Grading for Learning
At Grandview, we value learning and student achievement. We have been examining our own grading practices for eight years now to ensure we are accurately and fairly reporting what students know and can do in the classroom. We use multiple ways to assess learning, including both formative and summative assessments. The formative assessments (classwork, homework, some quizzes, participation, etc.) are used as tools for teachers and students to measure students’ learning in relation to the standards of the course and the objectives of the unit and/or lesson. The summative assessments, therefore, are given to measure the learning of that content once that unit is complete.
According to Cathy Vatterott in her book Rethinking Grading (2015) in her chapter called “What to Grade – Summative Assessments,” she says, “When determining what to grade, the answer is simple. Grade only learning, and grade the student’s last best effort to demonstrate that learning. Formative assessment is assessment for learning and occurs when there is still time to improve. Summative assessments are assessments of learning that occur at the end of a predetermined learning cycle, after learning has taken place (O’Connor, 2009; Stiggins, 2007).”
Teachers at Grandview have autonomy in how they assess, and they ensure summative assessments focus on learning and the knowledge gained during each unit. Teachers use formative grades throughout the unit to communicate with students and parents where students are in relation to the learning target. Those formative grades are just not calculated into the final grade. Dr. Guskey (On Your Mark, 2015) calls those “Process” and “Progress” grades. We value that learning, but it is not a summative measure of students’ knowledge – that is the “Product” grade. Additionally, many of our teachers are offering students the chance to retake summative assessments if students show they have learned more of the content. The teachers’ end goal is that students have learned the material as outlined in the state standards and as agreed upon by the departments through their Professional Learning Community (PLC) work.
Teachers offer multiple ways for students to demonstrate their learning. Summative assessments are NOT just multiple-choice tests. Summative assessments include, but are not limited to, essays, projects, presentations, multiple-choice tests, and labs. As has always been the case at Grandview, teachers can determine what is summative in regards to the course and unit content, and teachers determine how to grade that. Oftentimes, teachers use multiple summative measures in the same unit (i.e., a lab and an exam at the end of a science unit; or, speaking, listening, writing, and reading at the end of a world language unit).
As a team, we are continuing to examine research and assess our own practices so that grades are an accurate reflection of what students know. This is a journey – one that we embarked on a long time ago – and we believe it is the right work for students’ learning.
Lisa Roberts, Ed.D.
Grandview High School