38: Effective Grading & Reporting





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Guiding Principles of Effective Grading & Reporting


Grades should be based on clearly specific learning goals and performance standards
  • establish and communicate standards that are indicators of success
  • describe criteria for measuring success
  • report results in a clear and consistent manner
Evidence for grading should be valid
  • measure evidence related to learning goals
  • do not let factors unrelated to learning goals affect grading such as: students’ disabilities, learning style, forgetting to put name on a paper
  • eliminate conditions that impede students’ ability to demonstrate mastery of learning goals
Grading should be based on established criteria, not arbitrary norms
  • don’t grade on a curve
  • if student’s IEP requires grading modifications – modify learning goals and establish assessment criteria related to these goals
  • design and implement systems that allow ALL students to achieve by demonstrating clearly defined standards
Not everything should be included in grades
  • do not grade pre-assessments or diagnostic assessments
  • formative assessments should not factor too much into grades
  • base grades primarily on summative assessments that measure student mastery of learning goals over extended periods of time
Avoid grading based on averages
  • evaluate student learning later in a learning cycle
  • consider using median or mode to assign grades
  • do not average in zeroes for incomplete work
  • assign an incomplete for missing work and use consequences other than grades
Focus on Academic Achievement and Report Other Factors Separately
  • report things other than achievement in ways other than grades



Grades should provide qualitative and quantitative data on how students are progressing towards learning goals.  The evidence for measuring this progression should clearly be linked to learning goals.  Achievement is hard to strive for if criteria are unclear.

Factors other than grades should not factor into grades since grades are relative measures of academic achievement.  Grades should be a summative measure of student mastery of learning goals.  This measure can be diluted if grades from early in the learning cycle factor into the grade.  Basing grades on mastery later on the learning cycle avoids penalizing students who do not learn quickly.  Giving formative feedback is not the same as assignment grades.  One can do the former frequently and the latter less frequently.


Preparation Steps
  • Design learning targets (academic and character) that are either directly standards-based or support standards-based work
  • Design criteria that relate to learning targets and the tools needed to communicate these effectively to students (rubrics, checklists, other graphic organizers)
  • Evaluate grading practices and decide what are one’s primary purposes for assigning grades
  • Develop grading systems that align to one’s primary reasons for assigning grades
Early Implementation Steps
  • Give more formative feedback than grades
  • Assign grades to students more often late in the learning cycles
  • Seek out student feedback to determine if grading systems are fair and accurate measures of student achievement
  • Assign other consequences to late and incomplete work – for ideas see Grading smarter, not harder
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Communicate grading purposes to students and ask them to volunteer their opinions on whether to not current grading systems are achieving those purposes.
  • Ask for student suggestions on how to improve grading practices

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