Our approach to working with teachers to improve the accuracy and equity of their grading and assessment leads to powerful results:
- Statistically significant decrease in failure rates, and to a greater degree for historically-underserved students
- Statistically significant decrease in grade inflation, and to a greater degree for white students and students from higher-income families
- Statistically significant increase in the correlation between teacher-assigned grades and standardized test scores, and to a greater degree for students from poorer families
- Improved learning relationships between teachers and students
- 98% of teachers who participated in professional learning on improved equitable grading would recommend it for other teachers
Decreases in failure rates and more accurate grades
San Leandro High School (grades 9-12) (San Leandro, CA)
Across the 30 teachers who participated in this professional development, there was a 4% decrease in D/F rates. This may seem small, but consider that each teacher has approximately 150 students x .04% x 60 teachers =
360 more passing grades!
For vulnerable and historically underserved populations, the effect of more accurate grading and assessment is even greater…
Results are consistent across partner schools…
Centennial College Prep Charter School (grades 6-8) (Los Angeles, CA)
Sobrato High School (Morgan Hill, CA)
Thomas Edison Public School–Middle School Grades (San Francisco, CA)
But do grades become more accurate?
Teachers’ grades become more strongly correlated to standardized test exam scores:
Centennial College Prep Charter School (grades 6-8) (Los Angeles, CA):
Comparison of Teachers’ Grades and California’s Common Core-Aligned Assessment (SBAC)
Jillian, 10th year teacher, 7th grade math / science*
My grading practices had pretty much been the same over time until this year… I knew something needed to change, but I didn’t have an idea of where to start, or what needed to be changed. I was just seeing that a lot of my students who I knew were strong in content – I could tell they knew what they were doing – their grades weren’t necessarily reflective of their abilities. I was surprised at their grades, like how was this possible? I just appreciate that we had this PD, because I had no idea how to get started, or how to find someone to help.When we first started [this work with Crescendo Ed Group], I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’m glad that it was more about getting us thinking, as opposed to, “That’s not working, so do it this way”. It’s more, “What were you doing? Was it working? Let’s think about this.”I’m now taking away the emphasis on homework; I’ve significantly lowered the percentage of what homework is worth. Before homework was worth 25% and tests were worth 60%. Now [that] we pull problems from classwork and homework into the assessments—so that they are actually practicing skills—homework is worth 5% and assessments are worth 80%. Students were just doing homework for the points and to help their grade, rather than doing it because it helps them. Now they start to realize there is a purpose. They see problems show up on the exams and they think, “Ok, maybe I should do more of the problems. It’s not just so I can get points.” I’ve seen them do more homework this year than in the last few years.
I’ve been trying the ‘no zero’ policy – being a little more flexible and understanding. Not that I wasn’t understanding before about what was going on at home and stuff, but before I was very adamant about deadlines, especially if I thought I had given them enough time and they didn’t turn it in. I felt like they were taking advantage and it wasn’t fair to others. This work is changing my thinking. I’m trying to be a little more flexible, a little more accommodating to prevent them getting a zero: I allow re-takes, and I place less weight on homework than I used to. I’ve found a lot of more of my students are turning in assignments. I said that if you turn in something, you will get the points. It’s important you turn in something so I can at least see what you are struggling with. Normally if they found it difficult, they would have said, “You know what, I’m just not going to do it,” and wouldn’t even try. Now they actually try and turn in something.
The 1-4 grading scale was difficult for us as math teachers to break down, to figure out what does it really look like in practice? Is it really fair to give a 1 to someone who wrote one sentence instead of three paragraphs, and also to someone who did the whole thing but with a lot of errors? I guess we all kind of decided, yes, it could be fair. For me, most of the time if a student only writes one sentence, it’s a student who is an IEP student or a “behavior” student, or a student who is at lower than grade level. The students who make a lot of errors, usually it is just a one-time thing, and they’ll say, “Yeah I know, I was in a rush”. Either way that 1 forces us to have a discussion and figure out why.
I have seen an impact on students already. It was rough at first, with the 1-4 scale. Students with a 1 would come to me and ask, “What does this mean?” I would explain to them, “Well, it just means you are still struggling a little…” But I’ve put a paper on the wall, and now there aren’t any questions about it anymore. A few students that usually get a 1 (a D), they know it’s not the best grade to get but it’s better than an F. They are not as upset as if they would have gotten an F.
I allow re-takes, which I didn’t used to. Before when they got an F they would think, “Oh, I just don’t get this, and there’s nothing I can do.” So now they can re-take the test and they figure out a way to get a better grade. I think it’s going to have a great effect on them. They’re going to take a little more ownership of their grades, they’ll see that the grades more reflect their abilities, and they’ll see that they can do the work. Sure they might struggle, but hopefully it will help them struggle more instead of turning immediately to “I can’t do it, and I don’t care.”
Sometimes the longer you teach the more set in your ways you get. I started thinking about what we were discussing in the PD, and I started to feel really bad for my previous students. What if by giving them Fs I have totally ruined things for them, and that maybe now they think they don’t have any ability…? I felt like a horrible teacher—and I know that wasn’t the point—but I had known all these years that I needed to do something different, and just didn’t know how, I didn’t know what. But I should have done something. I should have sought something out. I feel bad that it only happened 10 years later, but I am glad that it happened now.
*Case Study by external evaluator Shamsah Ebrahim, Ph.D.; Principal, Leading Edge Advisors