Problems with the Current Grading System

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Discover 3 of many problems with the traditional grading system and how Standards-Based Grading can solve that.

Hi! I’m Kim Strobel and I teach Standards-Based Grading across the country with schools and districts and what I want to talk to you about today are three major problems that we have with the current grading system

Problem number one is the score range. We for some reason in education do not use an equally proportionate scale when it comes to grading. Instead most of us use 90 to 100% or around that is an A. And then we make our way all the way down the scale to the F range which is 0 to 60. So we reserve 60 points for a student to fail and we reserve only 10 points for a student to really succeed. Why are we using a disproportionate grading system to measure students’ progress? 

The problems when you use a 100 point scale like this and you give students 60 points to fail and only 10 to succeed, is that if they do poorly on one assessment they can almost never recover from that one assessment. Let me give you an example.

When I was implementing this in the school district that I was a curriculum director, we had teachers who were giving the additional time test, addition time test, every Friday. And little Josie, who came from a family who didn’t really know how to work with her at home, she had never done addition facts. And so week one little Josie only got 20 out of 100 right. But as we practiced with her, and the teacher practiced with her, and she practiced in small groups, and flashcards were sent home; as the weeks in the grading period progressed little Josie by week 7,8, 9 was now getting every Friday, on that test, an 80 or an 82 or an 85. The issue is, is that on Josie’s report card she was still an F in math because she did so poorly at the beginning of the grading period that she could never recover because we live in a unequally proportionate scale.

The other issue is that teachers weigh items differently on the exact same test. If you watched my previous video I was telling you about how I and another teacher we were both, or me and another teacher, were both fourth grade teachers and we taught the same novel and we always gave assessments after every five chapters. So if this teacher over here was teaching “A Dog’s Life” and I was teaching “A Dog’s Life”, and every five chapters we were giving an assessment, but my assessment as 10 constructed response essay type questions and his assessment was 25 multiple choice questions, as you can see an A in one room is not an A in another room. 

And so what we know is that teachers are always making decisions and using their own criteria in order to assess students. And so what we want to do with Standards-Based Grading is level that playing field. We want to make sure that the lens that I’m using to score an assessment is the same lens that the teacher next door to you is also using to score that assessment.

The third issue is that we use averaging to score across the grading period. And so if I’m going back to the example I gave you with Josie, if she was a 20 out of a 100 in week one and a 42 out of 100 in week two and she had nine different grades in the system and by week seven, eight, and nine she was in the 80s, we still average those scores. And instead in the Standards-Based Grading system, what we want to do is we want to look across the set of scores and say what is the score that best represents the level of Josie’s knowledge right now at the end of the grading period? We don’t want to have to dock her early on in the grading period for what she didn’t know. What we care about is what does Josie know and understand today.

These are just three issues with the current grading system that many of us use. There’s a multitude of issues and it’s just been a system that has been in place for so many years but it’s starting to be challenged. And I know I’m getting calls weekly to help schools and teachers implement an effective Standards-Based Grading system; so that what we are actually representing has meaning, that the grade is meaningful to the student, and that it truly represents what they know and understand right now.

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