Over the past several years, our school has been working to improve our grading and assessment practices. This included identifying flaws in traditional grading practices, and identifying more effective approaches. As a result of this work, we reached a point where marking periods became an obstacle to implementing our practices. More background about the origins of our story can be accessed here and here. Ultimately, we decided to remove marking periods entirely, and transition to a year-long grading period.
Two years ago, after meeting with and getting permission from our Superintendent, our school piloted a “continual grading period” in sixth grade. We gathered a lot of data in our first year, and solicited feedback from students, parents and teachers on multiple occasions. In addition, my assistant principal @Murphysmusings5 and I were lucky enough to get some guidance from grading guru’s Myron Dueck and Doug Reeves. This definitely helped with communication, planning and implementation.
After making some adjustments, last year we implemented our continual grading period into both sixth and seventh grades. Our second year of implementation went a little smoother, and the overall feedback we gathered was increasingly positive.
A Sign of Success
Last year, thanks to the amazing efforts of our teachers, we ended the year with no retentions, and not one student who qualified for summer school. I’ve always disliked summer school, feeling it was a poor approach and ineffective. A few years ago, my former assistant principal @mr_tbloom came up with the idea to “put summer school out of business.” We thought that if we implemented remediation and support programs throughout the year, addressing deficiencies and low grades before they grew too large to overcome, we could eliminate the need for summer school. Last year, that vision came to reality. It wasn’t the elimination of marking periods that led to this success, but rather the hard work and effective grading/assessment practices of our teachers which ultimately helped us reach our goal. However, removing marking periods removed a barrier to those practices, allowing them to be more successful.
The Death of Marking Periods
This year, we are implementing our year-long marking period into all grades in our school (sixth through eighth). We are putting to rest an outdated practice which creates arbitrary timelines for learning, and is an obstacle to effective grading and assessment practices. I am proud of the way our teachers have embraced this change, and excited about the success it has yielded. Our staff showed a willingness to take a risk, and so far, it has paid off. Trying to change traditional, entrenched practices such as grading, is often seen as a daunting, if not dangerous task. However, as leaders and educators we have to be willing to challenge the status quo, take a risk, and embrace change. It won’t always be successful, but when it is, it’s pretty cool.
Do marking periods still serve a purpose in your school? Are they an obstacle to effective grading and assessment practices? What are your thoughts?