Tag Archives: grades

Unintended Consequences of a 0 – 100 Grading System

Whit Ford wrote a detailed post filled with an interesting analysis of grading systems including percentages, points, standards based, rubrics… I probably missed one but that’s plenty if I didn’t!  I am in the middle of three days of Understanding by Design training, and while we haven’t discussed grading, we have talked about assessment.  One thing that came up was that the assessment we use should change based on what we’re assessing.  They divide content into “worth being familiar with” “important to know and do” and “enduring understanding” and then claim that tests should only assess the first two, while projects should assess the second two (meaning “important to know and do” fits in both types).  This made me especially interested in this section of Whit’s post:

Assessments often include one or more questions that are more challenging than the others. Reasons for doing so include:
– as a “bonus” question
– as a confidence builder for weaker students
– to identify which students work the fastest or most efficiently
– to see who understands the conceptual as well as the rote/procedural

In such cases, it is tempting to assign more points to the more challenging question(s) either because they require more time or are more difficult. Suppose an assessment contains nine questions worth one point, and one question worth three points. Consider what happens when a student answers all questions except the three point one correctly: they receive a score of 9/12 = 75%, which could equate to a C or a D depending on the grading scheme.

I wonder if the Understanding by Design folks would suggest using a performance task to assess that more challenging question; it is tough to decide how to weight the multi-step question in a test filled with more straightforward problems.

Be sure to check out the whole post since it brings up a number of other points that are worthy of discussion.

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“What does it mean to earn an 80% in a Geometry class?”

Brandon’s got a problem:

My school has recently begun an inquiry about how we assess. I have been struggling through the process for a number of reasons. I struggle most with trying to break away from assessing how I’ve been assessed.


He considers the possibility of grading based entirely on knowledge, but struggles with it:

And what of work ethic? If a student is really trying, improving, busting her ass on every assignment but still only masters 79% of the material, we give her a C. That somehow feels cold and unfair. But standards/objectives-based grading would imply that she earned exactly that grade.

He concludes:

I’m still at a loss for how I want to approach grading philosophically. I had a great professor at Baylor tell me that he did not want to give out any grades, but write two sentences about each student. I think that mindset is powerful, but rarely feasible. Maybe I’m approaching this the wrong way and equivocating grading with assessment. I would love to know some other math teachers’ (or just teachers) thoughts on this particular model.

Go leave your thoughts here.