IntroductionEverythingin great deal known about the standard grading system is measured in points andnumbers. If a student scores exceptionally well then, the score is an A, and ifthe student scores very poorly then the score is an F, with the relevant rangesin between. The method in which we have been grading needs to be reconsideredfor its many flaws and antiquated uses. The way in which points are given andrewarded due to many tedious and rules that cause unnecessary work for both thestudent and the teacher. This systemforces most students that its essentially a points game, and to attempt tomaximize points as best as possible, with little regard for the work itself.
Grades are also given little regard by those that employ the graduatingstudents, giving preference to the experience performed and relevant knowledgeof the student’s field. The grading system as we know it is old and broken,offering little benefit other than the minimal pass and fail mechanism neededto allow students the next step in progress of their field. According toWiggins, “thecurrent typical report card and grading system is incapable of telling us whathonesty and fairness demand we should know about inherently complex performance:how the student is doing against standards and relative to reasonableexpectations” (Wiggins, G.P, pg xv).
While most do not think of an alternative, there are. Inthe name of progress and reform, some of these alternatives must be exploredand reexamined for the benefit of future educational methods and maximum gainschool’s administrator’s, teacher’s, and student’s time. Current Situation”Thereare some aspects of teaching that we keep incagesin hopes they will never escape. . . .We don’tshareour concerns with our own grading approachorthat of a colleague’s often, and we don’t spendtimewith each other determining the meaning ofaC, an A, or discussing what constitutes a 3.
5 onarubric. . . . The day is upon us, however. It’s timeto talk about grades, grading, and report cardsopenly,if we haven’t before, questioning assump-tions,embracing alternatives, and focusing on thepromise of what teaching and learning can be.
“(Wormeli,R., 89–90)Manyexperiments have been conducted in the study of our current education systemand its flaws and benefits. Among these experiments, Jeanetta Miller highlightsone of these experiments from Douglas B. Reeves in her scholarly article. Uponhis findings and final conclusions, he noted that “As this experimentdemonstrates, the difference between failure and the honor roll often dependson the grading policies of the teacher. To reduce the failure rate, schoolsdon’t need a new curriculum, a new principal, new teachers, or new technology.They just need a better grading system” (Miller,J.
J., pg 112). Assumethe following scenario: Student A receives their report card and upon openingit, they show that they have all A’s. Student A does all their homework, and isconsidered the typical responsible student. They struggle a bit, however, onexams. Student B is the opposite. They receive their report card, and noticeC’s, D’s and one F.
Student B has scored high on tests in all subjects, and hasdemonstrated a competent understanding of the content, but proved to be lazy inclass and did not turn in homework. When faced with this example, we must trulywonder what grades mean. How should students be graded and what should theirrelevance and importance be in schools? Thereality is that grades can mean many things. To receive good grades like student A could mean that the student workedresponsibly and completed all assignments and performed sufficiently on exams.
But it could also suggest that this student knew the material prior to takingthe course and received high grades but did not really learn anything from theclass itself. It could be a case of grade inflation. It might mean gradeinflation. It may reflect a few specific assignments or a dozen assignedprevious grades, all ultimately depending on the teacher’s manner ofcalculating. There are many reasons whygrades can be calculated.
This example happens countless times in manysituations in many schools, and it begs the question, Is the grade an accuraterepresentation of whether the student has learned anything?This is exactly the problem with thecurrent grading system. It does not concentrate on whether the student has learnedand comprehended the material as much as it shows the amount of points thestudent accumulated and achieved within the course itself, which is largelymarginal and irrelevant in comparison. Teachers devote too much time focusingand discussing grades and points with parents and teachers, which inevitablytakes time away discussion of actual learning of the student or otherpotentially beneficial conversations.
Another issue with the dependence on thegrading system and the need for grades is the underlying idea that grades arean important motivating factor for students. To utilize grades as a threat orreward for finishing or not finishing homework is what is known as extrinsic,or external, motivation. This type of motivation generally causes a decreasedfocus on learning, and more of a focus of the grades themselves. In schoolswhere the importance of grades is heavily pushed, the truth is that studentswill usually choose the quickest and simplest way to achieve high grades,rather than challenge themselves mentally, creatively, or meaningfully. Moststudents will want to learn if they are given a truly exciting and challenging learningenvironment and experience. Unfortunately,the pushing of grade competition and pursuance of the highest grades is heavilyintertwined in the system.
Project PlanLet us propose another idea. A system whereall assignments and exams as either satisfactory or unsatisfactory, or pass or fail.Instead of a wide range, a more simple approach. Students would either achieve allof the points associated with the provided assignments, or none of them at all.This would all depend on the specifications that the teacher created and designedfor the students. This type of grading is what Dr.
Linda B. Nilson describes asSpecifications grading, or Specs grading. We can think of the specs as a one-dimensionalteaching rubric. In her book, she describes it this way:”You may find it useful to view specsgrading as a system based on a onelevel rubric with one criterion, but withthat criterion being able to incorporate multiple requirements.
Therefore, onlyone description is necessary as long as it incorporates all the requiredqualities. Only if a student’s work has all of those qualities is itacceptable/satisfactory. As competency-based education shows us, outcomesassessment is inherently a pass/fail, satisfactory/ unsatisfactory propositionbased on a one-level rubric. Specs grading, then, aligns well with outcomes assessment,more tightly than rubrics do, and it holds students to high standards. As longas a course has multiple assessment instruments, and virtually all courses do,it can still generate a range of letter grades in the end.
In effect, all thepass/fail grading systems for program completion and assignments and testsdescribed in chapter 4 rely on specs grading. As with rubrics, specs gradingshould not assess a work on every possible requirement we can conceive of. Weshould reserve this comprehensive standard for judging the scholarly work ofour colleagues. For our students, we should carefully select a limited numberof requirements that are really important for them to focus on and for us toassess in a particular assignment or test”. (Nilson, L. B.
, & Stanny, C. J., Pg58).