Monday, February 7, 2011

Looking for feedback: Assessment & Grading Guide

The following is a condensed version of our school's assessment, evaluation and grading guide.

We have been working with the teachers, for the past five years,  to address issues of  best practice in assessment and grading.  The following guide is a culmination of this work and shift in practice amongst our teachers.

Specific Policies

  1. Purpose of Assessment

Assessment serves a variety of purposes throughout the learning process from start to finish. Assessment practices should be employed in order to pre-assess, direct instruction, identify gaps in understanding and to guide further learning. Formative assessments, designed to guide the learning process will be offered in advance of major summative assessments. 

      2.  Determination of grades

When determining grades, teachers need to account for the following:

a)      Missed assessments: When a student misses a particular assignment or test, a mark of I (incomplete) will be assigned and an alternative plan devised to provide evidence of mastery (a mark of zero should not be recorded and averaged into the grade). If a student has missed a number of significant assessments, the teacher may be unable to accurately assess the student’s performance and should record a grade of I (insufficient evidence available) on the report.

b)      Incongruent assessments: Where a significant disparity or anomaly in student performance over time is evident, a interventions by teacher need to be implemented to address the gap in understanding.  This will allow for another assessment to confirm the student’s mastery of the outcomes in question. 

c)      Weighting performance over time: Teachers are to ensure that a student’s grade accurately reflects his/her best understanding of particular outcomes. Where a student has demonstrated significant improvement in terms of mastery of particular outcomes through the year, the more recent evidence should be emphasized in the determination of the grade. This eliminates the need to “average” marks in any calculation.

           3..    Work Habits

We expect that all students will put forth their best.  Work Habit skills will be reported on based on our work habits rubric.  When necessary, teachers should provide anecdotal comments regarding specific work habits. 

4.     Attendance

Attending class in a timely, regular fashion is the shared responsibility of the student and parents and an expectation of the school. Regular attendance demonstrates commitment to learning in a community and prepares students for higher learning and for life.  When frequent absences lead to an insufficient amount of assessment evidence, a mark of “I” will be assigned.

5.   Late or incomplete student work

Late or incomplete work is often symptomatic of other, more serious issues for student learning.  Teachers should show compassion in trying to identify the root causes. In most cases, the consequence of not completing an assignment will be completing the assignment.   

The consequence for late assignments will not be applied using mark penalties. Lateness will be reported on in the anecdotal/behavioral section of the report and carry other behavioural consequences as outlined below.

When an assignment is late or incomplete, at the discretion of the teacher and/or administrator, a student will be held responsible to:
a)      work with their teacher to create a timeline for completing the work and/or
b)      come in for extra help and/or
c)      work towards completing the assignment during their free time either before or after school or at lunch/recess and/or
d)     design an alternative assessment piece which demonstrates their mastery of learning outcomes.

In the absence of sufficient evidence of the attainment of learning outcomes due to a number of missed assessments, a grade of I or incomplete will be reported until such time as sufficient evidence is made available by the student.

               6.   Plagiarism and academic dishonesty

Using content and values appropriate for the grade in question, teachers at all grade levels will seek out opportunities to inform students about plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty

Academic dishonesty and plagiarism will be treated as a behavioral issue.  In some instances the student’s mark will be impacted. When an incident has been discovered;
a)                  the student may be required to re-submit the work in question in order to demonstrate mastery of the skills and content.
b)                  the format and timing of the submission will be at the discretion of the teacher and will likely result in a loss of discretionary time privileges for the student.
c)                  Teachers will communicate the incident to parents and an administrator

 Students who are found to have committed academic dishonesty may also be subject to sanctions outlined in our school agenda. 

 I look forward to your suggestions, comments and feedback

Many of these guidelines have been gleaned from the work of researchers and authors, including Ken O'Connor, Doug Reeves and Mike Schmoeker.  We have also reviewed a variety of guidelines from other schools.   (We would like to thank St. Michaels University School for sharing their policy with us!)   


  1. Hi Johnny - As a whole, I think your policy hits the mark by all accounts. The Big Ideas of no zeros, most recent evidence, separating behaviours from grade books, no late marks, etc. I think the one some people may have difficulty with...even on your own staff(?) the academic dishonesty. I think we take that one too personally. I always think about where a student has to be in their thinking that they believe the only way to succeed is to be dishonest. It really comes from a place of desperation.

    I am a big believer in taking policy and making sure there are new routines and systems in place. On Feb. 1 I blogged about how "Effective practices (your policy) are only as good as the systems designed to support the teachers who use them." The policy can be the easier part; the systems to support the policy more challenging. So, IF no zeros, then how do we support teachers in following up with students to ensure that the essential learning is achieved...that's just one small example. Anyway, this stuff is right up my alley so if you are ever interested in discussing further, please feel free to contact me. I'm trying to brief for the sake of space...I like where you are headed with your policy.

  2. Thanks Tom, I appreciate your comments and may take you up on your offer! I agree with you, when you say that the school needs systems to support the policy! Over the years we have added a variety of such systems - perhaps I will mention some in a upcoming post. Thanks again for your thoughtful comment and great suggestions!

  3. Hi Johnny,

    I quite enjoyed your post and share many of the views on assessment that you and your school have adopted. In Richmond we are entering a district-wide conversation with school staffs, students and the parent community to raise the understanding of how we assess, what it's purpose is, and to develop some formalized guidelines that will enhance our practice. It promises to be an interesting and lengthy discussion. We will likely be looking at policies such as yours in great detail. Thanks for sharing it.

    The thing I think is most important was mentioned by Tom Schimmer in his comment above and from his Feb. 1 blog entry. I agree that "Effective practices are only as good as the systems designed to support the teachers who use them." If teachers can agree that there is support in place for them to implement and use these strategies that they have had a hand in developing, then the buy in (in our case, district-wide) will be that much more successful.

    I am excited about where we are in Richmond, because we have been discussing and using many of the practices you and others have outlined for several years, and are now sharing, formalizing, and supporting the implementation of these practices is the next step. Ideally this should lead to even greater /teaching learning success.

    Thanks for sharing this post.

  4. Thanks for your thoughts Jason. This has been an interesting process for our school. We have had to implement and refine some support systems. You can take a look at my recent post where I outline some of the support systems that enable some of the changes in our assessment practices. Thanks again for your thoughts and I will be looking with interest as you embark on your changes in Richmond.

  5. I am really appreciating the number of people posting on assessment. It is very interesting how similar we all are right now. These views that you have shared, and have been shared by those from Richmond, Delta and elsewhere seem to becoming the norm. It is interesting if policy guides or reflects practice. Probably both. Many will say that they have been doing this for years; while for others it will really push their values and beliefs.

    I think even five years ago some of Ken O'Connors thoughts were seen as outside of our beliefs, but more and more our system in BC has moved to reflect his thoughts around zeros, late work etc.

  6. Chris
    Your question about this being a guide or expectation of practice is a very good one. This policy guide is a culmination of 4 years of implementation. I would say that a small minority are still having a difficult time implementing this. With the policy guide, all stakeholders now have a concrete understanding of what is expected. I must admit, this initiative has sparked some of the most vibrant discussions amongst my colleagues.

  7. I really enjoyed reading your school's policy, as it gets to the heart of assessment's intended purpose, determining the student's understanding. I especially appreciate the part around late and incomplete assignments. Too often students are penalized doubly for their assingments. They get penalized for handing it in late because they struggled completing it, and then receiving a lower mark because they were struggling with it. This does not make sense. Many of our students have so much going on in their life and a 0 tolerance policy on assignments is crippling. I really like the way that you still place reponsibility on the students' shoulders to find a solution.
    As mentioned by Chris, I am pleased to see this shift is becoming more and more common. We are pushing our assessment practices in Coquitlam, and looking at altering our reporting practices to match. I love the work being done in our province. Thanks for sharing this.

  8. While we have done a lot of work building our understanding of assessment practice, we don't yet have a policy like this to really explain and support it. This is EXCELLENT on so many levels and I hope to "share" it from you when we can have these conversations again with staff. Well done, folks! PJ

  9. Nice. So what happens at the end of the grading period or year when a kid has a bunch of I's?