I recently came across an article titled, “Are Traditional Grades a Thing of the Past?” which argued that traditional grading systems (e.g., report cards and other current common systems used by schools today) are an inaccurate means to measure what students know in terms of content knowledge and cannot be used as an accurate indicator for how students will perform on standardized tests. The author of this article states that traditional grades used to represent a student’s mastery of content knowledge are typically inflated by other non-academic factors, thereby making them an invalid source to predict test performance.
It was after reading the opening paragraph of this article that I thought to myself, “I don’t use a traditional grading system like this one that leads to a student’s content grade being higher than it should be; do I? No … of course not … I’m sure the grade on their report card is an accurate representation of how each student would perform on a standardized test.” And then, I read the rest of the article, and changed my mind. As it turns out, I think a lot of teachers (myself being one of them) use a grading system that leads to the inflation of a content-based grade for all students.
If you take a few minutes to read the article, you will see the problem with traditional grading systems lies with the fact that a single grade (e.g., like the grade on a report card, typically used to demonstrate a student’s level of mastery for content material) is based upon both academically based factors (content knowledge) and non-academically based factors. These non-academic factors are things like: behavior, attendance, class participation, extra credit, late work penalties, and non-academic assignments (e.g., earning points to return a signed field trip form, etc.).
While these non-academic factors have a place in education and may serve as beneficial life skills, the author of this article believes that they should not be factored into a student’s content-based grade, because this combination leads to an inaccurate portrayal of what a student truly understands in terms of content knowledge. The article concludes with a possible solution to this problem using a philosophy called, “Grading for Learning”, in which a students grades are split into two separate categories. One grade is based upon content knowledge, and a second, separate grade is based upon behavioral life skills.
Please take a few minutes to read the article (link at beginning of blog in red), and then briefly answer TWO of the questions below.
Questions to Consider
1.) Would you currently consider yourself someone who uses the “traditional grading system”, like the one described in the article? Why or why not?
2.) Do you think students should receive a single grade that is based upon both “content knowledge” and “behavioral life skills”? Or do you think students should receive two separate grades for “content knowledge” and “behavioral life skills”. Why have you chosen your position (this answer could be dependent on the age-group you teach)?
3.) Do you agree with specific parts of Harder & Bartlett’s experimental design to increase the accuracy/validity of their grading system (e.g., allowing re-testing for certain conditions, percent distribution of content knowledge grades, viewpoint on extra credit or late work, viewpoint on participation, the factors of behavioral life skills, etc.)? If you were to use this model in your own classroom, is this one condition (or more) about their design that you would change?
Gordon, M. (2010, November 5). Education.com. Retrieved July 2, 2014, from http://www.education.com/magazine/article/traditional-grades/