Grading for Learning 1

Grading for Learning
Posted on 08/30/2021

Grading for Learning
By:  Brad Ellebracht--MHS Principal

 If you have ever built a house, you know how important it is to ensure that each step in the process is done properly.  You can cover over small imperfections, but it is important to make sure that the foundation and other key structural elements are done correctly. 

 When we look at a student’s academic work, it is a lot like building a house.  We have parts of the structure we have to make sure are done right.  This means that we have to clearly teach, assess and accurately report on those outcomes.  This will enable us to celebrate the fact that we can build knowing that prior work has been done properly, or if there are gaps or issues, we can identify and fix them.

 At Mexico High School we always want to do everything we can to support the learning of our students.  One key to this is to provide accurate, meaningful and consistent communication with students, families and our internal stakeholders in regards to the academic progress of students.  The grading and grade reporting processes are essential to promoting this communication and supporting the learning of our kids.

 Over the next few years we have set out on a mission to improve our grading systems to provide good communication/feedback to students and families as well as accurate and actionable data to improve our practices as a school. This endeavor will result, ultimately, in improved student learning and outcomes.

 In order for grades to be accurate and meaningful, we have to be really clear about our learning goals and ensure that we are measuring and reporting student progress in reaching those goals.  In the education world, we refer to those goals as standards.  We get our standards from local, state and national organizations.  For example, most of our standards are handed to us by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.    

 In traditional grading systems, teachers often used standards to drive instruction, but when it came to the grading process, other issues would often interfere with what was reported in the grade. As we move forward, we want to be clear that the grade represents performance level or outcomes relative to the goals/standards of the class. We want to make sure that students, parents and teachers all know what the evidence (classwork, tests, projects etc.) tells us about how the student is performing relative to the stated objective.

 Being clear about this will allow us to have meaningful conversations with students and families about the academic strengths and weaknesses of every student.  We want to have purposeful conversations with students and their families about student learning, their successes and where we find gaps.  Then we can have productive conversations where we celebrate or correct the habits and behaviors that will make the student successful.

 The report card you will see each grading period will not change much.  You will still see letter grades and grade point averages.  The difference will appear subtle, but being more clear, consistent and accurate will also allow us to use the data we get from grades to make better decisions about instruction, and our overall practice as a school.   It will also allow students and families to have a better understanding of the targets we are aiming for to achieve academic success.