Friday, April 22, 2011

How Specific?

I was just reading some new comments on the ActiveGrade blog from the post Should it “Count.”  This post, others like it, and just my random thoughts, has gotten me thinking.  How specific should a Standard’s Based gradebook be?

In the end, I still am on the idea that the most important purpose of grades is to communicate achievement.  The communication of that achievement is likely to go to the students, their parents, as well as other teachers (both current and future).  Where is the appropriate line of specificity?  I definitely want to be more detailed than just having one grade for the class.  Science: B+ doesn’t help anyone with anything.  I could list every standard and report on those.  Who would look at them?  Is it worthwhile to be that specific?  I have tried to lump many standards together under Essential Questions headings.  Is that specific enough?  

In the past, my gradebook (Making the Grade) allowed for 10 categories.  It also allowed for less than 20 characters of explanation of those categories.  Now, I am using ActiveGrade.  More than enough categories, plenty of room for explanation.  

Looking for thoughts.  How specific should a gradebook or grade report be?  Where is the happy medium?  How does a teacher decide this for their individual class?


  1. Marzano talks about this specifically- when writing competencies for your grading it is important to have them not too specific (or you end up with an unyielding gradebook) , but not too broad that it is hard to score. We used enduring understandings/concepts in Science and SS when doing our standards based report cards (K-5). It just seemed to make sense. As marzano says this is the most difficult part, but well worth it.
    Good luck

  2. I think it all comes down to this: How specific does the gradebook need to be in order to effectively communicate a student's progress towards understanding? In other words, does the gradebook allow students and parents to see their progress over time, and specify what learning needs to be improved?

    The answer to that question is what led me to put my specific objectives in my gradebook rather than strands (i.e., Cell Biology, Evolution, etc.), because we use the specific objectives on a daily basis for students. This makes the gradebook the district requires me to use a little crazy, and that gradebook also restricts the number of characters I can use as well. The complete disadvantage of this gradebook is you cannot record how a student has grown (or not grown) in their learning over time; I can only put in their most recent evidence of understanding.

    However, I also use ActiveGrade and what I love about that program is its allowance for me to put in an entire learning objective, but also that it specifically shows how students have progressed in their mastery of each learning objective. To me, that's the kind of specificity I want-where students can see how their learning has changed over time, and they can see precisely what learning they have to fix. But, that's just my preference.

  3. For me, I think the biggest split needs to be between skills and content. Skills are where my students tend to see the biggest growth over time. Content changes throughout the year, but the skills stay pretty much the same.

    I also got an idea from a student that I think I will use next year. The student's previous teacher assigned students to re-write the standards in kid/parent friendly language. I usually have done this myself in the past, but I like the idea of shifting the responsibility to the students so they can have additional ownership of the report card.

    Great post! It really got me thinking about how specific I need to be!

  4. Dodie: I wonder if it comes down to a guess and check idea. That is what I have found. At first, I wasn't specific enough. Now, I have some categories where I may be too specific. I suppose there is a little back and forth until it works out.

    Mrs. E: Your first sentence nails it. It all comes down to communication, which is the only useful purpose of grading. I have also went to objective ideas that cycle/spiral throughout the class, with some mention of the content itself as a secondary idea. Like you, I have a very limiting report card.

    Analiese: I like the idea of using the students to re-write the standards into kid friendly language. I am also planning on using some sort of way for students to keep track of their own progress, so they are not relying solely on me. I like the idea that Frank Noschese does as explained at:

    Thanks all for the comments!