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Fair Grading

Posted By Amanda Sands On June 10, 2010 @ 5:30 am In Centerfold | Comments Disabled

How do teachers maintain fair grades? Each one has a different technique or system of doing so, which includes number systems, grading tests page-by-page, or disregarding the student’s name entirely. Here, teachers explain their methods and their reasons behind them.

“For me, I feel the key is to make my expectations as clear as possible. I will let students know what is due with a syllabus and I expect them to use that syllabus to plan their week. After this, I will let them know a week in advance of a test and give them a study guide several days in
- Eugene Stein, History Teacher

The Number System
By Amanda Sands

Almost every student speculates whether or not a teacher grades fairly. Did you get a bad grade because of who you are, or because of what your work is like? To make grading fair, teachers find new ways to ensure their students’ anonymity to limit bias.

In the English Department specifically, some teachers have implemented a system in which students replace four-digit numbers with their names on the top of each assignment.

“Students appreciate the system because sometimes they worry about getting ‘Ëœstuck’ at a particular grade, or that their teacher has made certain assumptions about them or their writing, English teacher Dana Arnaboldi said.

With this system, students are able to earn the fair grades they deserve.

Instead of the loud kid who drives the teacher crazy, you’re known only as 4819. The quiet suck-up who always offers to hand back papers is simply 1022.

Grades may vary based on the effort put into the work, or its overall validity, but Arnaboldi’s perseption of her students will almost never color her opinion of their writing.

“The rationale, she said, “is that I can read a paper with ‘Ëœfresh eyes,’ and not let a student’s previous writings or contributions to class discussion affect my reading.

Some people expressed skepticism toward such a number system, usually because, they argue, a teacher simply needs to know who is writing each paper. For Arnaboldi, this aspect is equally as important as anonymity:

“Of course, I do not always use the code system because there are times when we workshop a paper multiple times, and it is important that I do know whose paper I am reading so I can see how a student has improved.

Most students in her junior honors English class espouse the integrity of this bias-reduction method.

“I like the number system because it assures the student that [his or her] teacher is grading their work solely on academic value without personal or non-academic factors, junior Shervin Rezaei, said.

There’s obviously no way to completely eliminate teacher bias, but this number system, at least in Arnaboldi’s class, seems to be effective.
“It’s not a perfect system, said Arnaboldi, “but it has worked for me.

“On changing the system, sometimes I’ll modify the percentage value of the grading categories–writing, tests, quizzes, homework–to better reflect the percentage of work they actually did during a given term.
- Alan Reinstein, English Teacher

A Different Style of Conventional Learning
By Amanda Sands

As students, we are on the receiving end of the grading system. We control what grades we receive’€to an extent.

There’s no universal template for our evaluation, just like there’s no universal ‘ËœA.’ Varying quality levels of schoolwork may receive the same grade; likewise, similar work may yield totally unlike final grades.

Many teachers have found alternate ways of grading their students to ensure fairness for everyone.

These modifications to the standard grading methods are more prevalent with history and English teachers, where grading papers is more subjective.

Most math and science teachers can get away with a more typical system because those subjects are much more objective.

One thing that housemaster and math teacher Josepha Blocker does is “grade tests one page at a time to make sure to give partial credit equally to every student for each problem. She also grades tests without looking at whose she is grading.

Blocker hands out a survey twice a year; one question asks if students feel that the grading is fair.

“Students pretty universally say yes, she said.

Another way she improves grading for her classes is weighting tests and quizzes differently for individual people if, for example, they do poorly on quizzes but “worked up to the grade on the unit test. Blocker counts the quizzes less for someone for whom “the journey was a little rocky, but who mastered the material for the final exam.

In her sophomore and junior classes, history teacher Deborah Linder also uses unique strategies for grading her students.

“I tend to count homework more than I count tests, she said, “[which helps students] on a day-to-day basis. I grade it, and leave comments. That way, students can see what they know and what they have yet to understand.

The satisfaction of her students with the grades they receive compared to their effort given “depends on what grades they’re getting, she said. “The majority of kids understand that I’m not grading to punish them.

Many students feel that they should be graded based on their effort, but “it’s not just about effort; it’s about content and quality. If there’s substance in the writing, that’s what gets you a good grade, Linder said.

A tricky part of grading students in such a diverse population at school is the possibility of a double standard.

Some kids, like ELL students or kids with IEPs or a 504 plan, may require an alternative grading curve.

“It’s important to take that into consideration, Linder said. But then, she explained, you wonder, “Why are you grading one kid different than the others when they end up getting the same grades for different work?

While kids may have equal knowledge, some may have more difficulty expressing their thoughts accurately.

To make grading more fair, sometimes Linder doesn’t look at whose paper she’s grading. “[With] some kids’€when you don’t look at who they are’€there are some surprises.

She also said that a good relationship with a teacher can lead to better grades.

Students have also found truth in this: “When you have a good relationship with a teacher, it can help boost a term grade, junior Natalie Walters said.

It is impossible that students expect to be graded solely based on their academic performance, as attitudes in the classroom are so prominent a part of a teacher’s view of a student.

“What happens in a classroom is a big part of class, freshman Rachel Hurwitz said. “[A final grade] can’t all be based off of homework and tests you study for at home.

Teachers at South have tried hard to make sure that their grading methods are fair.

At the same time, should the goal for students just be a good grade? Or should it be to “improve certain aspects of writing or comprehension? as Linder said.

This is still a matter to be resolved, but in the mean time, teachers’ individual modifications to the normal system have proven generally successful in reducing injustices in student evaluations.

Read more

Article printed from Denebola: http://www.denebolaonline.net

URL to article: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/06/10/fair-grading/

URLs in this post:

[1] Balancing the Grading Scale: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2008/11/26/balancing-the-grading-scale/

[2] Learning vs. Grades: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2008/11/26/learning-vs-grades/

[3] Balance the grading equation: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2007/12/19/balance-the-grading-equation/

[4] E for Effort: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2008/11/26/e-for-effort/

[5] South students praise teacher: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2008/04/16/south-students-praise-teacher/

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