They are seen by most parents and students, and are also a major consideration that teachers have when designing their lessons. As such, it can be daunting to examine district grading practices, exposing what Bob Marzano calls “practices… so imprecise that they are almost meaningless” (Marzano, 2000). This lack of transparency in grading can be comforting to districts and teachers, who are familiar with the process of generating a grade. These imprecise practices can also be comfortable – if not always comforting – to parents, who can interpret, at a glance, an A, B, C, D or F.
The imprecise and abstract notion of grading practices must be challenged by districts, giving students & parents, as well as teachers & administrators a more authentic understanding of what students are expected to learn and where a given student is on his/her journey of learning. Both the clarity and content of the report card must reflect what Thomas Guskey has termed process (responsibilities), progress (growth) and product (mastery of content). On our journey of education, we view the grade card as a postcard from the road, clarifying for parents how students are meeting their responsibilities, what type of progress we have made on our trip and when we will reach your eventual destination. This postcard does not motivate us to move faster, it simply communicates highlights from our trip.
Improved grading practices need not be as difficult as educators & parents sometimes think; small changes to accurately reflect learning instead of tasks can help drive great progress in the learning process.