My philosophy and practice around grading and assessment
"In a perfect classroom, every student would willingly and joyfully do what is asked because learning is its own reward. In such a classroom, students would not compete with each other. The quality of their work wouldn’t reflect anything other than their own growth and individual needs. In a perfect classroom, every student would be a willing and engaged participant; the only classroom management necessary would be containing their exuberance. In a perfect classroom, students would not get paid for doing schoolwork." [excerpt from article by Bernie Bleske]
I've been teaching for fifteen years, and I can honestly say there is no perfect system of grading. I can, however, say that I have come to appreciate the merits of proficiency-based [also known as skills-based or performance-based] assessment. Here's why...
What is performance-based assessment: Several years ago, I moved from points, numbers, and percentages to a proficiency-based (or skills-based) system of evaluation. It's pretty simple, really. Students demonstrate (perform) a particular skill and work towards mastering that skill. If they don't get it the first time they revise and rework that performance until they do. Mastering the course content (resulting in an A) means the student has mastered the required skills.
Skills: There are a finite number of skills required to master each course. These skills are set, in part, by the federal and state departments of education. Because we are an IB school, they are set, in part, by the International Baccalaureate Organization. They are set by master educators with decades of time and experience in the classroom. They are also set by the students in the feedback and course evaluations they provide. Each semester has a set of skills detailed with a tracking system for the student (and parent) to monitor their progress. Students will have a number of opportunities to demonstrate each skill.
Assignments: some assignments are focused on one skill area while others speak to many skills. A comprehension quiz from a reading is asking students to demonstrate that they have read and comprehended the material: one, focused skill area. Conversely, a written evaluation of a feature film is asking the student to demonstrate a command of formal, academic writing, interpretation and analysis, reading the text and subtext of story, evaluating the impact of design elements on meaning (sound, editing, visuals, etc). This is a complex task with many and varied skills embedded within. Once again, everything can be revised and students have many opportunities to demonstrate each skill.
On individual assignments with a seven point scale... 6-7 = Highly Proficient, 4-5 = Proficient, 2-3 = Developing Proficiency, 1 = Insufficient evidence to determine skill
Revisions: (with a few exceptions) each assignment can be revised once. Revisions MUST be accompanied by the original, evaluated work to establish the revision process. There are some hard deadlines for revisions to allow student and teacher sufficient time to process their work. These deadlines are published each semester.
Calculating grades : There are usually five skills (learning targets) for each semester and each skill is 20% of your grade. The learning targets are published at the beginning of each semester and each assignment on Synergy will indicate which skill/learning target is involved.
It's not perfect, but it's much more authentic: I appreciate that this system is messy, confusing, and a little frustrating. While it may not be as 'easy' as points/numbers/percentages, it is much more illustrative of what a student knows and what they need to learn. I find that it shifts the conversation from "what can I do to get my grade up" to "how do I revise this to make it better." It asks students to take the lead with their education, be in the driver's seat, and focus on the skills they need to learn rather than accumulating points in the areas they already know.
As always, I hope you will contact me with any questions about the system. Thank you for your patience.