Do You Know How Our Current Grading System Was Founded 

 March 8, 2021

This is a fun fact email when it comes to how schools “grade” students.

Since most schools today use the point system for their method of scoring classroom assessments, I thought it might be informative to consider its origins. 

  • 1917 – The United States Army develops an Alpha test, multiple-choice and true-false questions to determine recruits’ training placement and their overall competency. (This later evolved into ASVAB, the current Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, which is a multiple-choice test that helps you identify which Army jobs (Military Occupational Specialties) would be best for you.
  • 1926 – The SAT was founded as an adaptation of the Army Alpha, an IQ test that had been used to check the intelligence of US Army recruits. From this test, taken only by a few thousand college applicants, eventually came the modern SAT as we know it, which includes the multiple-choice format style of questioning and, eventually, essays.
  • 1950’s – Textbook publishers begin to adopt the correct/incorrect model of assessment that we now use today in the educational grading system. This included true/false, matching, and fill-in-the-blank. Most of us report a score such as, “Jonathon missed 5 and got a 20/25, 80%, letter grade C.
  • Test results began to be reported as percentages, and single scores indicated general achievement in content areas.  Jonathan is a C in Math, B+ in ELA, and so on. 
  • Items that could not be scored as correct or incorrect are given points (essay, oral presentations, etc.). (And each teacher decides how many points the essay should be, AND we all different on this.)

Isn’t it good to know how the current system came into play? Most teachers try to develop grading policies that are honest and fair, but we are just doing what we’ve been taught and what has been deeply ingrained in our education system for years…this system of grading. But we know now that the ‘point’ system is inadequate for effective formative assessment. 

Grading is the primary means of reporting feedback about a student’s level of learning. Robert Marzano (2010). 

Doug Reeves says, 

“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 to show what a student knows, can do, and how to improve. And this is one of the many reasons schools love our standards-based grading online course.

Many schools have purchased the online course for SBG because they get access to it for 9 months, and it’s self-paced, which means teachers can watch it module by module and have conversation and collaboration while they receive the content in bite-size chunks.

If you’d like to schedule a call to chat with Kim about this online course for your staff, please click here.

  • Our school, and district, is working to reform our grading practices right now. The real work is establishing how to give feedback on student learning progress. How to you accurately give feedback on standards?

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