Thursday, July 5, 2012

Grading in Social Studies - Emphasis on What Students Know and Can Do

Social studies teachers grades 6-12 have come a lot closer to eradicating "toxic" grading practices by following last year's department guidelines.  Several social studies staff members have been involved in our district grading committee. Many have attended professional development opportunities (e.g., Minnetonka Leadership) and have read various books on current grading practices. 

Teachers are trying their best to make grades reflect what students know and can do. A few teachers have switched to the 4 (5) point grading scale while some are still using the traditional 100 point scale. Teachers have either gotten rid of extra credit or have significantly reduced the impact of extra credit!  They are not using zeros to average into grades. In most cases grades are based on unit summative exams, essays or DBQ writing experiences, and possibly a project-based learning product. Rubrics have been developed for most essay/project type assignments and staff have spent some time making sure they are all evaluating work in a similar manner. Daily homework is viewed as formative assessment and counts (depending on the grade level) between 0 -15% of the grade.  
Secondly, all teachers as part of their Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) have implemented retake policies that require students to retake unit exams if they score below 70 percent.  Students scoring over 70 % have the option to retake.  DCE Junior High policy requires teachers to accept the second score.  At the Senior High some teachers allow retake scores to reach a maximum of 90%.
Here are some good grading practices to use:
·   Do not grade practice (homework, classwork).
- Do not allow extra credit (or minimize the impact of it)
·   Use separate systems for grading behavior, attendance, lateness of work and work habits.
·   For missing work - require that the student does the work
·   Set high expectations for achievement
- Use systems that reflect highest level of learning (retakes, performance assessments)
·   Teach resilience/persistence
·   Proficiency scales instead of percentages
·   Use smaller, more frequent assessments
- Make sure that assessments really teach what we want student to know


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