10 Principles of Assessment

Principle #8

Evaluation and grading must reflect achievement and progress over time in relation to specific learning standards or student goals; evaluation is tied to learning not behaviour and attitude.

The best thing you can do is make sure your grades convey meaningful, accurate information about student achievement. If grades give sound information to students, then their perception and conclusions about themselves as learners and decisions about future activity will be the best they can be.

—Susan Brookhart

The primary goal of evaluation and grading is consistency at all levels. By using learning targets to shape assessment, greater consistency will occur. We need to ask ourselves how confident we are that the grades we assign are consistent, meaningful and support learning. (O’Connor)

Effective grades need to be accurate, meaningful, consistent and support learning; hence, assessment should:

  • reflect the values of the school and school district
  • measure learning, not behaviours
  • reflect what the student knows, understands and can do
  • be used to inform instruction
  • be used to improve student learning
  • be fair, transparent and equitable for all students
  • be organized by learning standards as per provincial curriculum
  • ongoing, varied in nature and administered over the course of the year
  • balanced between formative and summative
  • consider assessment near the end of the unit more than at the beginning for grading purposes
  • be relevant and authentic
  • should separate process and content

Assessment for determining grades should not include:

  • late penalties
  • homework (which is primarily used for formative assessment purposes)
  • group work
  • formative assessments
  • behavioural issues
  • zero marks for missed work (Students should be required to complete all work to a minimally accepted standard)

Academic Dishonesty

When dealing with academic dishonesty/ cheating the academic outcome (grade) needs to be separated from the behaviour (which is recorded on the student’s file/record). Students should be required to redo the assignment or a variation of the assignment to provide accurate evidence of their abilities and to establish whether the student can demonstrate knowledge of the required task/outcome.

Clasroom Examples/Teacher Testimonials

1. An Elementary Teacher wants students to keep improving their writing. Students are told that if they are more successful on subsequent essays, the mark will be changed from the first to reflect their demonstrated improvement. To help the students, the teacher provides written feedback on the essay, meets with the student to discuss the results, and offers feedback as they work on their next assignment. Besides being good practice, it is a great motivator. Not only do they have the chance to achieve a better grade, they don’t feel saddled (and think “why bother?”) by a lower earlier grade.

2. A Secondary Teacher uses grades from throughout the term as data to consider in making a judgement about student’s progress throughout the term in relation to learning standards. The final mark is based upon each student’s progress achievement over time.

Teacher Tips

1. Develop a grading system that accurately reflects student achievement. Grades should only reflect academic performance and achievement in relation to established learning targets; they should not include student behaviours (e.g., effort, participation, adherence to class rules, etc.). Summative assessment practices that are influenced by students’ behaviours and attitudes ultimately lead to either inflated or deflated grades that do not accurately measure students’ ability and achievement (O’Connor, 2011, p. 16).

2. A portfolio can be used successfully as a summative assessment tool at the elementary or secondary level. In a math class, for example, a portfolio could include sketches, and even 3-D representations of geometric concepts. Even observing what a child chooses to include in a portfolio gives the teacher valuable information about his or her learning style.

3. Use a rubric to grade; avoid marking based on quantity and presentation. Target assessment on the core standards that are clear to students.

4. Grades are always fluid. Never think that just because a grade has been reported that it is set in stone. If a student demonstrates progress, reward and reflect that in the final grade. If a student, through effort, gets better, keeping a lower term grade not only punishes them for where they started, but does not demonstrate accurately the student’s ability to meet the learning standards of the course.