There is so much I want to question and share about this topic, but for now I merely want to go back to a book review I already posted on this blog. Robert Marzano is one of the most respected experts on instruction, assessment, and grading practices. Check out these direct quotes from his book.
p.30 (top): “In fact, research indicates that the score a student receives on a test is more dependent on who scores the test and how they score it than it is on what the student knows and understands.”
p.99 (middle): “In fact, measurement theorists tell us that a student’s true score on a given test is unobservable directly.”
p.105 Quoting Brookhart (2004):“…in a perfect world there would be no need for the kind of grades we use in school today…[but] grades are not going to disappear from schools anytime soon” (p. 4 – from Brookhart’s book).
p.122 (bottom): “However, regardless of the scheme the district or school uses, it should realize that an overall letter grade is an artificial construct because the cutoff points for the various grades are arbitrary.”
p.125: “I believe that the biggest changes will occur when overall grades are not the norm.”
The final section of the book is bold to take on the larger “sacred cows” of education, such as grade level progression and the requirements of minimum competence to advance through the system. I believe Marzano is right on in his conclusion that these elements present major obstacles to quality learning and student mastery, and I also agree that there is a much greater need for specific and timely feedback within the system. My concern is whether his approach involving standards-based grading, rubrics and power laws deliver either the effectiveness or efficiency that he says it will.
Why do so many educators clearly see a better vision for kids outside of our current system, but then resort to offering little tweaks here and there? They know an overhaul is necessary for the benefit of children, but almost always draw back due to fear of the logistical barriers within the system.
I wonder if having no grades at all wouldn’t accomplish all the same effects that Marzano hopes to see with exponentially better results. The funny thing is, based on the last quote above, Marzano seems to feel the same way.