How teachers are changing grading practices with an eye on equity

February 14, 2019 | Mind/Shift

Nick Sigmon first encountered the idea of “grading for equity” when he attended a mandatory professional development training at San Leandro High School led by Joe Feldman, CEO of the Crescendo Education Group. As a fairly new high school physics teacher, Sigmon says he was open-minded to new ideas, but had thought carefully about his grading system and considered it fair already. Like many teachers, Sigmon had divided his class into different categories (tests, quizzes, classwork, homework, labs, notebook, etc.) and assigned each category a percentage. Then he broke each assignment down and assigned points. A student’s final grade was points earned divided by total points possible. He thought it was simple, neat and fair.

Looking back, however, Sigmon said this kind of system made it seem like teachers were setting up rules to a game. “They say these are the rules and whatever the score works out to be that is your grade,” he said.

Feldman’s training questioned whether that approach to grading is fair. Feldman laid out a case against giving points for homework and extra credit, and is absolutely against the 0-100 point scale that dominates many classrooms. He maintains that for grades to provide an accurate picture of what students know, they shouldn’t include behavioral things like homework and participation. And, he says when every teacher has a different set of grading practices it’s not only erratic, it’s inequitable.

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