Showing posts with label Grading. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Grading. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Report Cards and Standards

Teacher Question:
I wanted to ask your opinion regarding the structure of report cards for parents of students in grades 3-5. Understanding that ELA CCSS intertwines the areas of reading, language, spelling, writing, and moving toward creating district standards based report cards in all K-5 grade levels, how do you think students' progress should be reported out to parents via report cards, as we transition? Would you recommend having an ELA grade on the report card or segregating particular areas as a stand alone grade?  

Shanahan Responds: 
This is less a research question than one requiring professional judgment. I suspect there are many good ways to do this, but I will weigh in with my own take on the problem per your request. My suggestions are based upon what I think teachers and parents can do and use, not on what studies suggest for the simple reason that I know of no such studies.

I definitely would provide students with more than a single English Language Arts grade. Lots of ways to do this, of course: One could provide an overall ELA grade with some subscores, or ELA might not appear at all and just specific scores in reading, writing and some other key areas could be included. I would personally go with the latter, just to keep it simpler.

What grades would I provide?  I definitely would offer a reading grade. In fact, I’d offer two of them. I’d give students a grade in reading foundations (which would be used to inform parents as to how their kids were doing with decoding and oral reading fluency), and a grade in reading (which would get at issues like reading comprehension, understanding of different genres, learning from reading, etc.). That's divided in the same way the reading standards are in CCSS.

I would also provide a grade for writing, and, again, it would be possible to divide this one in two—writing foundations and writing (which is not how the standards do it). The first writing grade would get at issues of spelling, cursive, keyboarding, hygiene (the old term for basically making a paper look good in terms of all of these physical qualities), and the second would get at writing quality (how well developed and organized and accurate and engaging the students’ writing is).

Finally, you might have a language grade aimed at what the standards address under speaking, listening, and language. This would include grammar, along with listening comprehension, ability to make formal presentations, to participate effectively in group discussions, and the like. While I would not disagree with those who would criticize lumping this all into one pot, I am doubtful of teachers’ ability to easily evaluate 30 students in any of these skills separately. (And, yes, you could slice this differently. For example, you could include grammar in what I labeled as writing foundations, and keep this language or oral language grade totally about oral language quality).

That might be it: under this plan, students would get 3-5 ELA grades (1 or 2 reading grades, 1 or 2 writing grades, and 1 language or oral language grade). If you break something out on a report card, you are making some assumptions: one assumption is that teachers can provide a sound and accurate evaluation of the abilities included in that category; a second assumption is independence, that it would be possible for a youngster to do well in one category and poorly in another; and a third is that it would be worth opening up a conversation with parents about the topic if Johnny didn’t do well in it (in other words, there would be clear remedial actions that a teacher and parents could take to help him to do better in that area). Gradability, independence, and teachability are the key factors.

Many districts try to align their report cards to their standards, but what this usually means is that the report card ends up with so many grades that teachers are uncertain of (e.g., “I have no idea whether kids have accomplished reading standard 4 for literary text”), and that parents have no idea what to do with all of this information. If the information won’t be accurate—and there is no way that teachers can adequately evaluate all of those individual standards—and won’t be useful for aiming teachers and parents at addressing student needs, then there is no reason to have it on the report card.


Given that, let me encourage you to consider adding one more grading category to ELA report card. One thing the standards emphasize a lot—not just in one category—but in multiple ones, is the ability to conduct research. That is students need to learn to track down information, to evaluate its accuracy and quality, to summarize information from particular sources, to synthesize information across sources, and to present that information accurately and engagingly. Different aspects of that process belong to reading (evaluating sources) or writing (summarizing or synthesizing) or oral language (presenting). However, if research were treated as its own category, it would encourage your school to make a big deal of it; to get students, parents, and teachers all engaged in ensuring that these diverse ELA skills come together into a powerful amalgam that would send kids off to middle school with a strong academic focus. That would only add one more grade to the pot, but it would be a heck of an addition, and it fits my criteria: it is gradable, independent, and well worth focusing on instructionally at school and home. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Grading Reading Performance Under Common Core

I have a question that many teachers have asked and would like your help when thinking through the grading process for common core. How might the children receive grades for the many standards without giving a test? The teachers are doing a lot of processing text together as a class or in partners so they are wondering about the accountability for the students and how to get a grade to measure their knowledge. 

Good question.

Remember there are lots of parts of Common Core, so if you are an elementary teacher and you are teaching foundational skills (e.g., phonological awareness, phonics, oral reading fluency), then using one of the many test instruments (e.g., PALS, DIBELS, AIMS-WEB) still might be a useful way to go to get a sense of where your kids stand.

However, we don’t have good tests of reading comprehension that can be given quickly and that provide that kind of information, so teacher judgment will certainly be necessary. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use the unit tests in your core program, those might help inform your decisions, but ultimately you are going to have to depend on your evaluation of student performance when they are writing about or discussing text.

I would strongly urge you to NOT try to give students scores in each of the standards. That wouldn’t make much sense and I don’t believe that you could do that reliably (nor can any existing tests). I would suggest that you pay attention to how well students do with texts of varying difficulty (so keep track of the Lexile levels, etc.). You might recognize patterns such as: “Johnny reads well when he is trying to understand texts at 400Lexile, but he struggles when they get to 500Lexile.” You could track this kind of thing yourself based on the texts that you teach or you could test the kids more formally with an informal reading inventory or something like Amplify.

You also might consider tracking how kids do with different part of the standards. Again, an example, might be that throughout a grading period you ask students questions that get at Key Ideas and Details, Craft and Structure, and Integration of Knowledge and Ideas. I wouldn’t expect big performance differences between these tasks but there might be some patterns there, and you could report on them (and make grading decisions accordingly).

To do any of this you will need a system of observation. Maybe something like this: For each group that you do guided reading with, keep a list of students. Then record the date and Lexile level of the text being read for each student. Keep track of how many questions you ask them and whether they did well. You could break these down by category or just keep track overall. Another possibility would be a multi-point rubric that describes how accurate, thorough, and incisive the students’ answers were.

Of course, CCSS stresses the idea of students writing about texts. You could have students writing about the texts that they read several times during a report card marking and use an average of your ratings of these responses to determine how well the student was doing. Again, I don’t think you will be able to come up with anything highly specific (“Johnny is doing well with standard 3, but he struggles on standard 5” so I’m giving him a B-), but you should be able to say that, “Students by this point of the year should be able to read a text at 450Lexile with at least 75% understanding and he can only do this texts at 350Lexile.”