Educators: Is Your Grading On-Point?

Grading is at the crux of educational evaluation. It’s a major factor in designating student success, and it’s a vital skill that every educator needs to have firm hold of. Are you grading effectively? Are you grading correctly? Read on to find out how you measure up on grading competence.

Succinctly, grades represent the extent to which the learner has met the defined objectives. Teachers generally define these objectives at the beginning of the year, aided by benchmarks, such as statewide academic achievement standards. Grading is an emotionally laden procedure that implies more than the degree of compliance with the goals.

Before beginning to teach a class, teachers should think of and choose the grading criteria; students appreciate a grading system that is fair, consistent, and easy to understand. Grades serve the following purposes:

1. Provide feedback to students on their rate of achievement.
2. Help students evaluate their own strengths and weaknesses.
3. Properly used (not inflated), grades serve as a positive motivating factor by rewarding students 
for their progress.
4. Communicate student achievement to others, including potential employers and graduate schools.
5. Select students for special programs (such as remedial or advanced).

You’ll need to be familiar with different grading methods according to what you’re required to compare or measure. For example, if the principal asks you to send a report of the students’ best and worst grades, you’d probably need to use a norm-referenced grading model. On the other hand, if the principal wants to know to what extent all the students in the class have reached the goals set at the beginning of the year, you’d probably use a criterion-referenced model.

In a norm-referenced grading model, the students are ranked against each other comparatively. In a criterion-referenced grading model, the students are not compared to a norm group, but rather are required to reach a predetermined standard.

You’ll be required to adhere to your school district’s grading policy, which will be provided to you. These policies may also differ from one district to another. You will find out that grading comes with its own set of challenges. For instance, as teachers, we may encounter the following dilemma: Should we take into account each of our students’ motivation and effort when grading? Is it fair for those who have no academic issues? This controversy has been heatedly debated and will continue to be a contentious subject.

School authorities often insist that work on values, ethics, citizenship, and cooperation should be fostered in class and formally included in the yearly syllabus. However, these topics are not considered in the yearly achievement tests or standardized tests discussed in this chapter. School curricula are structured to grade students on the meeting of objectives but not on the progress made during the year, and this might not be the appropriate perspective for the assessment of learning.

We cannot base grading solely on motivation and effort at an early stage (grade inflation), because reality dictates that students will be measured by standards later in life. Imagine hiring a lawyer, then discovering some days later that he never actually passed his exams at college, but that he was so pleased to attend classes that professors always passed him and he finally got his degree. How would you feel about it? Grades represent the means by which students judge their own academic achievements and are judged by others.

A classroom teacher will always be confronted with this conundrum, and students will test the limits of the teacher’s propensity for grade inflation. Therefore, teachers need to be committed to conscientious grading. When grading, teachers should assess whether the learner has acquired the necessary content. Values, group work, ethical behavior, and motivation should be taken into account; however, they should not deeply influence grading. A balance should be struck between humanistic and academic matters, laying emphasis on the learning goals defined in advance, so that grades reflect the achievement objectives established at the beginning of the year.

Think about the students in your classroom and the academic and personal goals they have. Does your grading focus on evaluating those aspects? Make sure your evaluations fit what really needs to be brought to light.

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