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Grading for Equity
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Grading for Equity
What It Is, Why It Matters, and How It Can Transform Schools and Classrooms



October 2018 | 296 pages | Corwin

“Joe Feldman shows us how we can use grading to help students become the leaders of their own learning and lift the veil on how to succeed. . . . This must-have book will help teachers learn to implement improved, equity-focused grading for impact.”

—Zaretta Hammond,

Author of Culturally Responsive Teaching & The Brain

Crack open the grading conversation

Here at last—and none too soon—is a resource that delivers the research base, tools, and courage to tackle one of the most challenging and emotionally charged conversations in today’s schools: our inconsistent grading practices and the ways they can inadvertently perpetuate the achievement and opportunity gaps among our students.

With Grading for Equity, Joe Feldman cuts to the core of the conversation, revealing how grading practices that are accurate, bias-resistant, and motivational will improve learning, minimize grade inflation, reduce failure rates, and become a lever for creating stronger teacher-student relationships and more caring classrooms. Essential reading for schoolwide and individual book study or for student advocates, Grading for Equity provides

  • A critical historical backdrop, describing how our inherited system of grading was originally set up as a sorting mechanism to provide or deny opportunity, control students, and endorse a “fixed mindset” about students’ academic potential—practices that are still in place a century later
  • A summary of the research on motivation and equitable teaching and learning, establishing a rock-solid foundation and a “true north” orientation toward equitable grading practices
  • Specific grading practices that are more equitable, along with teacher examples, strategies to solve common hiccups and concerns, and evidence of effectiveness
  • Reflection tools for facilitating individual or group engagement and understanding

As Joe writes, “Grading practices are a mirror not just for students, but for us as their teachers.” Each one of us should start by asking, “What do my grading practices say about who I am and what I believe?” Then, let’s make the choice to do things differently . . . with Grading for Equity as a dog-eared reference.

 

 

 

 

 
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
 
PROLOGUE: MALLORY’S DILEMMA
 
PART I: FOUNDATIONS
 
CHAPTER 1. WHAT MAKES GRADING SO DIFFICULT TO TALK ABOUT (AND EVEN HARDER TO CHANGE)?
Grading as Identity

 
Grading and Our “Web of Belief”

 
Who Is This Book For?

 
Blending the Technical and Theoretical

 
How Is This Book Organized?

 
A Final Word

 
Summary of Concepts / Questions to Consider

 
 
CHAPTER 2. A BRIEF HISTORY OF GRADING
The Twentieth Century Context

 
Impact on Schools

 
Grading in the Twentieth Century

 
Summary of Concepts / Questions to Consider

 
 
PART II: THE CASE FOR CHANGE: HOW TRADITIONAL GRADING THWARTS EFFECTIVE AND EQUITABLE TEACHING AND LEARNING
 
CHAPTER 3. HOW TRADITIONAL GRADING STIFLES RISK-TAKING AND SUPPORTS THE “COMMODITY OF GRADES”
Risk-Taking, Trust, and the Teacher–Student Relationship

 
The “Commodity of Grades” and Extrinsic Motivation

 
Summary of Concepts / Questions to Consider

 
 
CHAPTER 4. TRADITIONAL GRADING HIDES INFORMATION, INVITES BIASES, AND PROVIDES MISLEADING INFORMATION
Traditional Grading Evaluates Both a Student’s Content Knowledge as Well as Their Behaviors, and Invites Subjectivity and Bias

 
Implicit Bias and Traditional Grading

 
The “Omnibus” Grade: A Barrel-ful of Information in a Thimble-Size Container

 
A Tale of Two Students: Tangela and Isabel

 
Grade Hacks

 
The Impact of Variable and Unreliable Grading

 
Summary of Concepts / Questions to Consider

 
 
CHAPTER 5. TRADITIONAL GRADING DEMOTIVATES AND DISEMPOWERS
Disengagement and Disempowerment

 
Motivating Students to Do the Wrong Thing

 
So Where Do We Go From Here?

 
Summary of Concepts / Questions to Consider

 
 
CHAPTER 6. A NEW VISION OF GRADING
Supporting the Pillars: Coherence

 
A Measured Vision

 
Summary of Concepts / Questions to Consider

 
 
PART III: EQUITABLE GRADING PRACTICES
 
CHAPTER 7. PRACTICES THAT ARE MATHEMATICALLY ACCURATE
The Zero

 
The 0-100-Percentage Scale: Early Use and Enduring Flaws

 
The 0–100 Scale’s Orientation Toward Failure

 
Minimum Grading

 
The 0–4 Grading Scale

 
Summary of Concepts / Questions to Consider

 
 
CHAPTER 8. PRACTICES THAT ARE MATHEMATICALLY ACCURATE (CONTINUED)
The Problems With Averaging

 
Weighting More Recent Performance

 
Examining the Group Grade

 
Encouraging Productive Group Work Without a Group Grade

 
Our Accuracy Pillar: A Final Thought

 
Summary of Concepts / Questions to Consider

 
 
CHAPTER 9. PRACTICES THAT VALUE KNOWLEDGE, NOT ENVIRONMENT OR BEHAVIOR
Examining Extra Credit

 
If the Work Is Important, Require It; If It’s Not, Don’t Include It in the Grade

 
Grading the Work, Not the Timing of the Work

 
What’s the Alternative to Lowering Grades for Late Work?

 
Alternative (Non-Grade) Consequences for Cheating

 
Excluding “Participation” and “Effort” From the Grade

 
Summary of Concepts / Questions to Consider

 
 
CHAPTER 10. PRACTICES THAT VALUE KNOWLEDGE, NOT ENVIRONMENT OR BEHAVIOR (CONTINUED)
Homework

 
The Impact of Including Homework in the Grade: Student Voices and Copying

 
Reframing Homework

 
Grades Based Entirely on Summative Assessment Performance

 
Grades to Teach Students, Not to Control Them

 
Summary of Concepts / Questions to Consider

 
 
CHAPTER 11. PRACTICES THAT SUPPORT HOPE AND A GROWTH MINDSET
Our Understanding of Motivation

 
Grades and Their Impact on Student Motivation

 
The Role of Mistakes in Learning

 
Minimum Grading (A Revisit)

 
Renaming Grades

 
Retakes and Redos

 
Retakes: Frequent Approaches

 
Retakes: Common Concerns

 
Summary of Concepts / Questions to Consider

 
 
CHAPTER 12. PRACTICES THAT “LIFT THE VEIL”
The Veils in Our Schools, and “Hostile Attributional Bias”

 
Rubrics: What Are They, and Why?

 
Scoring Rubrics and Grade Book Entries

 
Using Rubrics to Empower Students

 
“Lifting the Veil” for Tests: The Opacity of Points

 
Beyond Points: Standards Scales

 
The Effects of Standards Transparency

 
Standards-Based Grade Books

 
Veils, Rubrics, and the “Real World”

 
Summary of Concepts / Questions to Consider

 
 
CHAPTER 13. PRACTICES THAT BUILD “SOFT SKILLS” WITHOUT INCLUDING THEM IN THE GRADE
“Soft Skills”

 
Grading as Feedback

 
Preparation for the “Real World”

 
Whose “Real World” Are We Talking About?

 
Connecting Soft Skills to Academic Success

 
Two Grades: Academic and “Soft Skills”

 
The Twenty-First Century’s Soft Skill: Self-Regulation

 
Creating a Community of Feedback

 
Student Trackers and Goal-Setting

 
Summary of Concepts / Questions to Consider

 
 
CHAPTER 14. PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER: NICK AND CATHY
Nick: Rethinking Assessments: Getting Away From the Games, and Focusing on Learning

 
Cathy: A Clearer Vision of Excellence

 
Summary of Concepts / Questions to Consider

 
 
EPILOGUE: A RETURN TO MALLORY’S SCHOOL
 
BIBLIOGRAPHY
 
INDEX

“This book will stop educators  who want to improve their practices with underserved students right in their tracks.  Feldman offers an insightful invitation to teachers who dare change the ways in which we have been taught to grade students’ products.  He demonstrates how our grading practices are grossly under-substantiated and too often unquestioned, and he challenges educators to build equitable assessment tools and mechanisms to support learning and development of all students.  Grading for Equity penetrates macro-level grading policies to transform micro-level teaching practices that embrace the cultural and the contextual.  A must read for justice-centered educators.”

Rich Milner, Co-Author of “'These Kids are Out of Control:' Why We Must Reimagine Classroom Management for Equity"
Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Education, Peabody College, Vanderbilt University

"Wow, Wow Wow!!! This book hooked me as a not-to-be-missed read right from the Prologue. Joe Feldman makes a strong case for shared grading practices to overcome the inequity of traditional grading, with solid reasoning, well-chosen research evidence, and perhaps most significantly, the powerful and frequent use of teacher voice. The chapters’ organizing structure encourages thoughtful and reflective reading, and will be particularly beneficial for book study within PLCs. . . . The main message of the book for me is summed up in this quote, 'We teachers cannot continue to sacrifice the integrity and reliability of our grades at the altar of professional autonomy.'"

Ken O'Connor, Author and Consultant, "How to Grade for Learning"

"There is growing awareness within the industry of education that traditional grading practices have become a barrier to meaningful student learning. One dilemma is that there is a lack of resources to support educators who want to adopt new grading practices that are both accurate and equitable. Joe Feldman addresses this need with his book, Grading for Equity.  Joe skillfully makes a compelling argument for change and offers specific ways educators can make profound differences to their grading practices. Students become intrinsically motivated to learn when their grades accurately measure where they are in the learning process.   Students who typically give up any hope of success can now approach learning with a positive growth mindset.  Grading for Equity will provide clarity and tools for an individual instructor or as a book study for an entire organization."

Jeffrey Tooker, Deputy Superintendent of Educational Services, Placer Union High School District
Placer Union High School District

"Joe Feldman peels back the curtain and shows the many flaws of our traditional grading system. His arguments are convincing - and the alternatives he proposes are both practical and powerful.  Reading this book will make you re-think the way you assess students and will inspire you to enact a system that encourages revision and redemption instead of compliance and corruption. "

Denise Pope, Senior Lecturer, Stanford Graduate School of Education, and Co-Founder, Challenge Success
Stanford Graduate School of Education

"We don’t usually think of grading when talking about equity, but in Grading for Equity: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How It Can Transform Schools and Classrooms, Joe Feldman helps us see why grading is an integral part of an equity agenda. He shows us how we can use grading to help students become the leaders of their own learning and lift the veil on how to succeed. He reminds us that authentic assessment and transparent grading are essential parts of a culturally responsive classroom.  This must-have book will help teachers learn to implement improved, equity-focused grading for impact."

Zaretta Hammond, Education Consultant and Author of Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain
St. Mary’s College’s Kalmanovitz School of Education

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