Last year we adopted a new four point grading scale in our K-8 schools. For our K-4 teachers, the idea of using a 4 point grading system was nothing new as they had been using the four point system to evaluate student learning against the common core standards for years. For our teachers who teach in grades 5-8 this was a departure from the traditional letter grade and 100 point system. These more traditional grading systems do not effectively measure student growth towards standards and create the conditions for subjectivity and unfair grading practices. For example, there are typically six degrees of failure within a 100 point system, 0 to 60.
The four point system creates equity and balances each level equally. Meaning that if you were to break down each value (1-4) into a percentage, they would each be 25%. Compare that to a 100 point system were the “F” is 60% and the “A” through “D” are each worth 10%. While we are on the subject, what does a “D” really get us? Students who are getting “Ds” are barely showing evidence of learning and yet for a long time we have pushed these students forward and out into society ill-prepared to meet the demands of civic life. I always ask people when talking about grading, “Would you want a “D” mechanic fixing your brakes?!”
The four point system levels the playing field and it compares student learning to meeting standards or as we refer to them as proficiencies and indicators. For example:
(1) Beginning to show evidence towards the proficiency
(2) Progressing towards the proficiency
(3) Meeting the proficiency
(4) Exceeding the proficiency
For most teachers, when it comes to evaluating student work, it is clear when a student is meeting or exceeding the proficiency. It is also pretty easy to evaluate when a student is really struggling to show evidence of learning. It’s the “2” or “progressing towards proficiency” that gets teachers really hung up when evaluating student work. Teachers feel that the “2” has a huge range and it is difficult to communicate to students and parents about what the “2” means for each individual student.
A couple of years ago, I attended a presentation by Karin Hess and she broke the 4 point grading scale this way:
My biggest take away from this is the importance of descriptive feedback. Teachers need to provide students and parents with the right information that shows the areas where a student is doing well in attaining the skills and knowledge, as well as the areas they are not doing well. One of the goals of grading and reporting is for teachers to communicate ways in which the student can improve.
More information on Karin Hess can be found here: https://www.karin-hess.com/