Do Your Report Cards Reflect Your Classroom?

Originally posted on my blog, "Reading is Elementary" http://www.readingiselementary.blogspot.com/2013/02/do-your-report-...

We are at the end of a grading period at my school district and it got me thinking about how the structure of our classrooms has changed dramatically but the way we assess isn't always different. Again, I'm speaking in general terms, not specifically about teachers at my wonderful school district or other districts I have taught in.  If we are allowing more group projects, paired thinking, collaboration, and project based learning activities, how is that reflected on our report cards? Are we grading our students as individuals or are some of their grades reflective of projects they may or may not have actually have been able to complete on their own?  Does project based learning create a false representation of a student's knowledge on the report card and, if not, how are we preventing it from doing so?
For the most part, our report cards are based on classwork and observations.  Of course assessments play a key roll as well but things like daily work, homework, and guided group work are all considerations we need to factor in when trying to determine what to put on a report card.  For the most part, report cards ask us to determine whether or not a student is able to master specific student expectations and to what degree. Whether it is a rubric score or a percentile, we have to be able to make a decision based on quantitative data. If we are doing primarily project based learning assignments in our classroom, how can we tell what each student has contributed? Are we giving group grades or individual grades, or both?
Sometimes allowing students to use a self-assessment rubric can help with this. Let them grade their own participation and that of their teammates.  Consider the dynamics of the group when looking at how students grade each other.  Use observational notes and conversations that you have with the students.  Is the student able to answer questions about the project? Is he or she able to explain why the group made certain design choices? If a third party entered your classroom and spoke to the student, would he or she be able to discuss the materials the class is responsible for knowing in a way that leads the observer to believe the student has mastered the student expectations?
With our students that need constant assistance in order to complete assignments, do the grades we are giving them reflect this scaffolded approach or does it appear as if the student is independently able to complete the work because they are turning in work with correct answers--some of which we provided?  When we use a rubric, it is easier to show that a student is able to complete the work with help, however this becomes more tricky when we only have a percentile to go off of. How do we work this scaffolding into our percentiles? Shouldn't the overall grade reflect that the student's understanding is not as complete as those students who are able to do the work without as much help?
As we begin to morph our schools out of the Industrial/Agrarian age and into the Age of Technology, we have to be careful not to over-look some of the areas where old habits die-hard.  We've changed so many things in order to adapt to our 21st Century Learners now we need to start looking at how we are reporting their progress.  Maybe we need to take a closer look at what a report card, by definition, was really meant to do and stop looking at it as some sort of finality to our learning.  If we look at it solely as a form of communication between the school and parents or higher institutes of learning, then we may need to take a different approach to how we are grading.  Just some thoughts to ponder as we near the end our 4th 6 week grading period--or 3rd 9 weeks--or 3rd quarter, or whatever you'd like to call it.

How do you determine your students' grades?

What are your thoughts?

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Tags: cards, class, education, elementary, report

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