Favorite Books on Grading Practices and Grade Reform

grade reform mrsbyarshistory

Over the past several years I have read a lot of books and articles on grading practices and while I have written a lot about what I am doing in my classroom I feel the need to share some of the books that inspired me and still help me on the path to more equitable grading practices that encourage learning over points. So today, here are three books that helped me establish my grading practices. 

Rethinking Grading by Cathy Vatterott 

This book remains one of my favorites. It is published by ASCD which is an organization that has tons of resources on grading practices and assessment. Vatterott does an incredible job of addressing the culture, why, and how of grading practices and has the research and examples to back her claims. This book does an excellent job of explaining how going standards-based means you don't just shift how you grade, you also have to shift how you teach. 

"Standards-based grading is not just about changing grading—it's a complete overhaul of the teaching-learning process. Curriculum, instruction, learning, and assessment differ from the traditional system" Vatterott

"In the old paradigm, rigor was evidenced by the amount of content a teacher covered and the ability of students to commit large bodies of factual knowledge to memory. In the new standards-based paradigm, rigor is defined not by the quantity of knowledge covered, but by the complexity of tasks and the level of mastery of higher-level thinking skills that students can attain. This new definition of learning has implications for how instruction is structured and organized." Vatterott

This book also gives fantastic examples of how to approach assessment and how to get students to take ownership of their learning. I love the use of a reflection form like this one that helps students see where they are at. 

(This is a recreation of a form from the book.) 

Hacking Assessment by Star Sackstein 

While I have taken a different approach to grading practices than Starr Sackstein it is impossible for me to leave her book off this list. Hacking Assessment was one of the first books I read on grade reform where I walked away ready to try bold new things in my classroom. Her book doesn't dive too much into the research but instead gives you a quick guide to what she does in her classroom and how to do it (she even gives examples from other teachers and other subject areas.) A lot of the books out there on grading come from those who are removed from the classroom and have collected the work of others but with Hacking Assessment you get a real teachers perspective. She is also a fantastic twitter follow with lots of inspiring conversations, questions, and articles posted regularly. 

What still resonates with me from this book is how passionately Sackstein writes about creating learning spaces that really allow students to grow and learn from failure.

"It is essential that we develop a learning space where failure is positive, as it is a catalyst for growth and change. Students need to recognize that taking a risk and not succeeding does not mean they are failing: It means they need to try another way." 

The Formative Assessment Action Plan by Nancy Frey and Douglas Fisher

I love the work of Fisher and Frey and their work on Formative Assessment took everything I learned from one of my favorite books by Marazano and helped me really understand how to make it work in my classroom for my students. Their work is well researched and thoughtful but also full of practical examples of how to do the work in your classroom. This book explains not only the power of formative assessment but best practices on how to create a system that empowers students to get the most out of formative assessments in your classroom.

This book also brings in how the PLC process is essential to standards-based learning being the most impactful and powerful and gives examples of how to make it work and what to focus on.

"Without a clear purpose, students are not motivated and do not see the relevance of the content they’re expected to master." 


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