What do Your Grades Represent?


This is an image of a report card. Though it is obviously dated, many current report cards might look quite similar. There are grades and perhaps some comments but little to no information about what the student can or can’t do. At best, these are vague representations of student ability.

Here are three points from research-based sources that could improve this situation:

  1. The most successful schools assess and report proficiency on each learning objective (Ken O’Conner)
  2. Schools need to build strong curriculum and provide interventions when needed (Multi-tiered Systems of Support)
  3. Schools need to provide access to learning in multiple formats (Universal Design for Learning)

Most would agree that they want to do these three things in their schools, so why isn’t it practiced more? The three big reasons are time, resources, and tradition. For time, it is challenging to set up a system of standards-aligned assessments and resources that provide actionable data. It is also expensive to pay people or buy systems that do it for you, and traditional structures like college admissions and grading practices can be challenging barriers to address.

Fortunately, technology now enables us to do these things without overwhelming our time and resources. We can set up sophisticated assessments, assign digital resources to individuals, and accommodate cooperative learning in flexible ways. At Kent ISD, we have developed a system called Edify that accommodates all of these practices. You can click on this link to learn more about how that works. However, this is not an advertisement for our tool; it is a call to consider your practices and move towards what is best for each student.

No matter what tools(s) we use, we should be striving to create learning structures that capture and organize student data efficiently, provide opportunities for teachers to connect with students in personalized as well as collective ways, and report out to stakeholders in a way that shows details about what a student can do – not just a vague letter with a dash or a plus.

Here are some links to how other tools can or could support a standards-based approach:

DiscoveryEd, Schoology, PowerTeacher (gradebook endorsed by Ken O’Connor), PowerSchool. and Moodle

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