Grading Reform Presentation

  • On August 30, 2011, the district welcomed back Wauwatosa teachers with guest speaker, Dr. Tom Guskey, a University of Kentucky professor known around the world for his research and practice in education grading reform.  Dr. Guskey challenged several aspects of traditional grading practices that are punitive to students, such as using percentages, zeros, and other mathematical precision as a means to reflect what a student has mastered.   He also presented essential guiding principles to reform grading practices which begins with a clear statement of purpose for grading and reporting.  Dr. Guskey’s presentation is provided on this website along with several other articles providing narrative conversation around the topic of grading reform. 

    As a result of this presentation, Wauwatosa teachers have been asked to reflect on their current grading practices in relation to the research on effective grading practices.  This reflection is especially focused on the elimination of practices that use punishment as a motivation for students to learn.  Some teachers are piloting alternative ways to report student achievement to parents, while others are eliminating practices contradictory to research and adopting methods of grading and reporting aligned to student achievement, rather than student behavior.  The district will continue making progress in this area by analyzing current grading policies and practices that are not aligned to best practice research. In addition we are working on improving the quality of grade level achievement expectations, which provide the foundation for an effective grading and reporting system. 

    Dr. Tom Guskey’s Conclusions from Research on Grading:

    • Grading and reporting are NOT essential to the instructional process; Students can and do learn without grades and teachers can teach without grades
    • No one method of grading and reporting serves all purposes well
    • Grading and reporting will always involve some degree of subjectivity
    • Mathematics precision does not yield fairer or more objective grading
    • Grades have some value as rewards, but NO value as punishments
    • Grading and reporting should always be done in reference to learning criteria, never “on the curve”
    • Grade distributions reflect both the student level of performance and the quality of teaching
    • Report cards are but one way of communicating with parents
    • High percentages are not the same as high standards

    Thomas Guskey Presentation to Wauwatosa School District Staff August 2011