Sunday, March 6, 2011

Changing the Face of Reporting Through Assessment Practices

A little while ago I wrote about how a number of schools in my district were looking at changing our reporting practices, moving away from letter grades to standards based reporting.  Based on the recommendations of @tomschimmer and @birklearns when it came to re-examining our assessment and reporting practices, I picked up two books by Ken O'Connor:  How to Grade for Learning and A Repair Kit for Grading; 15 Fixes for Broken Grades.  I have just started reading A Repair Kit and already in the first chapter there is a great list which would be a very good conversation starter for any staff.  The discussions on these points alone could take a while.

15 fixes for Broken Grades
Grades are broken when they -
• include ingredients that distort achievement
• arise from low quality or poorly organized evidence
• are derived from inappropriate number crunching, and when they 
• do not support the learning process

Fixes for ingredients that distort achievement
1. Don’t include student behaviors (effort, participation, adherence to class rules, etc) in grades; include only achievement.
2. Don’t reduce marks on “work” submitted late; provide support for the learner.
3. Don’t give points for extra credit or use bonus points; seek only evidence that more work has resulted in a higher level of achievement.
4. Don’t punish academic dishonesty with reduced grades; apply other consequences and reassess to determine actual level of achievement.
5. Don’t consider attendance in grade determination; report absences separately.
6. Don’t include group scores in grades; use only individual achievement evidence

Fixes for low quality or poorly organized evidence
7. Don’t organize information in grading records by assessment methods or simply summarize into a single grade; organize and report evidence by standards/learning goals.
8. Don’t assign grades using inappropriate or unclear performance standards; provide clear descriptions of achievement expectations.
9. Don’t assign grades based on student’s achievement compared to other students; compare each student’s performance to preset standards.
10. Don’t rely on evidence from assessments that fail to meet standards of quality; rely only on quality assessments.

Fixes for inappropriate number crunching
11. Don’t rely only on the mean; consider other measures of central tendency and use professional judgment.
12. Don’t include zeros in grade determination when evidence is missing or as punishment; use alternatives, such as reassessing to determine real achievement or use “I” for Incomplete or Insufficient Evidence.

Fixes to support the learning process
13. Don’t use information from formative assessments and practice to determine grades; use only summative evidence.
14. Don’t summarize evidence accumulated over time when learning is developmental and will grow with time and repeated opportunities; in those instances, emphasize more recent achievement.
15. Don’t leave students out of the grading process. Involve students; they can - and should - play key roles in assessment and grading that promote achievement.

The first chapter resonated with many of the thoughts that I have had, namely around the punishment/rewards aspects around letter grades and what they represent. O'Connor writes that grades have served a variety of purposes including: to communicate student achievement to students, parents, school administrators, post-secondary institutions and employers as well as sorting and selecting, motivation and punishment.  These purposes are in conflict with communicating their successes and ranking and sorting.  The first chapter is a lot to chew on.

Which ones are the most important? which ones resonate the most with you?


  1. Hey Remi,

    This really resonated with me. I spent the weekend writing my report cards feeling like all this work was doing little to enhance the learning of my students, and to inform their parents. I think I may need to get copies of those books.

    Rob Heinrichs

  2. I have not started the 2nd one yet, but the first (15 fixes) is a logical break-down of the why-nots and whys, a very easy read that strikes home. It is a small handbook that you could almost keep in your back-pocket and pull out when you are having doubts.