Thank you Youki Terada for your recent article in Edutopia sharing the history and why we need to move beyond the 100% grading scale in our teaching practices, especially those in the US. Grading and evaluation varies in different countries and not everywhere do teachers have the autonomy to adopt their own marking system. In the state of California legally the gradebook belongs to the teacher and it is the teacher that sets the grade scale. There are some school systems that adopt a common practice but often times these are missing the relevance and research behind such practices.
In the Edutopia article author Terada describes the current system: “When the original 100-point scale prevailed, grades were centered around the midpoint, and a failing grade and a passing grade had equal weight. But when the grading systems merged and the centerpoint shifted upward, there was simply less area in which to succeed: Roughly 60 percent of the grading scale was now dedicated to failing marks, and the implications of a very low grade or a zero became catastrophic.” The article then goes on to suggest alternatives. Ultimately we as educators need to consider WHY we grade and what is its impact on learning. A while back I wrote an article with lots of resource to help transform teachers’ grading practice. One does not have to wait until next year to make changes.
If you currently grade using a 100 point scale with students having to earn 70 points to achieve a C then PLEASE STOP now. Have a ponder- for many students we are nearly 2/3rds of the way through the school year. Imagine if you were to introduce a new evaluation process as a result of your own learning and research. This shift would offer your learners real-world modelling of how research impacts practice. Next share this research with your learners and together come up with a more effective, just marking practice to take up for the last third of the school year. Assure learners that their marks will be based on their mastery of the content. Give them a couple of examples of how mastery marking benefits them to help build their confidence and not punish them for bits that really have no impact. Also consider your own time and what you prioritize with respects to what you spend time evaluating. For example if you are looking to see if students did their homework this tick box exercise can take a lot of time. Instead if you gave your students a short quiz testing their knowledge about what was expected for them to learn and let them self-evaluate their quizzes then they know what they don’t know and you as the teacher would know where the gaps are. Homework completion becomes less important and takes up no more of your time.
Be bold and if you need to shift your practice make it happen sooner than waiting until next year. Here is all you need to do to make it happen quickly. Please share your thoughts and what is the impact of this research on your own teaching practices.