5 KEY REASONS FOR RETHINKING LETTER GRADES
From the book
Rethinking Letter Grades: A Five-Step Approach for Aligning Letter Grades to Learning Standards
by Caren Cameron and Kathleen Gregory
In the introduction to Rethinking Letter Grades, the authors encourage teachers to think and talk more about how to arrive at letter grades. The focus, they say, needs to be on learning—the alignment between what students are expected to learn, the evidence selected to show the learning (rating scales, scoring keys, rubrics, test scores, observation records, discussion notes, and so on), and students’ level of performance for a reporting period.
In this book, the authors show teachers a five-step process for arriving at standards-based letter grades that moves away from adding up a string of marks to calculate a letter grade. They end with a brief summary of personal findings that stand out for each of them and are the key reasons that keep them working away on this complex, contentious, and emotional topic. The key reasons are:
1) The time previously used to justify a grade to parents can now be spent discussing a student’s next steps toward improvement. Rethinking letter grades helps shift conversation from a focus on numbers and “What did I get?”to a focus on learning.
2) The evidence collected gives all students the opportunity to show what they have learned, even when each has a different way of showing his or her learning. The letter grades assigned in this way are an accurate representation of students’ learning in relation to required learning standards.
3) When the mystery behind letter grades is removed, some students begin to see connections between what they do in class and the grade they receive on report cards. When struggling learners figure out how all of the pieces fit together, some change from believing “There’s nothing I can do about it” to seeing that they have some control over their letter grades.
4) The day-to-day stress of assigning letter grades is removed, and teachers can put more energy each and every day into the assessment-for-learning practices that make the most difference to learning.
5) Many parents and guardians are more familiar with letter grades that compare students to their classmates. However, by concretely showing the link between students’ performances in relation to learning standards, parents and students come to understand standards-based letter grades.
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