Grading Student’s Assessments

Pre Assessments and formative assessments

The primary purpose of preassessments and formative assessments (A system of providing continual feedback about preconceptions and performances to both learners and instructors; an ongoing evaluation of student learning.) is to guide instruction. Preassessments and homework should never be graded. Formative assessments should rarely be graded, and only when students are informed ahead of time. The reason for this is that, if teachers grade these types of assessments early in the grading cycle, some students’ grade averages will be lowered because they are unable to perform well on a task that they have just been introduced to. Instead, summative assessments (An evaluation administered to measure student learning outcomes, typically at the end of a unit or chapter. Often used to evaluate whether a student has mastered the content or skill.) should be graded to determine whether students have mastered the content.

Adjusting Grades

Grades should be an accurate reflection of student achievement. Teachers should not adjust a student’s grades either higher or lower based on other factors such as effort, bonus points, and behavior. Similarly, teachers should not grade on curve.

Multiple attempts at mastery

Because students learn at different rates, some might not perform well on the summative assessment. However, this does not mean that students cannot master the content or skill; they might just need more time. Teachers should give students another chance to demonstrate mastery without being penalized (e.g., deducting points for a second attempt). Teachers should give students full credit if they master the content on subsequent attempts.

Providing Assistance

Because students learn in different ways, some require more supports to successfully learn content or a skill and to demonstrate their knowledge. If teachers provide supports (e.g., graphic organizers) to help students master the material, they should also provide these same supports when students are being assessed (without adjusting the grade).

Extra credit or bonus points

Assignments or tests evaluate students’ mastery of specific content or skills. Although typically not recommended in a differentiated classroom, if a teacher awards extra credit or bonus points, they should only be awarded if the extra credit assignment or bonus activity assesses this same content. If extra credit assignment or bonus point items are unrelated, students’ grades will be inflated and not an accurate reflection of mastery.

Group Grades

When cooperative learning (Instructional arrangement in which heterogeneous (mixed-ability) groups are employed as a method of maximizing the learning of everyone in those groups; also helps students to develop social skills and has been demonstrated to yield especially favorable results for students in at-risk groups, such as those with learning disabilities.) activities are used to teach students about a topic, the teacher should not grade this activity. Teachers should avoid assigning a single grade to all of the students who work together on a group project because such grades will not reflect an individual student’s mastery of the topic at hand.

Missing Work

Traditionally, teachers record a zero for students who do not turn in an assignment. Even for students who generally receive good grades, a single zero can significantly lower their overall average. This is also true for students who receive a very low grade on a test or assignment (e.g., 20%). Some teachers who differentiate instruction record a grade that will indicate that the students are not proficient in a given topic (e.g., 50% or 60%) without skewing the student’s overall grade average.

Adapted from Tomlinson & Imbeau (2010) and Wormeli (2006).

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