Where’s the Effort?
P1. Even though the idea of completely getting rid of a traditional grading system may sound good, it leaves a very valid concern for us to consider. Any new system must encourage effort without grading for effort. As noted in “An Examination of the Impact of Grading Policies on Students’ Achievement,” the original purpose of the traditional grading system was to “motivate students to work harder” by grading them on the amount of effort they give. That model inappropriately rewards work alone instead of measuring results. In the real world, it’s important to many employers to hire someone who is hard-working, motivated, and can work well with co-workers, compared to someone who is very intelligent but is lazy and doesn’t know how to work well with people. The solution is to keep grades for k-12 that encourage effort and good behavior instead of grading it. In other words, a system that gives the best grades to students who act like good employees: standards-based grading.
P2. The main goal of standards-based grading is measure a student’s level of “mastery” in a subject. It’s based on a set of standards, which doesn’t include teachers’ own preferences for what they want to include in their grades. Factors like effort, homework, attendance, participation, and behavior are not included in these standards, which makes grades focused on academic achievement only. Instead of clumping in several different factors that don’t pertain to academics, it breaks down every subject into sections that students receive a grade in. For example, in “Standards-Based Grading” Kyle Spencer shows a sample report card for a science class. The science class is broken down into sections that include, ” the basis of scientific inquiry, continuity of life and the changes of organisms over time, unity and diversity of life, and ecological relationships among organisms.” Students are graded on each individual topic to see how of each subject they grasp. Standards-based grading is much more predictable, since students’ GPAs are not altered by any other factors besides how well they understand concepts. Although standards-based grading is more predictable is in measurement, it is still easy to wonder how effort is incorporated into this system.
P3. Although there are some exceptions, most people are not born geniuses. The majority of students will have to work hard to fully understand subjects. With standards-based grading, it’s very hard for students to “cheat the system.” With the traditional system, students know that by showing they put in effort, it can cause a teacher to boost their grade. They aren’t actually putting in effort to learn, but rather to please their teacher and earn a high grade. On the other hand, the standards based system puts more emphasis on students to be more interested in what they learn. For example, if a student is being graded on the topic of “physical, chemical, and cellular basis of life,” then that student has to have done plenty of research on that specific topic before receiving mastery. Students have to put in effort with the standards-based system to learn complicated concepts if they want to be successful. But what motivates students to want be successful?
P4. One of the biggest motivational factors for students when a standards-based system is in place is getting into college. Students can strive to earn high GPAs that only include mastery in several subjects. Standards-based grading makes students more prepared for college and the real world. Not only does it make sure students fully understand topics, but it provides a sense of more self-motivation. Students are more focused on putting in effort for themselves so they can get into college and eventually land a good job. With the traditional system, students will often only show effort to please their parents and teachers, since they are graded on it. In the real world, people don’t have someone to watch over them to make sure they put in effort.
P5. More predictable grades not only help students out, but also help out colleges. For example, colleges can be sure they are accepting a student who fully understands subjects. With a traditional system, they wouldn’t be able to tell if the student they accepted earned straight A’s, but 50% of those A’s came from factors that had nothing to do with learning. Standards-based grading is also beneficial when working towards a college system with no grades at all.
P6. Currently, employers don’t necessarily look at GPAs from college when looking for potential people to hire, so why have grades at all? Employers want someone who is knowledgable, hardworking, and knows how to deal with people. With a traditional system, its’ impossible to tell how hard-working or knowledgeable a person is, since everything is clumped together. With the standards-based system, at least we can be 100% certain that a person is knowledgeable and understands important concepts, and most of the time, the person had to put in hard work to achieve these things. This is why it makes more sense to not have grades in college when schools use a standards-based system. We know that students who get into college already have the skills to obtain knowledge in given areas. Professors can provide written feedback on assignments, but not necessarily give students letter or number grades. This leaves college students to only focus on what they’re learning so they an be successful in their career paths.