Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Grading Reform: Part 1

Like many school districts we have been talking about grading reform for many years. We recently created a committee that consists of stakeholders between both of our schools to develop common beliefs about grading and reporting. I believe strongly in the PLC model and I feel that our most effective PLCs report out on the standard (standard-based grading). We broke our work into four segments: Homework, Separating behaviors from the grade, Curricular alignment, and Multiple opportunities to show mastery. The goal of the committee for all of these areas will be to review research, have dialogue, compromise, and produce belief statements about grading and reporting in our district. I think it is important that we are informed by the research while embedding our own experiences and ideas into our shared beliefs. I think we can find a balance between best practice and what we are doing now.

We reviewed the following research in preparation of our first meeting: 


Books: (We read these books a few years ago)

Fifteen Fixes for Broken Grades: By Ken O'Connor 

Rethinking Homework: By Cathy Vatterott 


We also surveyed our staff and parents to gather feedback to give us an idea on how far apart our grading practices were from the research. This was helpful and I think it gives us an idea of what areas we need to really pay attention to. 

This survey was sent out to all staff to start the process. This allowed us to identify our focus areas. 

This survey helped us understand what parents thought about our homework practices. I think we were most concerned about about the amount of time spent on homework per grade level. In the end we were fairly comfortable with the current amount of homework our teachers are providing. It seemed to match the suggestions from the research. 

We used this survey to gather input from the committee. We broke our homework discussion into three areas: 1) Develop a definition, 2) Develop a purpose, 3) Develop guidelines. 

We then developed our committee's definition of homework, purposes of homework, and guidelines from the survey data. We created a definition of homework, purpose of homework, and guidelines from the research. During our meeting we merged our current practices with best practices and created a definition, a purpose, and guidelines for homework.

Our next step is to bring this to our full faculty for further adjustment.


Here is what we came up with regarding our homework practices: 


Homework is meaningful work that may include practicing concepts, reinforcing or reviewing classroom instruction, and/or studying for tests.


The purpose of homework is to
  • Reinforce or practice what is taught. 
  • Give feedback.
  • Extend learning. 
  • Review material. 
  • Master specific skills and standards.
  • Promote high-level thinking.
  • Guide instruction.


Homework is:
  1. Intended to provide feedback.
  2. Used to communicate progress to students and parents.
  3. Differentiated or modified based upon an individual student’s needs and/or socioeconomic factors.
  4. Developmentally or age appropriate.
  5. Grade level appropriate (10 minutes per grade).
  6. Tied to standards or driven by standards.
Homework is not
  1. Intended to be a significant portion of the final grade.
  2. To be used as a punishment.
  3. Busywork.
Our next focus area will be on separating behavior from the grade. We plan on doing a similar process of gathering feedback from stakeholders and using research to inform our decisions.


  1. This is great stuff. Are you comfortable with me sharing your survey's with my staff as reflection pieces for what we're doing in Thompson? I don't want to "steal" anything but I think there is some great conversation that can happen among my staff thanks to your work.

  2. Please steal everything and good luck.