “Perhaps most important, grading on the curve communicates nothing about what students have learned or are able to do. Rather, it tells only a student’s relative standing among classmates…”


  9. MRE says:

    The data shows that grades and scores are disconnected. The discrepancy between grades and SBAC scores means that we teachers need to be very mindful about how we grade and show a students growth and mastery of subject matter. Basing grades on behavior and attendance does not reflect how well material is mastered and understood. Nor does it show how a students knowledge has grown. Grading practices show that grades do not necessarily correlate with performance on the SBAC or other standardized test.


  10. msmartinez says:

    In Part 3 of article, Grading Policies That Work Against Standards…And How to Fix Them, some problems with traditional K-12 grading practices is grading on a curve. This grading practice only serves as an indicator of where student’s stand in comparison to others, but fails to demonstrate what students have learned and what they are able to do. “Students who receive high grades might actually have performed poorly in terms of the established standards, but simply less poorly than their classmates”. Grading on a curve is an unfortunate misconception of true learning.


  11. Rachel says:

    The data shows that shows grades do not correlate with the performance on the standardized test. Students who scored “meeting proficiency” received D’s and F’s in a class; while students who earned A’s scored “not meeting proficiency.” Students grades need to correlate with the academic skills/ college readiness skills in order to prepare students post-secondary. Teachers do a disservice to the students when grading based on attendance and behavior.


  12. Katheryne Martinez says:

    The Data shows that there’s no correlation between test scores and grades in the classroom. The expectations of the test are not the same as the teacher’s expectations.


  13. Lyda Lara says:

    There is clear evidence on the inconsistency of grading policies. How is it possible that a student “A”’s a class but does very poorly on other testings.


  14. Veronica Lopez says:

    Some problems with traditional grading practices are that many teachers grade different and there is very little correlation between the class grade and the SBAC scores.


  15. Mich says:

    In part 3, the article, “Grading Policies That Work Against Standards…And How To Fix Them,” it addresses unfair grading practices ranging from grading on a curve to punishment grading. The article discusses how teachers need a broader grading system that focuses on what students are learning and the progress they are making with standards based lessons. One point that stood out to me was that punishment grading is not only unfair, but it can actually create division between students because low grades “punish” students and can create social division between students who get low grades vs students who get good grades. Also, another point brought up in one of the above resources is that a better predictor of college success is the amount of high level classes taken vs. GPA’s and test scores.


  16. Jose Reinozo says:

    “The purpose of grading is for colleges to see how intelligent you are”
    This statement proves the massive misconception that exists, even among our students, concerning the purpose of grading. I would argue that with some teachers, this misconception exists as well. With mastery grading, the idea is that a student should be able to master a skill set and should show evidence of mastery. Consequently, intelligence as a criteria for success is not, or should not be, a factor.


  17. shekiba rahh says:

    After the readings and examining the scatter plot I saw that their was a disconnect between a student failing and yet they scored a B or C type score on SBAC but yet failed the class and will have to retake the course. This is discouraging because the pupil clearly demonstrated some level of understanding the material as their SBAC scores indicated. Teachers need to go back to their evaluations and update or make changes that are reflective of the SBAC.


  18. Armando Sanchez says:

    The scatter plot shows that we as teachers, need to evaluate how we grade. Those students who were given an “F”, got “4”‘s on the SBAC. That shows that these students know the material, yet we, as teachers, believe that they don’t. Along those lines, those students who got an “A” have have not mastered the curriculum as reflected by the SBAC which shows they tested at the first level, “1”. We need to be methodical how we assess students, not base it on how well they behave, how much work they do in class, or how much homework they turn in. Rather, we should focus on how well they know the material and are they able to explain and learn from tier mistakes.


  19. Elena Macias says:

    The discrepancy in the scatter plot graph makes a proper visual representation of how scattered we are as educators in our grading practices. We are caught up on allocating “points” on assignments and tests rather than allocating the importance of mastering skills within our content. We cannot expect for our students to make the mindset shift from thinking points to skills until we do.


  20. Lorena says:

    Grades should have meaning. If we are using A,B,C,D, & F grades, what do those letters represent? Do grades measure levels of proficiency on standards that are taught?
    Are our students really learning or are they just good at “playing school”? We have students that are good at playing school yet have not mastered any standard. We also have students that have mastered standards but do not complete homework.
    We can control grading practices. It helps teachers adjust instruction.


  21. Harmony 2S says:

    There are about 11 students who scored a 4 on the SBAC even though they are D or F students. There are about the same number of students who scored a 1 on the SBAC even though they are A or B students. For years we have questioned the validity of standardized testing. Now we are finally questioning the validity of grading. Hopefully one day we’ll think of a new way to measure student learning that is much less flawed than what we’ve been doing.


  22. Harmony 1 says:

    This Data shows that grading is highly subjective and does not always reflect mastery of subject matter, More than 1/3 of the A students underperformed on the SBAC. Some other factors to be explored might be the students interest and attention on the SBAC, as well their level of comfort with online assessments.


  23. Mark Kavanagh says:

    The scatterplot that correlates grades and SBAC score is a striking visual representation of the problems with grades, particularly students who received F grades–who were all over the place in terms of SBAC grades. Clearly grading is not consistently and clearly reflecting specific learning criteria, which suggests that it is being used for something else, often punitive, having little to do with learning.

    Some students feel that grading keeps them focused, but many more seem to be quite alienated from the process, so far from supporting learning it has demoralized and pushed some students away, as evidence by all those Fs clustered around the highest SBAC scores.


  24. J Johnson says:

    The data very much shows the inconsistent in the grading scale . It hard to see students below average and still fully meeting the goals to move to the next level. How can students get a passing grade with not passing the SBAC.


  25. Lela Rondeau says:

    The scatterplot shows no correlation between achievement in the course and achievement on the SBAC- we should see that students who got As were most likely to get 4s and students with Fs were most likely to get 1s but in fact the points are almost evenly distributed. It tells us our grades and/or the SBAC are not measuring the right thing.

    I really appreciate Guskey’s take on grading. It is very true that there are teachers who use grades as a “weapon of last resort” but it is an extremely ineffective weapon for some students. Again, this is where “problem behavior” in classrooms develops and can disrupt learning for other students. This reminds me of the still frequently used “behavior charts” with red/yellow/green which are pretty useless if students cannot work their way BACK from red to yellow to green. Why bother trying if there is nothing to gain? The logical course of action is to cement one’s position as a poor student and behavioral problem in order to save face (“I CHOOSE to be this way- it’s not happening because the teacher decided”).


  26. Julia Bugyik says:

    The data very much highlights the inconsistencies in grading policies. I find it very hard to imagine a student who scores far below basic or below basic to have fully met all learning goals in a class to have been able to earn an A.


  27. María D. Soto says:

    According to the illustrations, the letter grades earned in the classroom do not correlate with the SBAC scores. A letter grade does not reflect the mastery of the standards or concepts needed to be successful in and outside the classroom. Our school system must offer remedial classes, have common grading guidelines and prevent social promotion to ensure that our students acquire the necessary skills needed to be successful.


  28. Helen Cook says:

    Part 1: What does the data say about grades?
    This graph data explains how students who are testing on standardized assessments do not accurately reflect their capabilities on their class grades. On the other hand, students who are receiving As or Bs in class do not rightly reflect their abilities in subject competence either.

    Part 2: What do students say about grades?
    Students say about their grades on how unreliable and inaccurate they can be. There may be a lot of frustrations and unspoken digressions, too.

    Part 3: Would you like to read more on this topic?
    I would like to read more on the topic of how practical exercises can help students meet both diligence and strong work ethics along with the accurate portrayal of their academic competences. I struggle with students who are unmotivated and undisciplined in classroom settings, which they become unwilling to learn and produce relevant practices. In such cases, I want to be able to help students pass class for them to progressive move up on their academic levels. Mastery grading should be able to assist how students can learn and maximize their learning skills, but I’m not sure how at this point.

    “what might be some problems with traditional K-12 grading practices?”
    I’m thinking this may be the traditional problem for K-12 grading practices, too. Students who may not be producing the “passable” works to reflect their studies done in the subject, but they also need to learn enough to pass the class so they are not always taking remedial courses. Grading practices should encourage and motivate them to continue developing their learning skills in relations.


  29. Yesenia Medrano says:

    The data shows us that there is very little correlation between a grade earned in a class and the SBAC scores. How can a student earn an A or B in class and not pass the SBAC?


  30. There is not solid correlation between our traditional grading and students’ performance in SBAC testing. How could “A” students be underperforming while some of our “Fail” students do an outstanding job in those assessments. Looking at the chart left some of us wondering what we need to change in order for grades to reflect what students have learned in our classroom. We did not think that the answer was a simple one, but it will demand a huge change from the traditional system.


  31. Steve Lopez says:

    According to the grids, there are some students who got A’s, B’s, and C’s, and still only got 1s and 2s on SBAC. By itself, that is problematic. But tests like SBAC that have no weight in any class run the risk of students not taking them seriously. Some students that got 3s and 4s on SBAC also got Ds and Fs


  32. MDM says:

    The data reflects the inconsistencies in our grading policies. Students receiving low grades (F and D) while performing at a 3 or 4 level on SBAC? Are students really being graded against standards? Are they being graded on a “curve” or given zeros for missing work? “Grading Policies that Work Against Standards…and How To Fix Them,” makes the case for not grading “on the Curve,” as this practice grades students in comparison to what their classmates have learned, and not on what each student is able to do and has learned. “Students who receive the high grades might actually have performed very poorly …, but simply less poorly than their classmates.” This is the only reason I passed a calculus class in college.


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