Feedback: Grading vs. Reporting

Believe it or not, tomorrow marks the halfway point of Trimester 1!  Six weeks have passed as we celebrate the midpoint of the term with progress reports and formalized feedback to students and parents on how they are doing at school…both academically and behaviorally.

Cue: Employability Rubric!

Some folks have been giving students feedback with the employability rubric tied to individual assignments and activities throughout the trimester.  Others choose to report separately on the employability skills at determined points during the term.  Still others provide more summative feedback at the end of the trimester.  Regardless of the approach, the employability rubric provides a great opportunity to engage students in a reflective dialogue about how they are doing with regard to work completion, behavior, working with others, and participation.

But why give this feedback separately from grades?  Why not just roll them into a single letter grade?  Why do we have the employability rubric?  The research is quite convincing on this subject.  According to O’Connor (2009a), variables such as effort, attitude, and participation should be reported separately because they are “difficult to define and even more difficult to measure” (p. 96).

Consider the following research:

Stiggins, Frisbie, and Griswold (1989) recommended that for grades to be accurate and reliable, teachers must communicate grading methods to students and exclude attitude, interest, and personality from grades (p. 14).

According to Gathercoal (2004), grades are often misinterpreted because of “excessive entanglement between achievement and behavior” (p. 153).

Reeves (2008) concluded that when schools disconnect grades from behavior, “student achievement increases and behavior improves dramatically” (p. 90).

Guskey (2009) recommended that school report separate grade for student achievement, learning skills, and student growth (p. 20).

O’Connor (2009b) suggested that “grades must be about achievement with behaviors reported separately” (p. 6).

Consider also the national trend.  Council Bluffs is not alone.  The national trend in grading is to separate academic grades from student behavior reporting.  In fact, a cursory search of grading policies found reporting schemes similar to the Employability Skills Rubric in the following mid- to large-sized urban school districts:

  • Indianapolis, Indiana (Pike Township)
  • Kirkwood, Missouri (St. Louis)
  • Sun Prairie, Wisconsin (Madison)
  • Hayfield, Minnesota (Rochester)
  • Kodiak, Alaska

Moreover, the practice of reporting important personal assest, deportments, or employability skills separately from grades is not a recent phenomenon.  Consider the image below…from the 1950s!  Letter grades to communicate academic progress and scores to communicate behavioral performance.

With solid research, national trends, and even historical practices as a compass, it appears that we are on the right track with the employability rubric!

Gathercoal, F. (2004). Judicious discipline. (6th ed.). San Francisco: Caddo Gap Press.
Guskey, T. R. (2009). Grading policies that work against standards…and how to fix them.  In T. R. Guskey (Ed.), Practical Solutions for Serious Problems in Standards-Based Grading (pp. 9-26). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
O’Connor, K. (2009a). How to grade for learning.  Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
O’Connor, K. (2009b). Reforming grading practices in secondary schools. Principal’s Research Review, 4(1), 1-7.
Reeves, D. B. (2008). Improving student attendance. Educational Leadership, 65(8), 90-91.
Stiggins, R.J., Frisbie, D.A., & Griswold, P.A. (1989). Inside high school grading practices: Building a research agenda. Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice, 8(2), 5-14.

About Dr. Corey Vorthmann

Supervisor of Secondary Education
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7 Responses to Feedback: Grading vs. Reporting

  1. Tera Schechinger says:

    It was even on Rock center with Brian Williams last night. An inner city school, KIPP Charter) and a private boarding school in New York are using both a GPA and a CPA (Character Point Average). The take away was that these skills can be taught not just inherently learned from a solid home life.

  2. Jason Plourde says:

    The 50′ s…. Elvis, Buddy Holly, James Dean AND “deportments” (employability rubrics)… Who would of thought? Sounds like CB is on the right track and leading the charge locally and throughout the metro. Great job CB Grading Team!

  3. Kim Kazmierczak says:

    Think how amazing it would be if a grade corresponded to actual performance against the national standards. We could get the proverbial birds with one stone. Parents would know exactly where their child stood in comparison to what they are expected to learn; how they are progressing and how they compare to others of the same peer group. We would know our effectiveness and focus against the curriculum. Achievement would zoom! I believe that the employability rubric, performance standards and summative grading practices (A,B,C,D) can find cohesiveness with teachers who have a deep understanding of the rationale and are able to apply the concepts in meaningful ways. It can happen!

  4. Mandy Stark says:

    I feel that employability scores can have a huge impact but we need to take it a step further and explain these grades to our students, why are they attached to an assignment, or why are they getting the scores they are on work completion, attitude, etc. I feel that we have not completed this step and students/parents do not fully understand what the employability grades are or mean to us or the student.

  5. htotten says:

    I have seen several schools successfully develop and implement an independent grading model very similar to our “employability rubric.” I know that students here at Wilson are aware of this additional grading system, but I am not sure if they quite understand the impact that it could have to help them as they grow throughout middle school and into high school!

  6. rmarshall says:

    I do agree that Employability grades need to be separate from a curriculum grade. Mandy has it right. We need to get the word out to parents and students about the use of these scores.

  7. Ann Mausbach says:

    I agree that our students don’t understand the employability grade. One of our collective challenges as a school district is to intentionally and consistently help students and parents understand what this “score” means. This means constant modeling and communication. Not easy, but worthy of our efforts.

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