Randy Sprick's Safe & Civil Schools, Practical Solutions, Positive Results!

Randy Sprick's Safe & Civil Schools – Practical Solutions, Positive Results!

Grading in Secondary Schools (continued)

...subjectivity vs. objectivity. Nobody wants a system in which a teacher gives good grades to kids she likes and bad grades to those she doesn't like. Subjective grading has no place in classrooms. However, if correctly implemented, behavioral grading can have a positive effect on students

At Safe & Civil Schools, we support the idea of incorporating feedback on student behavior and effort into your grading system. In addition to evaluation, such a system can help you instruct and motivate your students.

A behavioral grading component can be an excellent tool for increasing student motivation and reducing classroom disruption and off-task behavior. There are several reasons why you might want to consider adding such a component to your grading system

Student Employability

As educators, part of our job is to ensure that the next generation will be prepared to take on the roles required by our society.

Like it or not, a large part of employability depends on emotional and social skills. Students who show up for class without the proper materials, arrive late, disrupt class discussions and lessons, or are off-task for long periods of time are likely to carry these habits on to their adult lives. These students need corrective feedback if they are to make effective changes in their behavior. They also need positive feedback when they are exhibiting those behaviors that will allow them to be successful in class and on the job.

Teachers who create a limited and objective portion of the grade include not just outcome objectives, but process objectives as well—how to behave in a science environment so everyone stays safe, how to stay focused and engaged in a math-based setting, how to actively participate in PE or chorus. At least part of what most teachers want to accomplish is to teach their students the behaviors that will allow them to succeed in future educational endeavors and in the workplace.

Additional Rationale

There are other arguments for including a behavior and effort component in your grading procedures:

How to Design an Effective Behavioral Grading System

To be effective, a behavioral grading system must be both limited and objective.

Limited means that only a portion of the grade is based on behavior. The size of that portion depends on the content you are teaching. If content is easy to objectively assess, like math, the behavioral component should be a small percentage of the total grade. For performance-based courses like band, the behavioral grade could be a higher percentage.

Objective means that if a teacher is going to grade effort and behavior, he or she must create an objective system for doing so. For example, assign weekly points to each student that measure both positive behavior and misbehavior.

Here are six planning steps that will help you establish procedures to effectively provide students with feedback on behavior and effort.

1. Establish a percentage for classroom behavior and effort.

To teach students that daily effort affects their final grade, establish a set percentage of the final grade for classroom performance. The exact percentage will vary from class to class based on the subject, the maturity and self-motivation of the students in the class, and the level of student experience in the subject.

For example, in an introductory band class with students who are primarily motivated, you might make 30 percent of the final grade dependent on classroom behavior and participation. In an AP history class with more mature students and more rigorous academic requirements, you might assign no more than 10 percent.

2. Determine the approximate number of total points students may earn during the term.

Estimate the number of tests, assignments, and projects that students will take during the term and assign point values. Planning for the AP history course might look something like this:

Nine Units Covered in the Nine-Week Term

8 unit tests, 100 points each

800 points

8 quizzes, 25 points each

200 points

16 homework assignments, 20 points each

320 points

Final exam

200 points

Term paper

200 points

Total work points

1,720 points

3. Determine the approximate number of total points based on behavior and effort.

Using the percentage you determined in Step 1 and the total work points you defined in Step 2, figure out the approximate number of points you will assign for behavior and effort.

In the AP history class, the teacher decided that 10 percent of a studentís final grade will reflect behavior in the classroom. This means that students can earn 172 points for behavior and effort over the 9-week term. So as not to have to deal with fractions, the teacher rounds up and assigns 20 points per week.

Nine Units Covered in the Nine-Week Term

8 unit tests, 100 points each

800 points

8 quizzes, 25 points each

200 points

16 homework assignments, 20 points each

320 points

Weekly behavior/effort, 20 points each

180 points

Final exam

200 points

Term paper

200 points

Total work points

1,900 points

4. Design an efficient system for monitoring and recording daily classroom behavior points.

Design a form to record each studentís behavior during the week. Use it to note attendance, assignments, behavior, classroom performance, and weekly point totals.

At a classwide level, identify three or four positive traits or behaviors and three or four misbehaviors that represent rule violations. Assign codes to these behaviors and jot those down on the recording sheet as in this sample.

Sample of Codes for Behavioral Grading

Misbehavior

Code

Positive Trait

Code

Off-task

o

Doing your best (effort)

A

Talking (at the wrong time)

t

Be responsible

B

Disruptive

d

Respect/Cooperation

C

Students should start the week at a mid-C grade, in this case with 15 points (75% of 20). Each time you record a positive behavior, add 1 point to that studentís current total for the week. Each time you record misbehavior, subtract a point from the studentís current total. Hereís an example:

Partially Completed Behavior Record Form

Name

Fri.

Mon.

Tues.

Wed.

Thurs.

Total

Andersen, Gina

dd

CC

dA

d

14

Bendix, Frank

C

C

AA

B

B

20

Bigornia, Brad

o

A

A

16

Collias, Zona

t

Btt

ttt

CB

12

In this example, if you start the week with 15 points, add a point for each uppercase letter, and subtract a point for each lowercase letter, you get the totals in the Total column. Please note that Frank Bendix received six positive marks, which brings his total to 21. But the maximum number of points a student can earn in one week is 20, so that is what Frank receives.

5. Determine the impact of excused and unexcused absences on your grading of behavior and effort.

Determine how to deal with students who are not in class. Donít take points from students who are out of class for legitimate reasons. Here are some recommendations to consider:

6. Assign weekly performance points and provide feedback to students.

On Thursday, calculate and record the studentsí weekly scores. When students enter class on Friday, give them their weekly performance points and tell them that the new five-day period has just begun. If students do not receive their point totals before the weekend, the mental connection between their performance and their grades may weaken.

In Conclusion

An effective grading system is more than an evaluation tool. It can be a systematic monitoring device that demonstrates to students that they are accountable for their efforts—and that their effort will result in a better grade at the end of the term.

When properly designed and implemented, a grading system can encourage students to try their best every day. An increase in daily motivation increases the chance that students will keep up with course work and learn to demonstrate mastery of course objectives. When students discover that they can be successful in your class, they will remember their success. This will increase the likelihood that they will try to succeed in the future.

Download a PDF of this complete article.

Safe & Civil Schools Home Safe & Civil Schools Home Pacific Northwest Publishing Home Browse past issues of our newsletter.