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November 22, 2011

Effective Grading Practices

Filed under: K-12 — Kelly Cartwright @ 11:37 am
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The entire November issue of Educational Leadership (Volume 69, Number 3) was devoted to effective grading practices. This issue includes a number of excellent articles written by grading practices gurus such as Thomas Guskey, Robert Marzano, Ken O’ Connor, and Rick Wormeli on topics such as obstacles to grading reform, grades that show what students know, reporting student learning, and managing redos and retakes.

Here, I’ve summarized “Redos and Retakes Done Right” by Rick Wormeli, with the hope that you might find one or more of his ideas affirming or enlightening, and one or more of his practical tips worth a try.

Wormeli contends that:

  1. Allowing students to redo assignments and assessments is the best way to prepare them for adult life.
  2. Allowing students to redo assignments and assessments for particularly important standards and outcomes most of the time is highly effective.
  3. Our goal is for all students to learn the content. Curriculum goals don’t require that every individual reaches the same level of proficiency on the same day, only that every student achieves the goal.
  4. True competence that stands the test of time come with reiterative learning. We carry forward concepts and skills we encounter repeatedly, and we get better at retrieving them the more we experience them.
  5. It makes sense to expect different things of students during the learning process than we expect of them when it’s time to demonstrate final proficiency or become fully certified. Applying expectations to students who are in the process of coming to know content is counterproductive, even harmful.
  6. Adult professionals actually flourish through redos, retakes, and do-overs:
    1. Surgeons practice on cadavers before doing surgeries on live patients.
    2. Architects redesign building plans until they meet all the specifications listed.
    3. Pilots rehearse landing s and take-offs hundreds of times in simulations and in solo flights before flying with real passengers.
    4. Lawyers practice debate and analysis of arguments before litigating real cases.
    5. Teachers become much more competent and effective by teaching the same content multiple times, reflecting on what worked and what didn’t work each time.
  7. The best preparation for the world beyond school is to learn essential content and skills well. Every one of these assessments reflects adult-level, working-world responsibilities our students will one day face. Many of them are high stakes. People’s lives depend on these tests’ validity as accurate measures of individual competence. All of them can be redone over and over for full credit:
    1. LSAT
    2. MCAT
    3. Praxis
    4. Bar exam
    5. CPA exam
    6. Driver’s licensure
    7. Pilot’s licensure
    8. Auto mechanic certification exam
  8. We improve with practice, descriptive feedback, and revising our practices in light of that feedback, followed by more practice, feedback, and revision. It’s the way authors write great books, the way scientists discover, the way machinists solve problems.
  9. Providing feedback and asking students to redo assignments until those assignments match the standards set for them are the keys to thriving classrooms.
  10. Making students redo their learning until it meets high expectations demands far more of both students and teachers than letting them take a failing grade, but it absolutely results in far more learning. Maturation occurs in the fully credited recovery from unsuccessful attempts, not by labeling those attempts as failures.
  11. It makes sense to grade students according to their performance on standards, not the routes they take to achieve those standards.

If you’d like to see Wormeli’s 14 practical tips for managing redos in the classroom, I’ll send you a copy of the article, or you can look online @

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