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Support For Assessment and Grading

Author: Dawn Mitchell


Hi everyone,

I know with the first nine weeks ending and report cards coming out soon, many of you are considering what assessment and grading practices are most effective for you.  The first nine weeks assessment process can be intimidating and stressful, so I want to share with you some resources that will support you in this work.

According to the Eberly Center of Teaching Excellence and Educational Innovation at Carnegie Mellon University, “Assessment and grading are not the same.  Generally, the goal of grading is to evaluate individual students’ learning and performance. Although grades are sometimes treated as a proxy for student learning, they are not always a reliable measure. Moreover, they may incorporate criteria – such as attendance, participation, and effort – that are not direct measures of learning. 

The goal of assessment is to improve student learning.   Although grading can play a role in assessment, assessment also involves many ungraded measures of student learning…” 

Formative Assessment - The goal of formative assessment is to help inform our understanding of student learning and to then inform our instruction.  The benefit also provides feedback to the learner(s) and leads to targeted instruction. Formative assessments can be graded but do not always have to be graded.  One great resource is “Edutopia’s 53 Ways to Check for Student Understanding”.  See a variety of great formative assessment resources at this link

Summative Assessment -  According to the EdAdvocate “A comprehensive, effective assessment plan for students is one that engages them throughout the learning process by way of formative assessment and then gauges the success of those activities with a summative assessment. Both aspects are needed to better measure student learning and adjust teaching when necessary. By allowing students to influence the learning process along the way, educators will see increased scores on summative assessments.”  See “The Five Major Features of Summative Assessments” at this link.  

Grading –  I really like Rick Wormelli’s quote regarding grading that says, “A grade should not be compensation, but communication.” It is important that we do not use grades as punishment or rewards but rather as clear and consistent communication about a child’s progress.  Here are a few important considerations when grading that may be helpful to you as you work to communicate to your students and their parents their learning progress.

Important Considerations When Grading

  • Know your school’s grading policy and ask questions in advance of interims and report cards.

  • Check with grade level/department colleagues to determine “common” assessments and grading practices.

  • Communicate with students and parents the performance criteria in advance in a syllabus or parent letter and on a website.

  • Ensure that your assessment matches your instruction so it is a clear indicator of what students learned from your instruction.

  • Evaluate your assessments to ensure that they provide a holistic look at students’ understanding, performance, and effort in multiple ways.

Knowing that grading done well is a significant investment of time, see “7 Strategies to Make Grading Easier” from Edutopia at this link.



Dawn Mitchell

South Carolina ASCD President



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