Grading in
21st Century:
Create a
Plan for your
NASSP 2011
For more information and conversation:
Rick Wormeli
Herndon, VA USA
Patti Kinney
Reston, VA USA
(Eastern Time Zone)
Mindset: With the principles well
understood, we’re able to gather our
own solutions.
[Artist Unknown]
What is fair…
…isn’t always equal.
Great book to get started:
The Differentiated
School: Making
Revolutionary Changes
in Teaching and
Carol Ann Tomlinson, Kay
Brimijoin, Lane Narvaez
ASCD 2008
Also, to Get Started:
Transforming School Culture: How
to Overcome Staff Division
Anthony Muhammad, Solution Tree
Press, 2009
Talk About Teaching!
Leading Professional
Leading Change in your School:
How to Conquer Myths, Build
Commitment, and Get Results,
ASCD, 2009
Breaking Ranks: A Field Guide to Leading
Change, NASSP, 2009 (Don’t forget BRIM –
Breaking Ranks in the Middle – and new Breaking
Ranks: The Comprehensive Guide to School
Announcing a New and FREE
Website for Perspective and
Practicality on Assessment
and Grading Issues!
1.Two new, substantial study guides for Fair Isn’t Always Equal
2.Q&A’s - abbreviated versions of correspondence with teachers
and administrators
3.Video and audio podcasts on assessment and grading issues
4.Testimonials from educators
5.Articles that support the book’s main themes
Define Each Grade
E or F:
Until Report Card Formats catch up to pedagogy, we
may have to translate into three languages:
Report Card Rubric Symbol English
Just below
Three Reasons to Not Refer to Average, Above
Average, Below Average
• Society changes its perception of what is average.
• “Criterion-reference” is standards-based and more
helpful to everyone involved, not “norm-reference.”
• Averaging was invented in statistics to get rid of
sample error, but in order to apply it, the
experimental (assessment) design must be constant.
Classroom assessments are not constant, and error is
A Perspective that Changes our Thinking:
“A ‘D’ is a coward’s ‘F.’ The student
failed, but you didn’t have enough
guts to tell him.”
-- Doug Reeves
I, IP, NE, or NTY
Once we cross over into D and F(E) zones,
does it really matter? We’ll do the same two
things: Personally investigate and take
corrective action
If we do not allow students to re-do work, we deny the growth
mindset so vital to student maturation, and we are declaring to the
• This assignment had no legitimate educational
• It’s okay if you don’t do this work.
• It’s okay if you don’t learn this content or skill.
None of these is acceptable to the highly
accomplished, professional educator.
Conclusions from
Sample DNA Essay Grading
The fact that a range of grades occurs among teachers
who grade the same product suggests that:
• Assessment can only be done against commonly accepted
and clearly understood criteria.
• Grades are relative.
• Teachers have to be knowledgeable in their subject area in
order to assess students properly.
• Grades are subjective and can vary from teacher to teacher.
• Grades are not always accurate indicators of mastery.
Avoid hunt-and-peck, call-on-just-asampling-of-students-to-indicate-the-wholeclass’s-understanding assumptions:
“Does everyone understand?”
“Does anyone have any questions?”
“These two students have it right, so the rest
of you must understand it as well.”
Get evidence from every individual!
What is Mastery?
“Tim was so learned, that he could name a
horse in nine languages; so ignorant, that he
bought a cow to ride on.”
Ben Franklin, 1750, Poor Richard’s Almanac
Working Definition of Mastery
Students have mastered content when they
demonstrate a thorough understanding as evidenced
by doing something substantive with the content
beyond merely echoing it. Anyone can repeat
information; it’s the masterful student who can
break content into its component pieces, explain it
and alternative perspectives regarding it cogently to
others, and use it purposefully in new situations.
• The students can match each of the following
parts of speech to its definition accurately:
noun, pronoun, verb, adverb, adjective,
preposition, conjunction, gerund, and
…and Mastery
• The student can point to any word in the
sentence and explain its role (impact) in the
sentence, and explain how the word may
change its role, depending on where it’s
placed in the sentence.
What is the standard of excellence
when it comes to tying a shoe?
Now describe the evaluative criteria
for someone who excels beyond the
standard of excellence for tying a
shoe. What can they do?
Consider Gradations of Understanding and Performance from Introductory
to Sophisticated
Introductory Level Understanding:
Student walks through the classroom door while wearing a
heavy coat. Snow is piled on his shoulders, and he exclaims,
“Brrrr!” From depiction, we can infer that it is cold outside.
Sophisticated level of understanding:
Ask students to analyze more abstract inferences about
government propaganda made by Remarque in his
wonderful book, All Quiet on the Western Front.
• Determine the surface area of a cube.
• Determine the surface area of a rectangular prism (a
rectangular box)
• Determine the amount of wrapping paper needed
for another rectangular box, keeping in mind the
need to have regular places of overlapping paper so
you can tape down the corners neatly
• Determine the amount of paint needed to paint an
entire Chicago skyscraper, if one can of paint covers
46 square feet, and without painting the windows,
doorways, or external air vents
Which one qualifies for an “A” in the
Standards are Positives in our Lives:
• When a plane lands, it’s landing gear supports its weight.
• Water flows to our homes, and it’s healthy enough to
• When a house is built, it withstands the wind.
• When we depress a key on the keyboard, it makes the
letter we wish it to make.
• Locks lock and keys unlock.
• Cameras take clear pictures.
• Hotel beds are clean.
• Thermometers indicate the correct temperature.
Clarifying the
•Identify our
making the
extrinsic; the
•Divide and conquer.
•Identify the standards that provide leverage.
•Share our thinking.
•Move from standards to evidence or outcome.
21st Century Skills Sets
(As taken from
Mastery of core subjects and 21st century themes is essential to student
success. Core subjects include English, reading or language arts, world
languages, arts, mathematics, economics, science, geography,
history, government and civics.
In addition, schools must promote an understanding of academic content at
much higher levels by weaving 21st century interdisciplinary themes into
core subjects:
• Global Awareness
• Financial, Economic, Business and Entrepreneurial Literacy
• Civic Literacy
• Health Literacy
• Environmental Literacy
Learning and Innovation Skills
• Creativity and Innovation
• Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
• Communication and Collaboration
Information, Media and Technology Skills
• Information Literacy
• Media Literacy
• ICT (Information, Communications and Technology) Literacy
Life and Career Skills
• Flexibility
and Adaptability
• Initiative and Self-Direction
• Social and Cross-Cultural Skills
• Productivity and Accountability
• Leadership and Responsibility
Grade 6: Write and evaluate numerical expressions
involving whole-number exponents.
(From the Common Core Standards)
 What if they can write the expressions but can’t
evaluate them?
 Does the standard require students to add, subtract,
multiply, and divide whole number exponents, too?
 Some teachers think whole numbers includes zero
and negative integers, so should we require students
to demonstrate proficiency with negative exponents
as well?
 Does the standard mean students can recognize
mistakes others make while evaluating such
• What if they can do this by rote, but can’t
explain the math behind the algorithm?
• What if they can do the standard this week,
but can’t do it two months from now?
• How many times and over what period of time
do students need to be able to do this in order
to be considered proficient?
• What does it mean to exceed this standard, if
that’s what our “A” grade represents?
SIX + 1 Writing Traits Sample Rubric -- Ideas and Content
[From Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, 101 SW Main, Suite 500, Portland, OR
5 = This paper is clear and focused. It holds the reader's
attention. Relevant anecdotes and details enrich the
central theme or storyline. Ideas are fresh and
original. The writer seems to be writing from
knowledge or experience and shows insight: an
understanding of life and a knack for picking out what
is significant. Relevant, telling, quality details give the
reader important information that goes beyond the
obvious or predictable. The writer develops the topic in
an enlightening, purposeful way that makes a point or
tells a story. Every piece adds something to the whole.
4n + 16 = 5n – 8
-n = -24
n = +24
(4 x 24) + 16 = (5x24) - 8
96 + 16 = 120 - 8
112 = 112
What will you and your colleagues accept as evidence
of full mastery and of almost mastery?
• Spelling test non-example
• No echoing or parroting
• Regular conversations with
subject-like colleagues
• Other teachers grading your
students’ work
• Pacing Guides
• Common Assessments
Quick Reference: Differentiated Lesson Planning Sequence
A. Steps to take before designing the learning experiences:
1. Identify your essential understandings, questions,
benchmarks, objectives, skills, standards, and/or learner
2. Identify your students with unique needs, and get an early
look at what they will need in order to learn and achieve.
3. Design your formative and summative assessments.
4. Design and deliver your pre-assessments based on the
summative assessments and identified objectives.
5. Adjust assessments or objectives based on your further
thinking discovered while designing the assessments.
B. Steps to take while designing the learning experiences:
1. Design the learning experiences for students based on preassessments, your knowledge of your students, and your
expertise with the curriculum, cognitive theory, and students
at this stage of human development.
2. Run a mental tape of each step in the lesson sequence to
make sure things make sense for your diverse group of
students and that the lesson will run smoothly.
3. Review your plans with a colleague.
4. Obtain/Create materials needed for the lesson.
5. Conduct the lesson.
6. Adjust formative and summative assessments and objectives
as necessary based on observations and data collected while
C. Steps to take after providing the learning
1. Evaluate the lesson’s success with students.
What evidence do you have that the lesson
was successful? What worked and what
didn’t, and why?
2. Record advice on lesson changes for yourself
for when you do this lesson in future years.
Feedback vs Assessment
Feedback: Holding up a mirror to students, showing
them what they did and comparing it what they
should have done – There’s no evaluative
Assessment: Gathering data so we can make a
Greatest Impact on Student Success:
Formative feedback
What does our understanding of feedback
mean for our use of homework?
Is homework more formative or
summative in nature? Whichever it is, its
role in determining grades will be
dramatically different.
“If we don’t count
homework heavily,
students won’t do it.”
Do you agree with this?
Does this sentiment cross a line?
Two Homework Extremes
that Focus Our Thinking
• If a student does none of the homework
assignments, yet earns an “A” (top grade) on every
formal assessment we give, does he earn anything
less than an “A” on his report card?
• If a student does all of the homework well yet
bombs every formal assessment, isn’t that also a
red flag that something is amiss, and we need to
take corrective action?
Be clear: We mark and grade against
standards/outcomes, not the routes
students take or techniques teachers
use to achieve those
Given this premise, marks/grades for these activities can no longer
be used in the academic report of what students know and can do
regarding learner standards: maintaining a neat notebook, group
discussion, class participation, homework, class work, reading log minutes,
band practice minutes, dressing out in p.e., showing up to perform in an
evening concert, covering textbooks, service to the school, group projects,
signed permission slips, canned foods for canned food drive…
Accuracy of the Final Report Card Grade versus the Level
of Use of Formative Assessment Scores in the Final
Report Grade
High Final
Grade Accuracy
Low Final
Grade Accuracy
Low Use of
Formative Scores
in the Final Grade
High Use of
Formative Scores
in the Final Grade
Set up your gradebook into two sections:
Assignments and assessments
completed on the way to
mastery or proficiency
Final declaration
of mastery or
Assessment AS/FOR Learning
• Grades rarely used, if ever
• Marks and feedback are used
• Share learning goals with students from the
• Make adjustments in teaching a result of
formative assessment data
• Provide descriptive feedback to students
• Provide opportunities for student for self-and
peer assessment
-- O’Connor, p. 98,
Teacher Action
Result on Student
Just telling students # correct and Negative influence on
Clarifying the scoring criteria
Increase of 16 percentile points
Providing explanations as to why
their responses are correct or
Increase of 20 percentile points
Asking students to continue
Increase of 20 percentile points
responding to an assessment until
they correctly answer the items
Graphically portraying student
Increase of 26 percentile points
-- Marzano, CAGTW, pgs 5-6
Topic or
Reducing to
Smplst trms
Reducing to
Smplst trms
Really Don’t
The chart on the previous slide is based on an
idea found in the article below:
Stiggins, Rick. “Assessment Through the
Student’s Eyes,” Educational Leadership, May
2007, Vol. 64, No. 8, pages 22 – 26, ASCD
Evaluating the Usefulness
of Assessments
• What are your essential and enduring skills and content
you’re trying to assess?
• How does this assessment allow students to demonstrate
their mastery?
• Is every component of that objective accounted for in the
• Can students respond another way and still satisfy the
requirements of the assessment task? Would this alternative
way reveal a student’s mastery more truthfully?
• Is this assessment more a test of process or content? Is that
what you’re after?
Clear and Consistent Evidence
We want an accurate portrayal of a
student’s mastery, not something clouded by a
useless format or distorted by only one
opportunity to reveal understanding.
Differentiating teachers require accurate
assessments in order to differentiate
Great differentiated assessment
is never kept in the dark.
“Students can hit any target they can see
and which stands still for them.”
-- Rick Stiggins, Educator and Assessment expert
If a child ever asks, “Will this be on the
test?”.….we haven’t done our job.
Successful Assessments are Varied
and They are Done Over Time
• Assessments are often snapshot-in-time, inferences
of mastery, not absolute declarations of exact
• When we assess students through more than one
format, we see different sides to their
understanding. Some students’ mindmaps of their
analyses of Renaissance art rivals the most cogent,
written versions of their classmates.
Why Do We Grade?
• Provide feedback
• Document progress
• Guide instructional decisions
--------------------------------------------• Motivate
• Punish
• Sort students
What about incorporating attendance, effort,
and behavior in the final grade?
Standards-based Grading Impacts Behavior, not
just Report Cards:
“When schools improve grading
policies – for example, by disconnecting
grades from behavior – student
achievement increases and behavior
improves dramatically.”
(Doug Reeves, ASCD’s Educational
Leadership, 2008, p. 90, Reeves)
• Teaching and learning can and do occur without
• We do not give students grades in order to teach
• Grades reference summative experiences only –
cumulative tests, projects, demonstrations, NOT formative experiences.
• Students can learn without grades, but they must
have feedback.
• Grades are inferences based upon a sampling of
student’s work in one snapshot moment in time. As
such they are highly subjective and relative.
A grade represents a valid and undiluted
indicator of what a student knows
and is able to do – mastery.
With grades we document progress in students
and our teaching, we provide feedback to
students and their parents, and we make
instructional decisions.
‘Time to Change the Metaphor:
Grades are NOT compensation.
Grades are communication: They are
an accurate report of what happened.
10 Practices to Avoid in a Differentiated Classroom
[They Dilute a Grade’s Validity and Effectiveness]
• Penalizing students’ multiple attempts at mastery
• Grading practice (daily homework) as students
come to know concepts [Feedback, not grading, is
• Withholding assistance (not scaffolding or
differentiating) in the learning when it’s needed
• Group grades
• Incorporating non-academic factors (behavior,
attendance, and effort)
• Assessing students in ways that do not accurately
indicate students’ mastery (student responses are
hindered by the assessment format)
• Grading on a curve
• Allowing Extra Credit
• Defining supposedly criterion-based grades in terms
of norm-referenced descriptions (“above average,”
“average”, etc.)
• Recording zeroes on the 100.0 scale for work not
0 or 50 (or 60)?
100-pt. Scale:
0, 100, 100, 100, 100, 100 -- 83% (C+)
60, 100, 100, 100, 100, 100 -- 93% (B+)
Be clear: Students are not getting
points for having done nothing. The
student still gets an F. We’re simply
equalizing the influence of the each
grade in the overall grade and
responding in a way that leads to
Imagine the Reverse…
A = 100 – 40
B = 39 – 30
C = 29 – 20
D = 19 – 10
F= 9– 0
What if we reversed the
proportional influences of the
grades? That “A” would have a
huge, yet undue, inflationary
effect on the overall grade. Just
as we wouldn’t want an “A” to
have an inaccurate effect, we
don’t want an “F” grade to have
such an undue, deflationary, and
inaccurate effect. Keeping
zeroes on a 100-pt. scale is just
as absurd as the scale seen here.
Consider the
A (0) on a 100-pt. scale is a
(-6) on a 4-pt. scale. If a student
does no work, he should get
nothing, not something worse than
nothing. How instructive is it to tell
a student that he earned six times
less than absolute failure? Choose to
be instructive, not punitive.
[Based on an idea by Doug Reeves, The Learning Leader, ASCD, 2006]
Temperature Readings for Norfolk, VA:
85, 87, 88, 84, 0
(‘Forgot to take the reading)
Average: 68.8 degrees
This is inaccurate for what really happened,
and therefore, unusable.
When we’re talking about converting zeroes to
50’s or higher, we’re referring to zeroes earned on
major projects and assessments, not homework, as
well as anything graded on a 100-point scale. It’s
okay to give zeroes on homework or on small
scales, such as a 4.0 scale. Zeroes recorded for
homework assignments do not refer to final,
accurate declarations of mastery, and those zeroes
don’t have the undue influence on small grading
Grading Late Work
• One whole letter grade down for each
day late is punitive. It does not teach
students, and it removes hope.
• A few points off for each day late is
instructive; there’s hope.
• Yes, the world beyond school is like this.
Helpful Consideration for Dealing with
Student’s Late Work:
Is it chronic….
…or is it occasional?
We respond differently, depending on
which one it is.
This quarter, you’ve taught:
4-quadrant graphing
Slope and Y-intercept
Multiplying binomials
3-dimensional solids
Area and Circumference of a circle.
The student’s grade: B
What does this mark tell us about the student’s proficiency with
each of the topics you’ve taught?
Unidimensionality – A single score on a test represents a single dimension
or trait that has been assessed
Total Score
Problem: Most tests use a single score to assess multiple
dimensions and traits. The resulting score is often invalid and
useless. -- Marzano, CAGTW, page 13
Setting Up Gradebooks in
a Differentiated Classroom
• Avoid setting up gradebooks according to
formats or media used to demonstrate
mastery: tests, quizzes, homework, projects,
writings, performances
• Instead, set up gradebooks according to
mastery: objectives, benchmarks, standards,
learner outcomes
Summative Assessments
XYZ Test,
part 1
Student: ______________________________
EFG Observ.
XYZ Test,
part 2
Perf. Task
1.1 [Descriptor]
1.2 [Descriptor]
1.3 [Descriptor]
1.4 [Descriptor]
1.5 [Descriptor]
Gradebooks and Report Cards in the Differentiated Classroom:
Ten Important Attributes
1. Everything is clearly communicated, easily
2. Use an entire page per student
3. Set up according to Standards/Outcomes
4. Disaggregate!
5. No averaging – Determine grades based on
central tendency, trend, mode
Gradebooks and Report Cards in the Differentiated Classroom:
Ten Important Attributes
6. Behavior/Effort/Attendance separated from
Academic Performance
7. Grades/Marks are as accurate as possible
8. Some students may have more marks/grades than
9. Scales/Rubric Descriptors readily available, even
summarized as possible
10. Grades/marks revisable
Responsive Report Formats
Adjusted Curriculum Approach:
Grade the student against his own progression, but
indicate that the grade reflects an adjusted
curriculum. Place an asterisk next to the grade or
check a box on the report card indicating such, and
include a narrative comment in the cumulative
folder that explains the adjustments.
Responsive Report Formats
Progression and Standards Approach:
Grade the student with two grades, one indicating his
performance with the standards and another
indicating his own progression. A, B, C, D, or F
indicates the student’s progress against state
standards, while 3, 2, or 1 indicates his personal
Responsive Report Formats
Multiple Categories Within Subjects Approach:
Divide the grade into its component pieces. For
example, a “B” in Science class can be subdivided
into specific standards or benchmarks such as,
“Demonstrates proper lab procedure,” “Successfully
employs the scientific method,” or “Uses proper
nomenclature and/or taxonomic references.”
The more we try to aggregate into a single symbol, the less
reliable that symbol is as a true expression of what a student
knows and is able to do.
Report Cards without Grades
Standards Rating
English 9
Standard 1 Usage/Punct/Spelling
Standard 2 Analysis of Literature
Standard 3 Six + 1 Traits of Writing
Standard 4 Reading Comprehension
Standard 5 Listening/Speaking
Standard 6 Research Skills
Additional Comments from Teachers:
Health and Maturity Records for the Grading Period:
100 point scale or 4.0 Scale?
• A 4.0 scale has a high inter-rater reliability.
Students’ work is connected to a detailed descriptor
and growth and achievement rally around listed
• In 100-point or larger scales, the grades are more
subjective. In classes in which teachers use
percentages or points, students, teachers, and
parents more often rally around grade point
averages, not learning.
• Pure mathematical averages of grades for a grading
period are inaccurate indicators of students’ true
• A teacher’s professional judgment via clear
descriptors on a rubric actually increases the
accuracy of a student’s final grade as an indicator of
what he learned.
• A teacher’s judgment via rubrics has a stronger
correlation with outside standardized tests than
point or average calculations do.
Office of Educational Research and
Improvement Study (1994):
Students in impoverished communities that
receive high grades in English earn the same
scores as C and D students in affluent
Math was the same: High grades in
impoverished schools equaled only the D
students’ performance
in affluent schools.
Accurate grades are based on the most
consistent evidence. We look at the pattern of
achievement, including trends, not the average of
the data. This means we focus on the median and
mode, not mean, and the most recent scores are
weighed heavier than earlier scores.
Median: The middle test score of a distribution,
above and below which lie an equal
number of test scores
Mode: The score occurring most frequently in
a series of observations or test data
Suggested Language to Use in Parents’ Handbook:
Parents, as we are basing students' grades on
standards for each discipline, final grades are first and
foremost determined by our teachers' professional
opinion of your child's work against those standards,
not by mathematical calculations. Teachers have
been trained in analyzing student products against
standards and in finding evidence of that learning
using a variety of methods. Please don't hesitate to
inquire how grades for your child were determined if
you are unsure.
Allowing Students to Re-do
Assignments and Tests for Full Credit:
• Always, “…at teacher discretion.”
• It must be within reason.
• Students must have been giving a sincere effort.
• Require parents to sign the original assignment or test,
requesting the re-do.
• Require students to submit a plan of study that will enable
them to improve their performance the second time around.
Allow Students to Re-do Assignments and Tests for Full
• Identify a day by which time this will be accomplished or the
grade is permanent.
• With the student, create a calendar of completion that will
help them achieve it.
• Require students to submit original with the re-done version
so you can keep track of their development
• Reserve the right to give alternative versions
• No-re-do’s the last week of the grading period
• Sometimes the greater gift is to deny the option.
Grading Inclusion Students
Question #1:
“Are the standards set for the whole class also
developmentally appropriate for this student?”
• If they are appropriate, proceed to Question #2.
• If they are not appropriate, identify which standards
are appropriate, making sure they are as close as
possible to the original standards. Then go to
question #2.
Grading Inclusion Students
Question #2:
“Will these learning experiences (processes) we’re
using with the general class work with the inclusion
student as well?”
• If they will work, then proceed to Question #3.
• If they will not work, identify alternative pathways to
learning that will work. Then go to Question #3.
Grading Inclusion Students
Question #3:
“Will this assessment instrument we’re using to get an
accurate rendering of what general education students know
and are able to do regarding the standard also provide an
accurate rendering of what this inclusion student knows and is
able to do regarding the same standard?
• If the instrument will provide an accurate rendering of the
inclusion student’s mastery, then use it just as you do with the
rest of the class.
• If it will not provide an accurate rendering of the inclusion
student’s mastery, then identify a product that will provide
that accuracy, and make sure it holds the student accountable
for the same universal factors as your are asking of the other
Grading Gifted Students
• Insure grade-level material is learned.
• If it’s enrichment material only, the grade still
represents mastery of on-grade-level material. An
addendum report card or the comment section
provides feedback on advanced material.
• If the course name indicates advanced material
(Algebra I Honors, Biology II), then we grade against
those advanced standards.
• If the student has accelerated a grade level or more,
he is graded against the same standards as his older
Great New Books on Feedback, Assessment, and
• Elements of Grading, Doug Reeves, 2010
• How to Give Feedback to Your Students, Susan M. Brookhart,
ASCD, 2008
• Developing Performance-Based Assessments, Grades 6-12,
Nancy P. Gallavan, Corwin Press, 2009
• Measuring Up: What Educational Testing Really Tells Us,
Daniel Koretz, Harvard University Press, 2008
• Assessment Essentials for Stnadards-Based Education, Second
Edition, James H. McMillan, Corwin Press, 2008
• Balanced Assessment, From Formative to Summative, Kay
Burke, Solution Tree, 2010
Recommended Reading on Assessment and Grading
• Arter, Judith A.; McTighe, Jay; Scoring Rubrics in the
Classroom : Using Performance Criteria for Assessing and
Improving Student Performance, Corwin Press, 2000
• Benjamin, Amy. Differentiating Instruction: A Guide for
Middle and High School Teachers, Eye on Education, 2002
• Black, Paul; William, Dylan. 1998. “Inside the Black Box:
Raising Standards through Classroom Assessment,” Phi Delta
kappan, 80(2): 139-148
• Borich, Gary D.; Tombari, Martin L. Educational Assessment
for the Elementary and Middle School Classroom (2nd
Edition), Prentice Hall, 2003
• Brookhart, Susan. 2004. Grading. Upper Saddle River, NJ:
Merrill/Prentice Hall
Recommended Reading on Assessment and Grading
• Fisher, Douglas; Frey, Nancy. Checking for Understanding: Formative
Assessment Techniques for your Classroom, ASCD, 2007
• Heacox, Diane, Ed.D. Differentiated Instruction in the Regular Classroom,
Grades 3 – 12, Free Spirit Publishing, 2000
• Lewin, Larry; Shoemaker, Betty Jean. Great Performances: Creating
Classroom-Based Assessment Tasks, John Wiley & Sons, 1998
• Marzano, Robert. Transforming Classroom Grading, ASCD 2001
• Marzano, Robert. Classroom Assessment and Grading that Work, ASCD 2006
• Marzano, Robert; McTighe, Jay; and Pickering, Debra. Assessing Student
Outcomes: Performance Assessment Using the Dimensions of Learning
Model, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1993
Recommended Reading
• Millan, James H. Classroom Assessment: Principles and Practice for
Effective Instruction (2nd Edition), Allyn & Bacon, 2000
• O’Connor, Ken; How to Grade for Learning, 2nd Edition, Thousand Oaks,
CA, Corwin Press (3rd edition coming in 2009)
• O’Connor, Ken; A Repair Kit for Grading: 15 Fixes for Broken Grades, ETS
publishers, 2007
• Popham, W. James; Test Better, Teach Better: The Intsructional Role of
Assessment, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development,
• Popham, W. James; Classroom Assessment : What Teachers Need to
Know (4th Edition), Pearson Education, 2004
• Rutherford, Paula. Instruction for All Students, Just ASK Publications, Inc
(703) 535-5432, 1998
• Stiggins, Richard J. Student-Involved Classroom Assessment (3rd
Edition), Prentice Hall, 2000
• Wiggins, Grant; Educative assessment: Assessment to
Inform and Improve Performance, Jossey-Bass
Publishers, 1997
Grant Wiggins Web site and organization:
Center on Learning, Assessment, and School Structure
• Wormeli, Rick. Fair Isn’t Always Equal: Assessment
and Grading in the Differentiated Classroom.
Stenhouse Publishers, 2006
“I was put on earth by God
in order to accomplish a certain number
of things…
right now I am so far behind…
I will never die!”
-Calvin and Hobbes
“Opposition to change remains
inevitable. In fact, if your proposed
change does not engender opposition,
then you should question whether or not
what you are proposing really represents
meaningful change.”
- p. 11, Doug Reeves, Leading Change in your School, ASCD, 2009
Accept the fact that there is
no one way to get your whole
faculty on board. Waiting for 100%
buy-in is a willful act of
Another Act of
Willful Failure:
Changing structures,
programs without
changing teacher
beliefs as well.
How do education leaders maintain any
new building or district initiative?
Remember: When asking how to
maintain differentiated practices,
for example, we’re really asking
how to maintain effective teaching.
Important Administrative Questions
 What are our own interpretations and preferences
when it comes to assessment and grading: Are they
accurate? What are we doing to keep informed?
 To what degree will we accept philosophies in our
teachers that are different from our own?
 How can we tell if a teacher is assessing and grading
successfully? How do we know if a teacher’s
approach is developmentally appropriate for
Important Administrative Questions
 What does, “Fair isn’t always equal” look like in a
 Does assessment inform the teacher’s practice?
 How can we facilitate struggling teachers’ growth in
assessment and grading?
Be careful what you wish for -- If a teacher gets into
standards-based assessment and grading, some
conventional practices become suspect. Are you ready
for the conversations to be had?
• How to interpret and use of standardized testing data...
• When a student fails to learn, teachers question their
instructional approach rather than automatically
blaming the student.
• Teachers can change their lesson plans daily, depending
on the needs of students, regardless of what’s been
submitted for approval earlier.
• Teachers need more opportunities to increase their
instructional flexibility, i.e. they need to build their
repertoire of responses.
• Teachers are asked to make decisions based on
assessment data, and they are asked to explain those
decisions publicly.
• Teachers will work more collaboratively with those in and out of
the building.
• Teachers emphasize formative over summative assessment.
• Homework assignments will be different for some students, and it
will not count heavily in the final grade, if at all.
• Final exams will not carry as much weight.
• Grading will be criterion-referenced (standards-based). This is the
beginning of intense conversations on what teachers will accept as
evidence of mastery, and the end of averaging, using zeroes on the
100-point scale, tabulating points, using percentages, and setting up
gradebooks according to formats (Teachers will use individual
standards instead).
• Teachers will claim that this isn’t done in upper grade levels so isn’t
differentiating instruction/assessment/grading a disservice to
• Parents will need to be trained – every year.
With colleagues,
reflect on the bigger questions:
Why do we grade students?
What does a grade mean?
Does our current approaches best serve students?
How do we communicate with parents?
How does assessment inform our practice?
Is what we’re doing fair and developmentally appropriate?
How can we counter the negative impact of poverty on our
students’ learning?
What role does practice play in mastery?
What is mastery for each curriculum we teach?
What is homework, and how much should it count in the
overall grade?
How are our current structures limiting us?
With colleagues,
reflect on the bigger questions:
Whose voice is not heard in our deliberations?
What evidence of mastery will we accept?
What do we know about differentiated practices and the latest
in cognitive theory and how are those aspects manifest in
our classrooms? If not, why not?
Are we mired in complacency?
Are we doing things just to perpetuate what has always been
Are we open to others’ points of view – why or why not?
Does our report card express what we’re doing in the
How are modern classrooms different from classrooms thirty
years ago?
Where will our practices look like 15 years from now?
To what extent do we allow state, provincial, country, or
international exams to influence our classroom practices?
Skill Sets Teachers Need in Order to Work
Together to Improve Practices
• How to write and talk about teaching; how to make the
implicit explicit
• Formative versus Summative Assessments
• Cognitive Science applied in the classroom
• How to critique each other constructively
• How to work with mentors/coaches
• How to read, critique, and share professional materials –
text, Websites, videos, research.
Highly Recommended:
1. John Hattie, Visible Learning, 2008
2. Gerald Bracey’s works:
– Bail Me Out: Handling Difficult Data and Tough Questions
About Public Schools, 2000
– Reading Educational Research: How to Avoid Getting
Statistically Snookered, 2006
– Setting the Record Straight: Responses to Misconceptions
About Public Education in the U.S., 2004
– RESEARCH: “Tips for Readers of Research: 'Seeing Through'
the Graphs.” Kappan, Phi Delta Kappa, Inc., February,
Clearly Define Standards-based
Assessment and Grading
• Create a working definition
• Provide/Generate examples of what it is
and is not
• Bust myths
• Practice identifying it in classrooms:
videos, peer observation, written
1. Students are working in small groups on an assigned
task. One student isn’t cooperating with the rest of
his group, however, and as a result, the group is
falling farther behind the other groups. What happens
when it comes to grading the group’s product?
2. A student keeps re-doing an essay in order to
improve his grade, but he seems to disregard the
advice the teacher gives him on each attempt. He
makes a few cosmetic changes and re-arranges
some words, but there’s no substantive change. He
and the teacher are getting frustrated at his lack of
3. Eleven students do not do the assignment from last
night. Consequently, they are not prepared to move on
with the class in today’s task. What is an effective
instructional response? And when it comes to
A student just moved into your class and school
from out of state, and he seems to not have the basic
foundations that you’ve already taught your class. Those
foundations are very important for students to know for the
next unit of study you have to teach.
A.Two students struggle with graphing the intersection of two inequalities,
so the teacher asks them to graph only one instead.
B. One student turns his work in on time, but only gets a B grade. Another
turns in his work, but receives an F on it. Two weeks later, he re-submits
the work and it receives an “A.” Is this fair to the first student who
followed the rules for the deadline?
C. A student gets 100% on a pre-test, so the teacher asks the student to
do a personal research topic related to the general subject of the unit for
the duration of their studies.
D.All students in Mr. Brown’s class keep journals in math. The type of
journal matches each student’s strengths and interests. For example,
one journal is for the students whose verbal skills are stronger than their
math skills. Students keep a list of math terms learned in class and then
use the terms in sentences. Another journal is for students have good
visual-spatial skills. These students draw pictures to remind them of
math vocabulary. How do we assess them fairly?
Tips for Difficult Conversations, taken from the Website:
1.Honor the perspectives and experiences participants bring to the
2.Set the tone from the beginning: Ask everyone to play Socrates or
Devil’s Advocate at every turn. If possible, make it a responsibility to be
contrarian so as to help everyone fully explore the idea or principle.
Unexamined concepts don’t serve us as well as fully examined ones do,
and we give ideas life through debate, not quick acquiescence.
One way to do this is to distribute large index cards
with, “Yeah, but…” or, “Yeah, and…” written boldly across the front.
Participants wave the cards when they have a concern. The card in
their hands reminds that it’s okay to debate and share concerns, and
waving them gives them a vehicle to introduce them.
3. Provide the big picture perspective. When there is
serious division among the group, or one teacher is
largely contrarian in an uncooperative way, ask the
larger questions of what you’re studying: “What if we
applied this policy to all students in all situations –
Would it still be effective?” “What’s the role of
4. Ask them to try the new idea on just one assessment,
for just one subset of students, or for a finite period of
time, then to return to the group with the results for
group consideration. This helps everyone see the
endeavor as analytical and clinical, and no one is
panicked by permanence. (Call it a, “Pilot” program)
Start with a Few…
 Identify 3 or 4 staff already differentiating or
willing to give it a shot…and support their
journey with everything you’ve got.
 Ask them to present their journey to the
faculty -- ‘mistakes, successes, ‘everything.
 Invite a parent or three to be a part of the
a Culture of Expectancy
 “This is our way of doing things around here.”
 Letter to potential new faculty
 Immersion -- If it’s in sight, it’s in mind, so put it in
 Publicize at faculty meetings, newsletters, letter to
parents, news organizations, Website
 Promote in public spaces used by teachers
 Attach differentiated instruction practices to
professional goals and annual evaluation
Changing a Building/District’s Culture
Great publications for culture change can be
found at:
Corwin Press
Solution Tree
Lead and Learn
End hypocrisy…
Teachers Lead
 Identify two or more teachers to coordinate the
journey for the building. Empower them to make
decisions on behalf of the faculty.
 Maintain a place on the school’s Intranet to post
questions and have them answered by teachers or
guest experts (local and national trainers and
authors on differentiation).
 Ask these teachers to train you and the rest of the
administration as well – ‘creates credence,
empathy, and knowledge
Put time, energy, people, and money into
coaching/mentoring teachers.
-- PLC’s
-- Critical Friends
-- Teacher Action Research
-- Becoming a Lab
School for a local
-- Beginning Teacher
Induction programs
Assessment and
Grading Practices
What do we want our students to learn?
How will we know when they have learned it?
How will we respond when some students don’t learn?
How will we enrich and extend the learning for
students who have demonstrated Proficiency?
“Dipstick” frequently.
(a John Saphier term)
This includes a checklist for evidence of
standards-based assessment/grading in your
Walk-through observations.
Ask teachers to present evidence in planning and
practice. Consider both quantitative and
qualitative measures. What would this look like?
Bring at least one parent to every
conference or in-service training.
Open each Faculty Meeting with the Idea
A different group shares their
interactions with the topic for five to ten
minutes each meeting. Rotate different
departments and grade levels through
the presentation duty.
Use Department Meetings
At every department meeting:
Discuss an aspect of the idea and
prepare a report for the administration
Ask: What does this look like in our
Conduct Instructional Roundtables
One-hour or less
Someone (not limited to leaders) posts a
topic for discussion and a location for the
meeting two weeks in advance
All are invited, but ‘must have one idea to
share (photocopied) as ticket to the
Teacher Inservice Training
Alberta Assessment Consortium
Specific subject professional organizations
Authors and presenters
Speaker’s bureaus
“Wisdom Within” – experts in the building already
Consider Webcasts, E-Seminars, or Videocasts
Conduct Monthly or
Quarterly meetings
Gather together to debrief in small
groups about how things are going with
the new initiative.
Conduct Book Study Groups
Teachers and administrators
Request study guides from publisher, if
One month in duration, if possible
Disseminate articles/ideas in teacher
Keep the idea(s) in front of teachers
so it doesn’t get moved to the back
burner. Make sure to follow up with a
structured interactions.
Inform Parents
Educate parents of the school’s new
emphasis and invite them to look for
evidence of it in action. Invite parents to
help critique the impact of the new
Add the new program or emphasis to
the school’s publications such as
newsletters, Website, Work Plan,
accreditation materials, and promotional
school materials.
Regularly Affirm Small Steps
public recognition at faculty gatherings
private notes of thanks & encouragement
take over a teacher’s class in order to give
her an extra planning period
refer a teacher looking for help to a successful
post teacher successes somewhere visible
invite news organizations to interview teachers who’ve
been successful
ask successful teachers to take on leadership roles
Peer Observation System
Create a system of collegial feedback in which teachers
observe and analyze each other’s lessons in light of the
new faculty emphasis.
Assign someone the task of coordinating who’s partnering
with whom, as well as the dates and times for
observations and post-observation analysis.
Observations can be in person by giving up an occasional
planning (or providing a sub for a non-planning period
slot), or it can be done by video-taping the class and
analyzing the lesson with a colleague later.
Enlist retirees and parents to do the video-taping, if that’s
Keep a Sense of Humor
Humans are inconsistent and messy –
embrace it.
Three steps forward, two steps back.
Humor bonds.
Accept a Multi-Year
Learning Curve
Most big initiatives require 3 to 5 years to
become the culture of a school, with vigilant
attention to progress and training of new
faculty members.
C.B.A.M. -Concerns-Based Adoption Model
Teachers move through different stages of
concern – for themselves, for the task, for the
new idea’s impact – as well as through stages
of use. If we respond to each level of concern
and how teachers are using the idea,
teachers are more willing to partake in the
new initiative.
Teacher Concerns
6 - Refocusing
5 – Collaboration
4 – Consequences
3 – Management
2 – Personal
1 – Informational
0 – Awareness
Teachers Use of the New Idea
6 – Renewal
5 – Integration
4a/4b – Refinement/Routine
3 – Mechanical
2 – Preparation
1 – Orientation
0 – Non-use
Great CBAM Resources:
Taking Charge of Change
Shirley M. Hord, William L. Rutherford, Leslie HulingAustin, Gene E. Hall
ASCD, 1987
Also try, Southwest Educational Development
Laboratory catalog:
Stage 3
Stage 2
Stage 1
Keep the timeline and
accomplishments ever-visible.
Gather &
Analyze Data
to Determine
Monitor &
Breaking Ranks
A Field Guide
for Leading
Change, NASSP,
(BRIM for Middle
Create &
Readiness &

Where to Begin with Differentiated Instruction from an