Monday, February 27, 2012

Maybe We've Overcomplicated This Just a Bit

Book Review: Classroom Assessment & Grading That Work (Marzano, 2006, ASCD)

Could we be making things much more complicated than they need to be?
Maybe I’m not nearly as smart as I need to be as a public school teacher.
Boy, I sure would like to wipe the whiteboard clean and start over when it comes to grading policies!

All of the above are thoughts that ran through my mind as I read Classroom Assessment & Grading That Work by Robert Marzano (2006, ASCD). Recently, our school district officials were asked to create a brief, user-friendly guide for parents and teachers about key parts of Marzano's methods (the “power law” - aka. “power function” - and rubric score conversions). That request was never fulfilled. After reading this book, now I know why.

This book includes more than a dozen mathematical formulas in a 20-plus page section at the end called “Technical Notes.” There were approximately fifty different figures throughout this text, generally illustrations of potential rubrics in various subject areas. Apparently, it takes all of this in addition to the seven core chapters and two appendices to present a case for why standards-based grading is ideal and how it can be implemented (as long as one has the software necessary to do so, which is the subject of an entire chapter).

In the end, I can't help but scratch my head as I try to figure out to what end all of this is necessary. Marzano is not the only expert advocating for standards-based grading accompanied with rubrics and power laws. My problem is that the same researchers that put forth this grading system also acknowledge the inadequacy of grades in general. In fact, I contacted one of them, and he wrote back that there is no correlation between grades and learning. Then, he promoted his book explaining how to set up a better system of using grades. (Hence, the cause of my head-scratching.)

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