Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Grading and Reporting at ACS

I have included a podcast of the presentation that we had at our parent coffee earlier this week outlining some of the discussions that our faculty has had about our grading practices at ACS and the impact that these discussions have had on our reporting procedures. Although, it would be great if everyone could watch the presentation, it ended up being a lot longer that I had initially hoped so I will provide a brief written synopsis of the podcast below.

First of all, our faculty has had some extensive discussions about our grading practices over the past couple of years and this has had a profoundly positive impact on our assessment practices in middle school. These discussions began when we began to look at the purpose of grading in our middle school. Our guide through many of these discussions is a book entitled, "A Repair Kit for Grading: 15 fixes for Broken Grades," written by a professor at the University of Toronto named Ken O'Connor. Mr. O'Connor has argued that schools have used grades for a variety of purposes which prevents grades from effectively communicating performance to parents and students. For example, if a teacher has grades for behavior, participation and academic achievement, a grade of "B" does not communicate what specifically that student is having issues with; is it behavior, participation or academics? In order to be more clear, we have identified a central purpose for our grades at ACS - to communicate a students achievement measured against our school's standards and benchmarks. This fundamental purpose has lead to many discussions within our school about changes to our practice that would be needed in order for us to attain our goal.

Effects on Grading Practice

In order to ensure we aligned with our central grading purpose, our staff identified some important issues that we needed to find solutions for.

1) Student Behavior - teachers would not give grades for student behavior in class. These behaviors will be reported separately from grades (Progress Report)
2) Late Work - Students would not be academically penalized for late work. Teachers would engage students to identify why a student's work is late and work with the student to complete the work
3) Extra Credit - although extension activities may be given to students who achieve standards early, a student will still be assessed on the standards of our school curriculum
4) Academic Dishonesty - there will not be academic penalites for cheating or plagiarism. A student must redo the work and behavioral consequences will be applied for repeat offenders
5) Group Work - group work is used to build knowledge and skills. Although group work will be used extensively in classes, a student should be individually assessed
6) Formative & Summative Assessments - Summative assessments (assessments of learning) will be the majority of the overall grade. This will allow for students to use their formative assessments (assessments for learning) to improve their knowledge and skills
7) Grading Descriptors - detailed descriptions of academic achievement will be developed

Effects of Reporting Practice

The changes that were made in our grading practices have allowed teachers to collect more data that we would like to communicate to both students and parents. In order to provide everyone with this detailed information, we would like to make the following changes to our reporting practices.

1) Move from a quarter based grading period to a semester based grading period - this would allow teachers to include more summative assessments in their overall grade during a grading period. Each summative assessment then becomes less "high stakes" for students
2) Include separate assessments of behaviors and academic achievement on each report - we would like to combine our progress report (behavior focus) with our report card (academic focus)
3) Communicate the achievement for each standard within an academic subject rather than just an overall subject grade (on semester reports) - teachers will provide information to parents and students about their achievement of individual standards in their classes rather than an overall grade.
4) Improve the quality of information on each report which will necessitate fewer reports per school year - instead of providing 8 reports per year, the school will distribute reports at the end of each quarter, 4 times per year
5) Take advantage of technology to facilitate distribution of reports - report cards will be distributed by email rather than hard copy. Official transcripts of grades will be provided for students withdrawing from the school, and at the end of each academic year

This process has been very fulfilling and it has been amazing to hear some of the discussions that are taking place as our students become better and better at using their formative assessments to improve their learning. This has been a paradigm shift for many of us, but the results that we have seen in student motivation and performance have been astounding! We are hopeful that the changes to our reporting procedures will also have a profound effect on improving the communication between home and school and enable us to work as partners in the education and development of our students.

Please feel free to leave comments here on the blog or contact me in the office if you have any questions or concerns.


  1. Thank you so much for posting this presentation as I was unable to attend the coffee morning. I think your new reporting system makes sense and will help parents to identify specific areas of academic weaknesses within each subject.

    Regards Deepa krishnamoorthy

    PS FYI - It is diffcult to post a comment here unless you have a google account, (or blogger account) which unfortunately I don't so had to create one.

  2. Hello Deepa,

    Thanks for your comment. I have removed the mandated user name function so people can now post comments easily.


  3. Hi Mark,
    Thank you for posting this presentation. I think what you are doing with the grading system is great. I like the proposed changes to the grading reports, and I think it will help parents greatly to understand how well their children are performing. Well done!