Assessing and Grading Students

Assessments and grades are causing a lot of controversy within schools. Should we give students grades based on simply their work? Should we grade students on effort? How do we assess students with different learning needs? Should we stop giving end-of-unit tests and focus more on assessing students’ progress?  Assessment can be an intimidating topic for students to discuss with their teachers, but it really shouldn’t be.

In my English Methods class, we discuss assessment and grading almost every week. We read Jim Burke’s book The English Teacher’s Companion, and he spends a whole chapter discussing assessment and grading. Because there are both English and Social Science teachers-to-be in the class, we focus on many different types of assessments that can be used in both subjects.

Every single teacher needs to be able to assess their students. Assessment benefits the student as well as the teacher. If a teacher is not giving their students regular assessments, how will they know how their students are improving (or not improving) in their classes? How will teachers be able to give feedback to their students? How will students know how they’re doing in the classroom? Assessments also benefit parents of the students. If a parent comes into the classroom for a parent/teacher conference, they are expecting to hear how their student is doing in the class. If a teacher isn’t assessing the students, what will they tell the parents?

Grading is another topic that causes a lot of controversy in education. Is grading an effective way to judge how someone is doing in your class? What if students are bad test-takers and they get bad grades because of that? Can we give grades based on progress and effort, or should they strictly be based on content? I believe that all A’s do not have to be the same. What do I mean by this? Let’s say Johnny came into your 7th grade classroom the first day of school, and he was reading at a 3rd grade level. By the end of the year, he is reading at a 6th grade level. I would personally give him an A (at least for reading) because he progressed so much. You also have Jenny in your 7th grade classroom who begins the year reading at a 7th grade level. By the end of the year, she is reading at an 8th grade level. I would still give her an A in reading because she still progressed. Even though she didn’t progress as much as Johnny, she still improved and deserves recognition for her hard work.

Teachers need to decide how they are going to grade and assess their students based on their students’ needs and skills. I don’t think teachers can simply not grade their students, but I do think teachers can choose to give grades based on the content knowledge and progress and effort. Many teachers feel that grades should be based solely on content knowledge, but I think the journey a student takes from the beginning of the year to the end of the year should be taken into consideration.

Jim Burke, Kelly Gallagher, and Nancie Atwell are three great teachers who discuss how they assess and grade in their classrooms. Although they all have different methods of assessment and grading, their ideas should be considered in all classrooms. Ultimately, the needs of the students are the most important things teachers should be focused on. Teachers can choose to assess and grade based on content knowledge, progress, and/or effort, depending on the skills and needs of their students.


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