OAR 581-022-2270 (Individual Student Assessment, Recordkeeping, and Reporting) requires districts to “record each student’s progress and achievement in all subject areas of instruction and to academic content standards.” The practices of students receiving a grade for an individual assignment or assessment, as well as earning a grade for a course, have been a part of our educational system for well over a century. In recent years, and especially throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, many educators and schools have questioned whether their historical practices serve students. The resources on this page are designed for educators and leaders who are working to make their grading practices more equitable.
Purpose of Grades
One of the primary purposes of grades is to clearly communicate a learner’s academic progress and achievement. Students and families use this information to celebrate growth or get additional support. Colleges and universities use grades in their admissions processes. Prospective employers may want to know how students performed in high school or postsecondary institutions.
Inequitable Grading Practices
Even if a common purpose of grades is widely accepted, the practices that lead to the determination of a grade can vary by educator. To some, grades should represent academic achievement only; behavior should be reported elsewhere. To others, grades are a way to rank and sort students, perhaps as a criteria for taking an advanced course. Furthermore, like many aspects of our educational system, grades are susceptible to an educator’s implicit bias. Grades are a powerful tool that have powerful consequences for students, including:
Grades can impact student identity, behavior, and motivation
Grades can be highly variable among educators in the same school
The accuracy of grades can be significantly impacted by extra credit or differences in weighting
Toward Equitable Grading Practices
Because grading is so personal, interrogating our grading practices must begin with reflection:
What relationship did I have with grades as a learner?
How has my experience with grading as an educator been influenced by my experience as a learner?
To what extent do my students know the purpose of grades and grading?
What biases do I carry into my practice as an educator, and how might these impact my grading practices?
These reflections can spur action, especially when done in a professional learning team (PLT). The resources below can serve as a catalyst for making grading practices more equitable.