Do you grade based on effort or only on accomplishment? | Edutopia
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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Do you grade based on effort or only on accomplishment?

Do you grade based on effort or only on accomplishment?

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The GenEd teachers at my school say only accomplishment should be reflected in grades. Most of the SpEd teachers say effort, even effort without accomplishment, should get a good grade. Grades are, at best, a fairly arbitrary system of communicating anything. Is your B the same as my B? What is a B, anyway? Two students: 1) Sue is a high-ability student who doesn't try hard, does not do her best work and earns a B; 2) Mary is a low-middle ability student who works her tail off and earns a B instead of her usual C. Are these Bs equivalent? Does the grade communicate anything about the student? Should Mary get a better grade than Sue because she tried harder? Which student's behavior better reflects the values of our schools? Of our society?

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Debra's picture

"My biggest pet peeve is when gen ed teachers tell me that our sped students "shouldn't have grades that high" like they don't deserve the grade they have worked so hard for". I so believe in this!!!! thank u!

The hardest thing am doing right now is keep my son at the level he is at, but everyday they change something on him and you know as well as i do you can't change up everyday ... Mostly with a child with Aspergers, I as a parent have to keep change at a minimal why can't they its says right in the IEP,

As far as grades i was never so proud of my son, that he is getting the core subjects A's all the way... and he faltered little bit and now they want pass fail,He is getting B's now.. he does the work, yes its only half of what reg kids do but he does it. That should count as something.. how you can tell a parent well WE have decided to pass fail, is beyond me.

Very frustrated and confused.. hell i hate change to a degree but they have my son so messed up it's just crazy. And you did answer a lot of my Questions and i want to thank u, you made them in terms i understood, like i said am just a parent trying to get my son the eduction he wants and desires....
Thank U
Debi Ritter / Parent of 3rd grader with Aspergers

Colleen Adams's picture

What is a B anyway? A wakeup call for a student who always gets As, proof to the struggling kid on an IEP that she CAN do it if she uses the resources available. Grades are numbers just like your weight on your bathroom scale. My 160 is a warning, your 160 might be proof that you worked hard to get there. Grades (or weights, ages, income, etc.)taken out of context are meaningless. As teachers we must provide the context whether it is in narrative form or via canned comments on a report card. The C- that has the "excellent student" attached is far more telling than the C- alone. Back when my own son was in school and struggling we offered rewards/incentives for grades to motivate that extra effort. He learned he could make a killing on the positive comments, not just the letter grades.

Rachel Speidel's picture

Wow - what a great discussion! Now I have a question... does anyone have an example of a rubric they would follow for giving a grade on effort? If someone already asked that, I'm sorry. Being ADD myself, I tend to miss things. :)
(I teach k-5 pullout/ math and reading.)

Guin Hilmes's picture

I do not have a "rubric" but I will give you an example of informal assessment that I used in my classroom just last week. I taught a lesson on how molocules are bonded together in solid, liquid and gas matter... I had the kids get up, taught them a lesson where they used their bodies to exhibit how the molocules were packed in different types of matter.. After the lesson I gave them a handful of unifix cubes and I asked them to demonstrate how the molocules looked in a gas, a liquid and a solid.

There are so many ways that you can grade if kids "get it" than pencil and paper or a test. The other thing I had them do was made a list of 10 items on the board and they had to determine if something was a solid, liquid or gas and put it in the proper catagory.

Our school is a member of Oklahoma A+ Schools which intergrates all of the arts into the general education curriculum... the kids LOVE IT and it really helps kids connect to your lesson more when its relevent to them. You can do a search for it on the web, makes teaching so much fun!.... Why write you spelling words 10X each when you can paint them instead...or write them in Morse code, or hide them in a beautiful picture that you have drawn.

Do a websearch for 40 ways to practice your spelling words! These are blown up and posted in my room.

Blair Christian Special Education Teacher's picture
Blair Christian Special Education Teacher
Self Contained( k-5th) EC Teacher from North Carolina

I teach a K-5 Self-Contained EC Class too. You are right on target with an appropriate/individualized grading system. It is the most appropriate modified grading system that best reflects progress on IEP Goals every 9 wks!
It is frustrating to deal with "narrow-minded" teachers who think special ed students are graded too easy.They just "don't get it" . Very sad. Not too hard to comprehend though.
Blair Christian
EC Self Contained Teacher

Mary Eagles's picture

I teach in Louisiana. In our parish's school system, we modify the special ed. student's work and tests so that they will score at least 70% (C-). This has been really good for my students' self-esteem. This means that there has to be clear communication with my students' parents, so that they understand that many times their child's grade is a reflection of many modifications.

Earnestine Smith's picture
Earnestine Smith
Sixth grade reading teacher from Dallas, TX

I have enjoyed reading what you have commented on concerning grading. Your comments will help me to achieve my goals on effort based learning that our campus is trying to move to this year. We have teachers that gives students 10's, 19's in their grade books. I hate the fact that a child has to look at a grade of 19%, which does not make logical sense to me how you could obtain a grade less than 50%.

I really like Alice's comments on how to grade special education students. I will take this info to my campus this year during training. It makes sense if the IEP states they are to complete 5 and they miss 3 that they should get 80%.

Ruah's picture

My favorite teaching assignment in terms of grading was when we went to standards-based evaluations. Effort was just one of the standards. That meant students were 'graded' ~ the grades were 'did not meet', 'meets', and 'exceeds' ~ based on their performance ~ whether in academics or in effort or anything else. The standards were posted for each grading period in each class and it was much clearer to everyone.

I really liked that system because of its clarity and reasonability. Before we began, one Language Arts teacher was asked, 'Why does my daughter get A's from you on her report card, but she can't pass the standardized tests?' Afterwards, the same parent understood that her daughter was one who really and truly worked her hardest, but had difficulty with the content.

Also, Special Ed students can receive just a P/NP for content classes in my district so that there is no pressure on the teacher to grade based on effort, or how likeable the student is.

Tracy's picture
Resource Room teacher

While accomplishment has to be a factor in all classrooms, I have always graded based on effort. I have had students in my Resource Room who were so low cognitively, but they worked diligently, and were extremely motivated and conscientious. How long do you think students will stay that way if they continue to get low grades? Special Education by definition is a modified program - grading should reflect that. I approach my classes as life skills taught in an academic setting. My goal is to have my students experience success. Motivation, hard work, responsibility, and self-discipline are the skills that will help these students achieve success in life. They should be rewarded for it in school.

Shawn Chilton's picture

I was Mary and I can tell you that effort is everything in my class. Nothing drives me craizier tha a lazy smartie. My special ed kids are mainstreamed so they see first hand the lack of effort. I teach language arts and every assignment's grade is a composite score. I adjust the weight of each component based on the students abilities. Student A may have 50% presentation 50% material while student B may and a 75 / 25 mix. Some work also gets a grade based on ability. If student A demonstrates understading at their level then they get an A regardless of the number of deficincies. Although probably not popular, I am a big fan of grading on effort. I think we would have better students who learn how to work for something of value, them selves.

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