Wednesday, August 24th, 2011
Expert provides tools to fix grading system
By Margie Wuebker
NEW BREMEN - With teaching becoming increasingly standard based, area educators learned Tuesday that current grading systems are in need of repair.
Ken O'Connell, an internationally known grading expert, provided 175 educators from St. Marys, New Bremen and Minster with a repair kit during a daylong program at New Bremen High School.
O'Connell's presentation came about as part of the Race To the Top initiative, according to New Bremen superintendent Ann Harvey.
The longtime educator told teachers that grades must be accurate, consistent, meaningful and supportive of learning. Those that do not, qualify as "broken" or ineffective.
He said grades are broken when they include components that distort achievement, come from low quality or poorly organized evidence such as inappropriate number crunching and fail to support the learning process.
Grades should reflect achievement and not student behavior such as effort, participation and following classroom rules. Likewise, students who turn in late assignments need educational support, not reduced grades, O'Connell said.
The author of "A Repair Kit for Grading: 15 Fixes for Broken Grades" discourages the use of extra credit or bonus points because they have nothing to do with achievement. He encourages teachers not to use absences when grading.
"You don't need your rear end in a seat all the time to get a good grade," he said.
He displayed a grading chart for a student who had numerous absences but achieved perfect scores on tests. Teachers debated whether the student deserved an A or an I for incomplete classroom performance.
O'Connell favored the higher grade.
He also dislikes grading on a curve.
"There are no right grades only justifiable grades," O'Connell said.
One of the teachers present said she looks forward to implementing the speaker's concepts; another said there is more to learning than what mere letter grades convey. A third teacher admitted with a chuckle she has a lot of homework to do.
Harvey lauded the program which was funded by a grant to improve instruction in such areas as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Five school districts - New Bremen, New Knoxville, Fort Recovery, Mississinawa Valley and Ansonia - will be splitting a $250,000 state grant over the course of two years to make that happen.