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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Ellen Karnowski's picture
Ellen Karnowski
Special Educator, Writing and Science teacher

Each student is unique and different. What may be easy for one may represent hours of work for another. We can't judge just by the product, but the strategy, explanation and the process is more important to look at.

Joseph Kaye's picture
Joseph Kaye
Director of Academic Success / Edison State College

This is a tough one, but my thought tends to be that no one likes to be patronized. "A" work is "A" work, and "C" work is "C" work. There's no reason why one can't take satisfaction in earning a C. In my first two years of school, I was proudest of a "B" I earned in statistics. I don't even remember the courses I received an "A" in.

Suzan Hyndman's picture
Suzan Hyndman
High School SPED teacher from Western Massachusetts

Hi all,
I grade on quality, not quantity or mechanics. I use a daily 100 point system with 50 points for productively participating in the class assignment and 10 points each for arrival to class on time, being prepared, following directions, being respectful to others and not engaging in disruptive behavior(s). If a student tries, he or she can earn a good grade. If a student is non-compliant and/or displays a poor attitude/work ethic, this too is reflected in their grade. Students also earn 5 minutes of free time per core subject which they can either save up to use at the end of the day or use after completing the next consecutive period. This is adjusted by individual needs, learning styles and IEP objectives.

Judi H.'s picture
Judi H.
Special Education Teacher

Definitely a delima. My biggest problem is that nothing can go onto the report card letting other looking at it that the child has an IEP or been modified at all. This is a real problem for me this year because I have 1 - 6th grade who does not have to work with any others and is very slow to get things done. When he does complete work, it is usually correct, but not near his grade level. This will mislead the middle school teachers if he gets all 'A's and 'B's. on his report card.

Kathryn Hedges's picture
Kathryn Hedges
Biology teacher

If there is no distinction between courses for special ed students and others then the grade should represent the accomplished skills. Some students may need to accomplish the end product in a modified form but if all students get credit for the same course then the standards should be the same. If students need more time or need to take the course over a longer period of time to be successful then that is fine but they still need to meet the same minimum standards as any others taking the course.
I have taught in several alternative school situations where we had a wide range of ability. We gave credit when all of the work was completed at a 70-80% proficiency. We found that we had few dropouts in fact the graduation rate was 50% more than the regular schools in the district.

Anne P.'s picture

Our district requires students to meet standards inorder to earn a grade. Effort is not a standard and cannot be objectively assessed; therefore, my students are graded on their ability to meet a standard no matter how long it may take or how hard they have to work. When they take the SAT or College Advanced Placement test, effort will not figure into the equation.

Ada's picture
grad student/ middle school math teacher

This year my school implemented standards based grading. Student's grades are based on mastery of certain skills, not effort. As en ESE teacher, it's still something that we (teachers, parents and students) are adapting to. As part of a professional learning community, another teacher in my group is responsible for creating assessments that all math teachers have agreed on. I usually give this test to my more proficient students. I then create a test/quiz, that covers the same skills, but is not as rigorous as the other one and give is to my less proficient students. We have a software that helps us create an assessment in just a few minutes, so I don't mind spending the time to create one. I do not tell the students that one test is more difficult than the other. They think that I create different tests so that they don't cheat off each other.

Jordan Johnson's picture
Jordan Johnson
4th grade teacher from Ada, MN

Grading in my school system varies by teacher. I think for the most part student grades are based on their accomplishments, how they did on each individual assignment, and then at the end of the quarter, teachers can "adjust" grades in order to accommodate a students effort. It is difficult to continually give a student a failing grade, especially when you know they are truly trying their hardest. How can one give the grade earned but reward the effort when you have to enter a score into the gradebook? This is something that I am going to be thinking about as the school year begins.

Mario Patiño's picture
Mario Patiño
NBCT, science educator

There is validity in reporting both academic accomplishment and effort but each should be reported separately. Reporting them together makes the academic accomplishment"murky" and doesn't truly represent what was learned and accomplished within a learning cycle. ACT did a study on how final grades do not correlate with standardized test performance. In fact this 2005 report stated how ineffective grading practices distort academic accomplishment. If you consider the amount of remediation that many former high school students take in college, there should be a concern.

All forms of grading well be a subjective task yet one can reduce this subjectivity if your grades are directly linked to standards and separated from non-academic factors such as behavior, performance, and all the extra "stuff" that teachers feel is important to report. There is value in using a grading scale [e.g. even distribution] scale that doesn't require the need to inflate grades to overcome disproportionate grade distribution seen on scales such as the 100 point scale [which by the way was never intended to be used in education]

Grading practices will always be tied to educational philosophy yet past practices which have no educational foundation should be reflected upon. Should grades reflect what was learned? If grades reflected what was learned, wouldn't they also reflect how effective our instructional strategies were?

Mariella Pace's picture
Mariella Pace
Special Education teacher, Bilingual, Early childhood, K-5

is anyone working with an autistic program, and if so, what kind of alternative progress report do you give out? I sure hope to hear from someone....

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