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An educator’s guide to . . .

Talking about Grading Guidelines


Savanna Oaks Middle School
2007 - 2008
Information to use for parent communication, student communication,
back-to-school night, progress reports, etc.

revised August 22, 2007


Grading Guidelines
for 2007-2008
Savanna Oaks Middle School

1. Grading procedures are related directly to stated learning goals.

2. Criterion-referenced standards are used to distribute marks.

3. Scoring assignments and determining quarter grades.


a. individual achievement of stated learning goals is the only basis for scores or grades.
b. effort, participation, attitude, and other behaviors will not be included in scores and grades
but will be reported separately.
c. Late work will be handled as follows:
(1) Teachers may set due dates and deadlines up to one week prior to the conclusion of
each unit of study for all summative work that will be part of the student’s grade
and for all formative work. Students should be provided with support to meet such
timelines. Students should also be able to request extensions of timelines.
(2) Work handed in late may be penalized; if penalties are applied they will not exceed
2% per day to a maximum of 10%.
(3) The deadline for all formative and summative work is within the week that the unit
concludes. Teachers are to be clear in their communication with students at the
beginning of a unit when that unit will conclude. Teacher discretion can be used in
this guideline especially with Unity and Special Education students.
(4) Teachers may exempt students from penalties.
(5) Care should be taken to ensure that penalties, if used, do not distort achievement or
motivation.
d. Absences shall be handled as follows:
(1) Students will not be penalized for absences.
(2) Absent students will be given make-up opportunities for all missed summative
assessments (marked work that will be part of student grades) without penalty.
e. Incomplete work will be handled as follows:
(1) Work that is not submitted will be identified as NHI (not handed in).
(2) Students are required to complete all necessary work and will be given opportunities
to do so. At a teacher’s discretion, an assignment can be EX (excused).
(3) Work that is submitted that is incomplete or does not reflect acceptable standards
will be identified as NY (not yet).
(4) In determining grades, teachers must decide whether they have sufficient
evidence of achievement. If not, the grade recorded will be an I (insufficient
evidence/incomplete). The grade will be updated when sufficient evidence has
been submitted or converted to a letter grade prior to the next grading period.
(5) When a student has not attended enough days of school to be graded, counselors
will notify staff to use NG (no grade) instead of a quarter grade.

4. The role of formative and summative assessment:


a. Teachers will provide feedback and/or marks on formative assessments.
b. Marks from formative (practice or learning) assessments will not be included in grades.
c. Marks from summative (demonstrated learning) assessments will be used to determine
grades.

revised August 22, 2007


5. Updating student achievement records
a. Where repetitive measures are made of the same or similar knowledge, skills or
behaviors, the more recent marks shall replace the previous marks for grade
determination.
b. A re-take assessment opportunity will be made available to students;
students will receive the highest, most consistent mark, not an average mark for any
such multiple opportunities. Prior to a retake, teachers must require that a student
complete all formative work, additional student review work, and request a teacher
appointment. The test must be redone within one week of the previous test. Teacher
discretion can be used in this guideline especially with Unity and Special Education
students.

6. Determining Grades
a. Grades will be determined to ensure that the grade each student receives is a fair
reflection of his or her academic achievement.
b. Consideration will be given to the use of statistical measures other than the mean
for grade calculations; for example, consider using the median or mode
c. Grades will be weighted carefully to ensure the intended importance is given to each
learning goal and to each assessment.

7. Using Quality Assessments


a. Each assessment must meet the five standards of quality:
(1) created from a clearly articulated set of achievement expectations
(2) serve an instructionally relevant purpose
(3) match the method of instruction
(4) sample student achievement in an appropriate manner
(5) control for bias and distortion
b. Teachers will promptly record evidence of student achievement on an ongoing basis

8. Involving Students in Assessment


a. Teachers will discuss assessment with students at the beginning of instruction. Where
feasible, students will be involved in decisions about methods of assessment and scoring
scales.
b. Teachers will provide to students and parents a written overview of assessment,
including grading, in clear, easily understandable language early in each unit.
c. Teachers will provide students with a written overview in clear, easily understandable
language, indicating how each summative assessment will be evaluated.

revised August 22, 2007


Grading Guidelines - An Overview
1. Grades report students’ achievement of learning goals.

2. Grades are based on individual student’s achievement not


on how their individual achievement compares to others.

3. The purpose of grades is to communicate the achievement


status of individual students in relation to established
learning goals.

4. Feedback will be given to students on formative assessments


which usually occur during the initial stages of a learning cycle.
Quarter grades will be based on summative assessments
which usually occur at or towards the end of a learning cycle.

5. What matters most is that learning occurs as evidenced by


students attaining the learning goals.

6. Quarter grades will be based on summative assessments


with attention given to the frequency of scores and more
recent achievement within a unit while recognizing that
averaging and weighting can obscure accurate communication
concerning academic achievement.

7. Formative and summative assessments reflect the


dimensions of quality assessments.

8. Information relating to how students will be assessed and


how grades will be determined will be provided prior to
instruction. When possible and appropriate, students will
be involved in assessment decisions.
revised August 22, 2007
Communicating Student Achievement
Savanna Oaks Middle School
2007 - 2008 School Year
In order to create clear and consistent communication of student achievement related to academic standards,
the staff at Savanna Oaks Middle School is operating under eight common guidelines for grading beginning in
the 2007-2008 school year.

The first guideline requires that grading procedures are related directly to stated learning goals. In other words,
a classroom teacher identifies the target before instruction begins. The target is composed of the major pieces
of learning all students should be able to demonstrate by the end of instruction for that unit. Grades then reflect
how well the student was able to meet the targeted goals.

The second guideline calls for grades to be established based on clear criteria. If all the students in a class
meet the learning targets, they all are eligible for the same grade. The grade is based on criterion-referenced
standards, not a bell curve of scores.

The third guideline clarifies that grades are based solely on an individual’s achievement of the standards and
stated learning goals for a unit of instruction. Behavior, on the other hand, is reported in comments via
PowerGrade related to individual assignments, progress reports, and report cards. Behavior is not included in
determining quarter grades. Guideline three also provides detailed information for teachers related to late
work, absences, and incomplete work.

The fourth guideline recognizes that students need practice when learning new material. The practice assign-
ments are referred to as “formative” work. We want students to be active learners who are not afraid to take a
risk in their assignments. We do not want to discourage student attempts at learning by averaging in their
scores from early learning experiences. For that reason, formative scores are used as feedback for improve-
ment but are not incorporated in the determination of a final grade. Some ways of providing feedback on
formative assignments include descriptive feedback in narrative form; check, check plus, check minus scoring;
pass/fail indicators, etc. Final grades are determined when a teacher looks at the “summative” scores earned
by a student. After the practice learning experiences have ended, students demonstrate learning on
summative performances. Summative scores that demonstrate learning include tests, quizzes, demonstrations,
projects, and other assessments.

The fifth guideline establishes that more recent scores should count more in a teacher’s professional judgment
and determination of a quarter grade. A student should not be penalized by averaging in earlier unsuccessful
attempts to demonstrate proficiency of standards and stated learning goals. Guideline five also provides for
second chance assessment opportunities so that students can demonstrate acquired proficiency. In these
cases, a teacher’s professional judgement is informed by the highest and most consistent mark, not an aver-
age grade for multiple opportunities.

The sixth guideline requires grades to be a reflection of academic achievement. We hear much about educa-
tional standards in each content area. The important thing that teachers must have is evidence that the student
has met the stated standards. This evidence is the basis for grades.

Guidelines seven and eight deal with assessment. Guideline seven identifies the creation of assessments that
adhere to five standards:
(1) created from a clearly articulated set of achievement expectations
(2) serve an instructionally relevant purpose
(3) match the method of instruction
(4) sample student achievement in an appropriate manner
(5) control for bias and distortion

Guideline eight deals with clearly communicating the requirements of the assignment ahead of time with
students so they have a clear target at which to aim. Involving students in this process is also an aspect of this
guideline.
revised August 22, 2007
Formative and Summative Assignments

Examples . . .
Summative assignments, tests, projects, etc. are measures which reveal whether students have
achieved the academic standards established by the teacher prior to instruction.

Formative assignments are assignments, tests and projects designed to help students learn the
most important information in a unit so they can meet the academic standards established by the
teacher prior to instruction. Formative assignments must be linked to the summative assignments.
Using a ratio of 3-5 formative experiences to each each summative is a good thing to keep in mind.
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For parents . . .
Our grading guidelines identify assignments and assessments as either formative or summative. As-
signments or assessments noted as formative reflect work completed in the initial learning phase,
similar to practicing a sport. Assignments and assessments noted as summative indicate work that has
been produced after learning should have occurred. In our sports analogy, summative work would be the
big game. We believe it is important for you to see your child’s progress in both the formative and
summative areas as committed practice often leads to satisfactory results. However, the assignments
and assessments in the summative category are the only ones that contribute to the final grade.
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For students . . .

Teacher: I have created formative assignments to help you learn the most important material in the cur-
riculum. It is only with repeated practice that you will learn.

I give you feedback on your formative assignments so that you “know what you know and what you don’t”.
This gives you time to learn what you need to before a summative assessment,

Your parents are able to see your progress in this class by viewing your scores on formative assignments
on PowerSchool.

PLUS recommendations are based on your completion of formative work.

Also useful in conversations with students are anologies . . .

Sports . . . would you expect a coach to play you in the first game if you never made it to a practice?
Likewise, you cannot expect to score on summative assessments without prior practice on formative
assessments.

Medicine . . . would you expect good results from an operation done by a surgeon who only listened in
class but never practiced on cadavers before operating on a living person?

revised August 22, 2007


4-3-2-1 Grading Scale

For parents . . .

Savanna Oaks Middle School and Badger Ridge Middle School both use a four-point grading scale when entering infor-
mation on PowerSchool instead of a percentage based grading scale.

While quarter grades will still remain as letter grades (A,B,C, etc.), individual assignments, tests, quizzes, projects, etc. will
be evaluated using the numbers 4-3-2-1. It might help parents and students to make the transition to 4-3-2-1 if you think of it
compared to other grading systems:

Traditional Letter Grades 4-3-2-1 VASD Elementary Schools State Proficiency Levels
A 4 A Advanced
B 3 P Proficient
C 2 B Basic
D 1 M Minimal
F 0 No evidence of proficiency

So why do we use the 4-3-2-1 for our reporting system for daily work? One reason is that the 4,3,2,1 system minimizes
the impact of averaging a zero with other scores. In a traditional 100 point percentage based model, a student’s overall
grade can rarely “recover” from one or more zeros. While a few students may be motivated out of fear of a zero, far more
students see that there is little chance to turn things around once a zero has been averaged. This leads to discourage-
ment and lack of participation in future learning.

A second reason to use the 4-3-2-1 scale is its relation to the way the State of Wisconsin looks at student achievement.
Student work is looked at in terms of proficiency rather than an abstract grade. This complements the use of rubrics
which usually contain descriptors of what a child must do in various areas of an assignment to reach an acceptable level
of proficiency. When students receive rubrics ahead of time, they can clearly see the target at which they are aiming.

Third, the 4-3-2-1 system brings all teachers at Badger Ridge and Savanna Oaks to the same way of reporting student
progress. Conversations regarding common grading policy continue between the middle schools and Verona Area High
School. We know that when we reduce variation in the school system, we create clearer communication with students and
parents.

Finally, when viewing your child’s achievement on PowerSchool, it may be tempting to try to use a mathematical formula
to determine grades. Please know that you cannot simply average the scores you see to determine your child’s grade for
several reasons that may include:
• some assessments carry more weight/importance than others
• consideration is given to the frequency of scores rather than the average
• consideration is given to the most recent work which reflects the student’s current level of knowledge and proficiency
• scores on individual assignments inform what the quarter grade will be but the professional decision of assigning quarter
grades rests with the teacher drawing on information from sources described above
Conversations with your child’s teacher will clarify your understanding of a particular grade.

If you have questions related to the 4-3-2-1 reporting system, please feel free to contact your child’s Principal or Learning
Resource Coordinator for further information.
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Our team reports student achievement in terms of proficiency rather than percentages. We use a scale of 1 to 4 which
translates to:
4 = Advanced
3 = Proficient
2 = Basic
1 = Minimal
Using the 1 to 4 scale is consistent with the language used to communicate student achievement at the Wisconsin
Department of Public Instruction.*

* You could go on to say . . . “In our house, assignments evaluated at the minimal level require the student to redo the
assignment until at least basic proficiency is reached.’
revised August 22, 2007
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Working with PowerGrade and the 4-3-2-1 Grading Scale

For teachers . . .
Have you reached a final decision regarding how you will integrate the 4-3-2-1 Grading Scale into the
way you communicate student progress? Below are four options for you to consider. Each one will
“work” but one will probably seem more appealing to you based on your past practices in grading, your
philosophy in communicating student achievement, and which set of logistics seem to be most user
friendly for you.

Option A - You see the 4-3-2-1 Grading Scale as short cut language to describe the proficiency levels
of Advanced, Proficient, Basic and Minimal. You look at student work in terms of how well an assign-
ment meets the criteria/standards you shared with students ahead of time. You are most likely to use only
the whole numbers of 4, 3, 2, and 1 when you enter scores on an assignment. You don’t think of student
achievement in terms of percentages

Option B - You take each assignment on a case-by-case basis and decide what constitutes proficiency
based on factors such as the amount of time you spent covering the material prior to the completion of
each assignment and whether this is the students first or final attempt to show you what they know.
You make these decisions prior to scoring the student work. You should communicate these deci-
sions to students ahead of time. You might choose to use the whole numbers of 4, 3, 2, and 1 or you
might use the increments in-between each number, such as 3.5 and 2.5 to add shades of progress in
your gradebook.

Option C - You see the 4-3-2-1 Grading Scale as representing “A”, “B”, “C”, “D” with a number less
than one reflecting a score in the “F” range. You determine how many points a student needs to earn a
specific letter grade by consulting the Letter Grade Conversion Charts which are available from your
LRC. You may or may not use whole numbers only.

Option D - You prefer to rely on percentages to determine how students performed on each assignment.
You most likely are using total points to determine grades. You will prefer to use the Percentage Con-
version Charts to translate to the 4-3-2-1 Grading Scale. These charts are available from your
LRC.

Some additional thoughts . . .


-- It is your choice of which option to use based on which seems to be the best fit for you.
-- It is important to communicate your method to students and parents.
-- If the use of either set of conversion charts seems cumbersome, consider shifting
philosophically to Option A or B.
-- Any one of the four options will allow you to use categories.
-- Any one of the four options will allow you to weight assignments.
-- Each of the options requires you to enter grades within a range of four to zero.

Still have questions?


Feel free to call or e-mail your principal or learning resource coordinator. We are here to help you make
the best decision for you and your students as we move to a consistent scale for both middle schools to
communicate student progress.

revised August 22, 2007