Great Schools Partnership

Research Supporting the Ten Principles: Grading + Reporting

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6. Academic progress and achievement are monitored and reported separately from work habits, character traits, and behaviors such as attendance and class participation, which are also monitored and reported.

7. Academic grades communicate learning progress and achievement to students and families, and grades are used to facilitate and improve the learning process.

8. Students are given multiple opportunities to improve their work when they fail to meet expected standards.



“Although grades have served as a common and important measure for assessing students, grades have lacked a uniform or standard meaning. According to a wide array of research, secondary teachers relied on a variety of factors to determine students’ grades (Brookhart, 1993; Cross & Frary, 1999; Guskey, 2009; McMillan, 2001; Stiggins, Frisbie, & Griswold, 1989). For example, teachers utilized assessment of processes such as effort, behavior, class participation, homework completion, ability level, and growth (Brookhart, 1993; Cross & Frary, 1999; Guskey, 2009). Cizek, Fitzgerald, and Rachor (1996) observed, ‘It seems that classroom assessment practices may be a weak link in the drive toward improving American education’ (p. 162). From both the importance and subjectivity of grades emerged a movement in secondary education to grade students solely on achievement in key academic standards within a curriculum (Guskey, 2009; Marzano, 2010).” —Pollio, M. & Hochbein, C. (2015, November). The association between standards-based grading and standardized test scores as an element of a high school reform model. Teachers College Record, 117(11).

“To make systemic change within secondary education, measurement researchers stated that grades need to be based solely on levels of achievement within a class (Allen, 2005; Cross & Frary, 1999; Guskey, 2009). The vast majority of prior research on grading in secondary education indicated that most teachers do not focus grading on achievement. Brookhart (1991) initially described the grading process in secondary schools as a ‘hodgepodge of attitude, effort, and achievement’ (p. 36). Most of these research studies involved surveying teachers on the various factors that they take into account when giving a student a grade in their class. For instance, Brookhart (1993) found that 84 surveyed teachers used the image of grades as currency to encourage student effort, participation, and appropriate behavior within the classroom. Cross and Frary (1999) further explored Brookhart’s findings of the variety of factors used in the grading of secondary students. On the basis of their survey of 307 teachers, the researchers confirmed teachers’ use of many non-achievement factors in grading students when they concluded: ‘Because of the importance placed on academic grades at the secondary level, either for educational or occupational decisions, grades should communicate as objectively as possible the levels of educational attainment in the subject. To encourage anything less, in our opinion, is to distort the meaning of grades as measures of academic achievement, at a time when the need for clarity of meaning is greatest.’” (Cross & Frary, 1999, p. 56). —Pollio, M. & Hochbein, C. (2015, November). The association between standards-based grading and standardized test scores as an element of a high school reform model. Teachers College Record, 117(11).

“McMillan and Nash (2000) further investigated the influences on teacher decision-making with respect to grading and the justification that teachers gave when assigning grades. The authors surveyed 700 teachers and then interviewed a sample of these teachers. From the teacher responses, the researchers identified various classroom factors involved in grading. Although achievement, as defined by student understanding, was one of the primary categories, several other categories emerged. Such categories included the teachers’ philosophy of teaching and learning, their desire to ‘pull for students,’ their accommodations for individual differences among students, and finally student engagement and motivation. Supporting Brookhart’s (1991) assertions, McMillan and Nash (2000) concluded that teachers used grades as the main tool to encourage and monitor student engagement. Although teachers verbalized the need to measure student achievement through grading, ‘most teachers used a variety of assessments . . . including homework, quizzes, tests, performance assessments and participation'” (McMillan & Nash, 2000, p. 26). —Pollio, M. & Hochbein, C. (2015, November). The association between standards-based grading and standardized test scores as an element of a high school reform model. Teachers College Record, 117(11).

“To better understand and explore the various factors used in grading, McMillan (2001) surveyed 1,483 teachers and identified four distinct factors most often seen in secondary grading practices. These factors included academic achievement, external benchmarks, academic enablers, and extra credit. In addition, McMillan discovered that teachers assessed higher-ability students in a motivating and engaging environment by measuring higher cognitive skills, while the same teachers gave lower-ability students more rote learning assessments, more extra credit, and less emphasis on academic achievement. Discovery of such differential grading suggested that grading practices in secondary schools maintained or possibly increased achievement gaps between student subgroups. Whereas teachers graded higher-ability students based upon achievement, they graded many at-risk students utilizing a wider range of factors. This wider range of factors potentially inflated students’ grades, making them less valid indicators of standards’ achievement, which subsequently obscured the students’ needs for additional instruction, practice, or remediation.” —Pollio, M. & Hochbein, C. (2015, November). The association between standards-based grading and standardized test scores as an element of a high school reform model. Teachers College Record, 117(11).

“The results of the survey research of secondary teachers’ grading practices exhibited that teachers used a variety of factors to grade students. Student achievement emerged as only one of the factors used by teachers to assess student work. Therefore, grades are not necessarily a valid measure of students’ level of achievement in secondary education. Despite this lack of validity, educators utilize grades to make critical decisions about students’ future, such as entry into elite clubs and organizations, access to scholarships, and admissions into college. If grades measure several factors, including a student’s ability to navigate the social processes of school, and not just academic achievement, the validity of grades becomes a major concern in American education. For grades to be a valid measure of student achievement, teachers must assess students on their achievement based on required curriculum standards.” —Pollio, M. & Hochbein, C. (2015, November). The association between standards-based grading and standardized test scores as an element of a high school reform model. Teachers College Record, 117(11).

“Conley (2000) first examined the relationship between grades teachers give their students and proficiency scores given to the same students by external raters. Conley found little correlation between teachers’ grading system and student proficiency. He specifically noted that students judged proficient through an analysis of their work by external raters were not necessarily the students with high grades. ‘The stepwise regression analysis examines teacher grading systems and student proficiency scores and found very little relationship between the grading system a teacher used and whether or not a student was proficient’ (Conley, 2000, p. 18). Conley surmised that the low correlation suggested that separate constructs besides standards-based achievement were used in grading. Specifically, he noted that homework in mathematics classes and in-class assignments in English classes comprised a significant portion of a student’s grade, although these assignments might not measure proficiency on mandated standards.” —Pollio, M. & Hochbein, C. (2015, November). The association between standards-based grading and standardized test scores as an element of a high school reform model. Teachers College Record, 117(11).

“This relationship between test scores and grades was the topic of several research studies over the past decade. Lekholm and Cliffordson (2008) studied the grades of nearly 100,000 students from Sweden and their association with students’ scores on national tests. Although results from their analysis indicated that the greatest variance in grades came from actual achievement levels in the subject area, other factors outside of achievement influenced the grades given to students. One of the most significant findings of their research revealed that schools with students from lower socio-economic levels assigned grades that were higher than the students’ standardized test scores. Therefore, the at-risk students in these schools evince a lower correlation between grades and test scores.” —Pollio, M. & Hochbein, C. (2015, November). The association between standards-based grading and standardized test scores as an element of a high school reform model. Teachers College Record, 117(11).

“Two other studies examined the correlation between grades and standardized tests, as well as the differences in the association between grades and test scores for minority, low socio-economic, and non-minority students. Brennan, Kim, Wenz-Gross, and Sipperstein (2001) and Haptonstall (2010) discovered modest correlations between teacher-assigned grades and standardized state assessments. However, both studies found a lower correlation between grades and standardized test scores for minority students, English language learners, and low socio-economic students than their counterparts. The findings suggested not only that grades did not strongly correlate with achievement scores on standardized tests, but that minority students and low socio-economic students were possibly given higher grades than their achievement levels warranted.” —Pollio, M. & Hochbein, C. (2015, November). The association between standards-based grading and standardized test scores as an element of a high school reform model. Teachers College Record, 117(11).

“Together, the findings of Brennan et al. (2001), Haptonstall (2010), Lekholm and Cliffordson (2008), and McMillan (2001) supported a theory of grade inflation with minority and disadvantaged students. As a result of teachers including factors such as effort, behavior, and attendance, minority and disadvantaged students earned grades that overestimated academic attainment. According to Brennan et al. (2001) and Haptonstall (2010), the practice of grading at-risk students on factors other than achievement level supports the existence of a significant achievement gap between minority students and their White counterparts. Despite intense focus on the elimination of the achievement gap in American secondary schools, few education leaders have examined grading policies as a potential source of the problem.” —Pollio, M. & Hochbein, C. (2015, November). The association between standards-based grading and standardized test scores as an element of a high school reform model. Teachers College Record, 117(11).

“The researchers analyzed descriptive statistics of student grades and test scores to determine the percentage of students who received an above average grade in their mathematics or science course (A/B) and also scored proficient or distinguished on the corresponding KCCT [Kentucky Core Content Test] test. If students’ grades were a valid indicator of their learning subject content, then students who scored an A or a B in their content class should have scored proficient or above on the state accountability assessment. With the students who experienced traditional grading methods, in both mathematics and science, this assumption did not prove true. In the non-PP Math cohort, 466 students (40%) received an A or a B in their Algebra 2 class, yet only 26% of them scored a proficient or distinguished on the 2010 KCCT mathematics assessment. Within the PP Science group, 514 students (40%) received an A or a B in their science class, of which 28% scored a proficient or distinguished on the 2011 KCCT science assessment. Within two traditional grading cohorts, success in the classroom as defined by grades did not translate into success on the KCCT assessment. For students who experienced standards-based grading in PP Math, 568 (45%) received an A or a B in their Algebra 2 class, with 55% of them scoring proficient or distinguished on the 2011 KCCT mathematics assessment. When teachers utilized standards-based grading methods, not only did the number of As and Bs increase, but the rate of passing the state assessment among students who earned these grades approximately doubled as compared to the two traditional grading cohorts.” —Pollio, M. & Hochbein, C. (2015, November). The association between standards-based grading and standardized test scores as an element of a high school reform model. Teachers College Record, 117(11).

“[T]he results of this research study indicated that the use of standards-based grading with PP classrooms increased the association between grades and standardized test scores among students within the 11 high schools that implemented the program. Students who were more successful in the content class that used standards-based grading were more likely to score proficient on the KCCT assessment than students evaluated on traditional grading practices. The most significant finding to refute traditional grading methods derived from the 75% of students who received above average traditional grades in their specific content class, yet scored below proficient on the corresponding KCCT assessment. When evaluated by standards-based grading, nearly twice as many students scored proficient when successful in their core content class. These findings provided strong evidence to suggest that standards-based grading approaches should be central to an educational reform movement.” —Pollio, M. & Hochbein, C. (2015, November). The association between standards-based grading and standardized test scores as an element of a high school reform model. Teachers College Record, 117(11).

“Our evidence from this study suggests that student performance on standardized tests is associated with the use of standards-based grading. As part of PP, nearly twice as many students scored proficient on the mathematics assessment when they experienced standards-based grading in their Algebra 2 class. Furthermore, correlations between the grades and standardized test scores of minority and disadvantaged students were greater in standards-based grading classrooms than in traditional grading classrooms. As suggested by prior researchers, standards-based grading practices might be a necessary, but insufficient initiative to reduce the achievement gap in American education (Brennan et al., 2001; Haptonstall, 2010; Lekholm & Cliffordson, 2008; McMillan, 2001).” —Pollio, M. & Hochbein, C. (2015, November) The association between standards-based grading and standardized test scores as an element of a high school reform model. Teachers College Record, 117(11).

“Decades of research point to indisputable evidence that grading penalties are far less effective than feedback and personalized learning. Responsive teaching has always reacted to the needs of learners over the agendas of teachers: it is less about delivering a grade than about delivering timely, accurate, and specific feedback (Reeves, 2010).” —Duek, M. (2014). Grading smarter, not harder: Assessment strategies that motivate kids and help them learn. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

“Unfortunately, many educators have fallen into the trap of believing that punitive grading should be the chief consequence for poor decisions and negative behaviors. These teachers continue to argue that grading as punishment works, despite over 100 years of overwhelming research that suggests it does not (Guskey, 2011; Reeves, 2010). Just because a student does her homework doesn’t mean that she did so to avoid a grading penalty. As Guskey’s (2011) extensive research shows, students do not perform better when they know that ‘it counts.’” —Duek, M. (2014). Grading smarter, not harder: Assessment strategies that motivate kids and help them learn. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

“In order for students to move ahead to more difficult standards when they achieve proficiency with current standards (as in an authentic standards-based grading system), educators need to assign grades that clearly communicate students’ current levels of performance for the standards they are working on. To achieve this type of feedback, grades must be based solely on students’ current levels of performance with specific standards. Unfortunately, many grading practices currently used in the United States base grades on an assortment of additional factors beyond academic performance, such as a student’s level of effort, innate aptitude, rule compliance, attendance, social behaviors, attitudes, or other nonachievement measures (Friedman & Frisbie, 2000; Ornstein, 1995). Including these measures in students’ grades creates systems in which ‘grades are so imprecise that they are almost meaningless’ (Marzano, 2000, p. 1). Genuine standards-based grading practices separate what students know and can do from how they behave and other nonachievement measures. Thus, while there are many ways that schools can improve student achievement, changing grading practices may be the most expedient way to address multiple issues at once.” —Heflebower, T.,  Hoegh, J. K., & Warrick, P. (2014). A school leader’s guide to standards-based grading. Bloomington, IN: Marzano Research.

“Douglas Reeves (2008) stated, ‘If you wanted to make just one change that would immediately reduce student failure rates, then the most effective place to start would be challenging prevailing grading practices.’ The most effective grading practices provide accurate, specific, and timely feedback designed to improve student performance (Marzano, 2000, 2007; O’Connor, 2007). Rick Wormeli (2006) explained what a grade ought to be: A grade is supposed to provide an accurate, undiluted indicator of a student’s mastery of learning standards. That’s it. It is not meant to be a part of a reward, motivation, or behavioral contract system. If the grade is distorted by weaving in a student’s personal behavior, character, and work habits, it cannot be used to successfully provide feedback, document progress, or inform our instructional decisions regarding that student—the three primary reasons we grade. Unfortunately, many grades do not fit this description.”—Heflebower, T.,  Hoegh, J. K., & Warrick, P. (2014). A school leader’s guide to standards-based grading. Bloomington, IN: Marzano Research.

“More than a third of all teachers believe that grades can serve as a meaningful pun- ishment, despite extensive evidence showing this is not the case (Canady & Hotchkiss, 1989). David Conley (2000) found little relationship between the grade a teacher gave and whether or not a student was proficient. Multiple studies have shown that teachers who teach the same subject or course at the same grade level within the same school often consider drastically different criteria in assigning grades to students’ performance (Cizek, Fitzgerald, & Rachor, 1995; McMillan, Myran, & Workman, 2002). Reeves (2008) stated: Three commonly used grading policies . . . are so ineffective they can be labeled as toxic. First is the use of zeroes for missing work. . . . Second is the practice of using the average of all scores throughout the semester. . . . Third is the use of the ‘semester killer’—the single project, test, lab, paper, or other assignment that will make or break students.—Heflebower, T.,  Hoegh, J. K., & Warrick, P. (2014). A school leader’s guide to standards-based grading. Bloomington, IN: Marzano Research.

“These practices create inconsistencies in assigning grades that would likely never be tolerated in other venues, such as sports or medicine. Reeves (2008) added, ‘The same school leaders and community members who would be indignant if sports referees were inconsistent in their rulings continue to tolerate inconsistencies that have devastating effects on student achievement.’ Thomas Guskey (2011) compared the current practice of combining multiple measures into overall omnibus grades to combining unrelated health measures into a single score: If someone proposed combining measures of height, weight, diet, and exercise into a single number or mark to represent a person’s physical condition, we would consider it laughable. How could the combination of such diverse measures yield anything meaningful? Yet every day, teachers combine aspects of students’ achievement, attitude, responsibility, effort, and behavior into a single grade that’s recorded on a report card—and no one questions it.—Heflebower, T.,  Hoegh, J. K., & Warrick, P. (2014). A school leader’s guide to standards-based grading. Bloomington, IN: Marzano Research.

“Andy Fleenor, Sarah Lamb, Jennifer Anton, Todd Stinson, and Tony Donen (2011) described grades as a game and explained that, sometimes, the best grades simply go to the students who do the most work: Quantity should not trump quality. Grades should be based on what students know and can do, rather than on how much work they can (and will) complete. Students should receive regular and specific feedback about what they know and don’t know. Offering regular, specific feedback and grading that are based on learning and not behavior will have an immediate positive impact on your school. It will redefine students’ role in the learning process, completely alter communication patterns with students and parents, and ultimately will improve performance top to bottom. As Fleenor and his colleagues pointed out, resolving grading-system problems can have positive impacts throughout an educational system.” —Heflebower, T.,  Hoegh, J. K., & Warrick, P. (2014). A school leader’s guide to standards-based grading. Bloomington, IN: Marzano Research.

“Grades should provide feedback to students, document their progress, and help teach- ers make decisions about what instruction a student needs next (Wormeli, 2006). When grades fulfill these goals, the effects on a school or district can be significant. Reeves (2011) found that effective grading policies reduced student failures, leading to a cascade of unexpected benefits: reduced discipline problems, increased college credits, more elective courses, improved teacher morale, fewer hours of board of education time diverted to suspensions and expulsions, and added revenues for the entire system based on a higher number of students continually enrolled in school.” —Heflebower, T.,  Hoegh, J. K., & Warrick, P. (2014). A school leader’s guide to standards-based grading. Bloomington, IN: Marzano Research.

“[M]odern grading practices are rife with complexity and contradiction. They are remnants of archaic conventions, and hybrids of newer methodologies not yet tried by time and application. They are student or teacher oriented, inaccessibly rigid or unhelpfully absent of structure and definition. Amid these distinctions, points-based grading reveals itself as an objective failure, insufficient in meeting the needs of any student focused on attaining a comprehensive, impactful education, and any teacher concerned with identifying and meeting the needs of his or her students. The most effective teaching and grading methodologies refrain from extremes, combining useful features from a number of partially successful practices, in order to create a premium system of education capable of adapting to the requirements of those who use it. Standards-based grading emerges from the study of these methodologies as a system worth advocating; neither intransigent nor unstructured, it accommodates different learning styles, sets attainable goals, and provides teachers with the opportunity to meet students wherever they are in the process of achieving those goals. Perhaps most importantly, standards-based grading separates and elevates the advent of learning from points and numbers in a gradebook, lending new inspiration to the ages-old pursuit of education.” —Iamarino, D. L. (2014, May). The benefits of standards-based grading: A critical evaluation of modern grading practices. Current Issues in Education, 17(2), 1–12.

“There are certainly many things that inspired teachers do not do; they do not use grading as punishment; they do not conflate behavioral and academic performance; they do not elevate quiet compliance over academic work; they do not excessively use worksheets; they do not have low expectations and keep defending low-quality learning as ‘doing your best’; they do not evaluate their impact by compliance, covering the curriculum, or conceiving explanations as to why they have little or no impact on their students; and they do not prefer perfection in homework over risk-taking that involves mistakes.” —Hattie, J. (2012). Visible learning for teachers: Maximizing impact on learning. London: Routledge. (NOTE: Visible Learning for Teachers is based on more than 900 meta-analyses, representing well over 50,000 research articles, 150,000 effect sizes, and 240 million students.)

“Standards-based grading and reporting have been topics of discussion for years, primarily because of the current system’s shortcomings (Brookhart & Nitko, 2008; Guskey & Bailey, 2001; Reeves, 2011). In the traditional system, students acquire points for various activities, assignments, and behaviors, which accrue throughout a grading period. The teacher adds up the points and assigns a letter grade. A variation on this theme is to keep track of percentage scores across various categories of performance and behavior and then translate the average percentage score into a letter grade or simply report the average percentage score (for example, 62.9 percent). These practices provide little useful information about a specific student. A student might have received an overall or ‘omnibus’ letter grade of B, not because he had a solid grasp of the target content, but because he was exceptionally well behaved in class, participated in all discussions, and turned in all assignments on time. Likewise, a student may have received a percentage score of 62.9, not because she displayed significant gaps in understanding regarding the target content, but because she received a zero for tardiness on assignments or for disruptive behavior. In addition to this lack of specificity, one teacher’s criteria for assigning a letter grade of A, for example, might be equivalent to another teacher’s criteria for assigning a letter grade of B, or even lower. In an effort to cure the ills of current grading and reporting systems, many schools and districts across the United States have attempted to implement a standards-based system.” —Marzano, R. J., & Heflebower, T. (2011, November). Grades that show what students know. Educational Leadership, 69(3), 34–39.

“Although educators would prefer that motivation to learn be entirely intrinsic, evidence indicates that grades and other reporting methods affect student motivation and the effort students put forth (Cameron & Pierce, 1996). 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 (Haladyna, 1999). At the same time, no research supports the idea that low grades prompt students to try harder. More often, low grades prompt students to withdraw from learning. To protect their self-images, many students regard the low grade as irrelevant or meaningless. Others may blame themselves for the low grade but feel helpless to improve (Selby & Murphy, 1992).” —Guskey, T. R. (2011, November). Five obstacles to grading reform. Educational Leadership, 69(3), p.16–21.

“In determining students’ grades, teachers typically merge scores from major exams, compositions, quizzes, projects, and reports, along with evidence from homework, punctuality in turning in assignments, class participation, work habits, and effort. Computerized grading programs help teachers apply different weights to each of these categories (Guskey, 2002a) that then are combined in idiosyncratic ways (see McMillan, 2001; McMillan, Myran, & Workman, 2002). The result is a ‘hodgepodge grade’ that is just as confounded and impossible to interpret as a ‘physical condition’ grade that combined height, weight, diet, and exercise would be (Brookhart & Nitko, 2008; Cross & Frary, 1996). Recognizing that merging these diverse sources of evidence distorts the meaning of any grade, educators in many parts of the world today assign multiple grades. This idea provides the foundation for standards-based approaches to grading. In particular, educators distinguish product, process, and progress learning criteria (Guskey & Bailey, 2010).” —Guskey, T. R. (2011, November). Five obstacles to grading reform. Educational Leadership, 69(3), p.16–21.

“Reporting separate grades for product, process, and progress criteria also makes grading more meaningful. Grades for academic achievement reflect precisely that—academic achievement—and not some confusing amalgamation that’s impossible to interpret and that rarely presents a true picture of students’ proficiency (Guskey, 2002a). Teachers also indicate that students take homework more seriously when it’s reported separately. Parents favor the practice because it provides a more comprehensive profile of their child’s performance in school (Guskey, Swan, & Jung, 2011b).” —Guskey, T. R. (2011, November). Five obstacles to grading reform. Educational Leadership, 69(3), p.16–21.

“Grades based on students’ standing among classmates tell us nothing about how well students have learned. In such a system, all students might have performed miserably, but some simply performed less miserably than others. In addition, basing grades on students’ standing among classmates makes learning highly competitive. Students must compete with one another for the few scarce rewards (high grades) to be awarded by teachers. Doing well does not mean learning excellently; it means outdoing your classmates. Such competition damages relationships in school (Krumboltz & Yeh, 1996). Students are discouraged from cooperating or helping one another because doing so might hurt the helper’s chance at success. Similarly, teachers may refrain from helping individual students because some students might construe this as showing favoritism and biasing the competition (Gray, 1993).” —Guskey, T. R. (2011, November). Five obstacles to grading reform. Educational Leadership, 69(3), p.16–21.

“We know that averaging grades falsifies grade reports (Marzano, 2000; O’Connor, 2009, 2010; Reeves, 2010; Wormeli, 2006). Henry receives an F on the first test but then learns the material and receives an A on a new assessment of the same material; unfortunately, the average of these two, a C, is recorded in the grade book. This is not an accurate report of Henry’s newfound proficiency in the topic. If we trust the new test as a valid indicator of mastery, Henry’s earlier performance is irrelevant. Although this example uses two grading extremes (A and F), averaging grades, no matter the distance between the two or more scores, decreases accuracy. Looking at the most consistent levels of performance over time makes for a more accurate report of what students truly know, and it provides higher correlations with testing done outside the classroom (Bailey & Guskey, 2001; Marzano, 2000; Reeves, 2010). It’s unethical and inaccurate to include in a grade digressions in performance that occur during the learning process, when a grade is supposed to report students’ mastery at the end of that process. It’s also inaccurate to rely solely on single-sitting assessments for the most accurate report of what students know and can do. Instead, we look for evidence over time.” —O’Connor, K., & Wormeli, R. (2011, November). Reporting student learning. Educational Leadership, 69(3), 40–44.

“Schools have used grades for a variety of purposes: communication, self-evaluation, sorting and selecting, motivation, and program evaluation (Guskey, 1996)—and therein lies the problem. Some teachers emphasize one purpose, and some emphasize another. Consequently, they use different criteria for determining grades, which can result in students who achieve at the same level receiving different grades. To achieve consistency, schools and districts must achieve consensus about the primary purpose of grades and then publish a purpose statement that is available to all. Our premise here is that ‘the primary purpose of…grades [is] to communicate student achievement to students, parents, school administrators, postsecondary institutions, and employers’ (Bailey & McTighe, 1996, p. 120).” —O’Connor, K., & Wormeli, R. (2011, November). Reporting student learning. Educational Leadership, 69(3), 40–44.

“According to Carifio and Carey (2009), ‘Many schools lack a coherent and uniform grading policy, resulting in extensive variations in student assessment from teacher to teacher, and even between students taking the same course with the same teacher.’ It’s therefore crucial that all schools and districts have public, published policies and procedures that all teachers are expected to follow and for which they can be held accountable if students, parents, or administrators identify concerns with their grading practices.” —O’Connor, K., & Wormeli, R. (2011, November). Reporting student learning. Educational Leadership, 69(3), 40–44.

“In choosing an appropriate reporting form based on purpose, educators must seek a balance between detail and practicality. A standards-based report card should present a comprehensive picture of students’ academic strengths and challenges. It also might include space to record students’ self evaluations, depending on the defined purpose. But regardless of the form, a standards-based report card should be compact and understandable and should not require inordinate time for teachers to prepare or for parents to interpret (Linn & Gronlund, 2000).… [R]eport cards consisting of multiple pages with long lists of skills and multiple categories of information are not only terribly time consuming for teachers to complete, they typically overwhelm parents with information they do not know how to use. More often than not, such report cards simply overwhelm parents.” —Guskey, T., & Baily, J. M. (2010). Developing standards-based report cards. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

“A practical solution to the problems associated with these different learning goals, and one used by increasing numbers of teachers and schools as they develop standards-based report cards, is to report separate grades or marks to each. In this way, the habits, efforts, or learning progress are kept distinct from those representing assessments of achievement and performance (Guskey, 2002b, 2006c; Stiggins, 2008b). The intent is to provide a more accurate and more comprehensive picture of what students accomplish in school.” —Guskey, T., & Baily, J. M. (2010). Developing standards-based report cards. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

“While teachers and schools in the United States are just beginning to catch on to the idea of separate grades for product, process, and progress goals, many Canadian educators have used the practice for years (Bailey & McTighe, 1996). Each marking periods, they assign as ‘achievement’ grade to students based on their performance on projects, assessments, compositions, and other demonstrations of learning. This achievement grade represents the teacher’s judgment of students’ levels of performance or accomplishment relative to explicit product goals or standards established for the subject area of course. Decisions about promotion, as well as calculations of grade point averages and class ranks at the high school level, are based solely on these achievement or product grades.” —Guskey, T., & Baily, J. M. (2010). Developing standards-based report cards. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

“Pulling out the nonacademic factors from grades based on product goals also will likely improve the relationship between grades and the scores students attain on large-scale assessments (Conley, 2000; D’Agostino & Welsh, 2007; Welsh & D’Agostino, 2009; Willingham, Pollack, & Lewis, 2002).” —Guskey, T., & Baily, J. M. (2010). Developing standards-based report cards. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

“Because of concerns about student motivation, self-esteem, and the social consequences of grading and reporting, most teachers base their grading procedures on some combination of [product, process, and progress] learning goals (Brookhart, 1993; Frary, Cross & Weber, 1993; Friedman and Manley, 1992; Nava & Loyd, 1992; Stiggins, Frisbie & Griswold, 1989). In many cases, they combine elements of product, process, and progress into a single grade or mark. Evidence indicates that teachers also vary the goals they consider from student to students, taking into account individual circumstances (Burstuck et al., 1996; Natriello, Riehl & Pallas, 1994; Truong & Friedman, 1996). Although they do this in an effort to be fair, the result is a ‘hodgepodge grade’ that includes components of achievement, effort, and improvement (Brookhart, 1991; Cross & Frary, 1996). Interpreting the grade or report card thus becomes extraordinarily difficult, not only for parents but also for administrators, community members, and even the students themselves (Friedman & Frisbie, 1995; Waltman & Frisbie, 1994).” —Guskey, T., & Baily, J. M. (2010). Developing standards-based report cards. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

“It is essential to be clear about the primary purpose of grades, which is to communicate students’ achievement of learning goals. As Brookhart (2004) noted, grades have a secondary purpose that includes providing teachers with information for instructional planning and providing teachers, administrators, parents, and students with information for placement of students. She also noted that the main difficulty driving grading issues is that grades serve a variety of conflicting purposes. Bailey and McTighe (1996) agreed that the primary purpose of grades is to communicate student achievement to students, parents, school administrators, postsecondary institutions, and employers.” —O’Connor, K. (2009, January). Reforming grading practices in secondary schools. Principal’s Research Review, 4(1), 1–7.

“‘Grades typically carry little meaning because they reduce a great deal of information to a single letter’ (Atkin et al., 2001, p. 64). As Trumbull and Farr noted in standards-based systems, assessments often ‘employ scoring systems that rate students on different aspects of performance. If writing is evaluated according to sub-domains like ‘content/ideas,’ ‘cohesion/structure,’ and ‘mechanics,’ then to reduce scores on these three scales to a single grade is to obscure important performance differences’ (Trumbull & Farr, p. 29).” —O’Connor, K. (2009, January). Reforming grading practices in secondary schools. Principal’s Research Review, 4(1), 1–7.

“Most teachers have combined achievement with behavior to varying extents in determining grades because they believe it demonstrates what they value and will motivate students to exhibit those behaviors. McMillan (2001) noted that ‘the findings from this study, along with other results from other studies, show that this practice is still pervasive’ (p. 30). Gathercoal (2004) noted that ‘due to the excessive entanglement between achievement and behavior, achievement grades are often misinterpreted’ (p. 153).” —O’Connor, K. (2009, January). Reforming grading practices in secondary schools. Principal’s Research Review, 4(1), 1–7.

“Guskey (2009) noted, ‘no studies support the use of low grades as punishment. Instead of prompting greater effort, low grades more often cause students to withdraw from learning’ (p. 14). Motivation is enhanced when students are provided accurate information about achievement, have clear learning goals, and study in an environment that supports learning by not including diagnostic and formative assessment in grades and by being positive and supportive, not negative or punitive.” —O’Connor, K. (2009, January). Reforming grading practices in secondary schools. Principal’s Research Review, 4(1), 1–7.

“If you wanted to make just one change that would immediately reduce student failure rates, then the most effective place to start would be challenging prevailing grading practices. How can I be so sure? Try this experiment in your next faculty meeting. Ask your colleagues to calculate the final grade for a student who receives the following 10 grades during a semester: C, C, MA (Missing Assignment), D, C, B, MA, MA, B, A. I have done this experiment with thousands of teachers and administrators in the United States, Canada, and Argentina. Every time—bar none—I get the same results: The final grades range from F to A and include everything in between. As this experiment demonstrates, the difference between failure and the honor roll often depends on the grading policies of the teacher. To reduce the failure rate, schools don’t need a new curriculum, a new principal, new teachers, or new technology. They just need a better grading system.” —Reeves, Douglas B. (2008, February). Leading to change: Effective grading practices. Educational Leadership, 65(5), 85–87.

“[T]he most effective grading practices provide accurate, specific, timely feedback designed to improve student performance (Marzano 2000, 2007; O’Connor, 2007). In the best classrooms, grades are only one of many types of feedback provided to students. Music teachers and athletic coaches routinely provide abundant feedback to students and only occasionally associate a grade with the feedback. Teachers in visual arts, drafting, culinary arts, or computer programming allow students to create a portfolio to show their best work, knowing that the mistakes made in the course of the semester were not failures, but lessons learned on the way to success. In each of these cases, ‘failures’ along the way are not averaged into a calculation of the final grade. Contrast these effective practices with three commonly used grading policies that are so ineffective they can be labeled as toxic. First is the use of zeroes for missing work. Despite evidence that grading as punishment does not work (Guskey, 2000) and the mathematical flaw in the use of the zero on a 100-point scale (Reeves, 2004), many teachers routinely maintain this policy in the mistaken belief that it will lead to improved student performance. Defenders of the zero claim that students need to have consequences for flouting the teacher’s authority and failing to turn in work on time. They’re right, but the appropriate consequence is not a zero; it’s completing the work.” —Reeves, Douglas B. (2008, February). Leading to change: Effective grading practices. Educational Leadership, 65(5), 85–87.

“A grade is supposed to provide an accurate, undiluted indicator of a student’s mastery of learning standards. That’s it. It is not meant to be a part of a reward, motivation, or behavioral contract system. If the grade is distorted by weaving in a student’s personal behavior, character, and work habits, it cannot be used to successfully provide feedback, document progress, or inform our instructional decisions regarding that student—the three primary reasons we grade. A student who is truly performing at the highest instructional levels with the highest marks, even though it took him longer to achieve those levels—for whatever reason—is not served by labeling him with false, lower marks and treating him as if he operates at the lower instructional levels just because it took him a little longer to get to the same standard of excellence. All decisions and responses based on such marks would be false and ineffective. He’s achieved excellence, and his digressions should not be held against him. Otherwise the grade is an inaccurate portrayal.” —Wormeli, R. (2006, Summer). Accountability: Teaching through assessment and feedback, not grading. American Secondary Education, 34(3), 14–27.

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