Grading - Secondary Grading Principles


Rich Mellish
Executive Director of Teaching and Learning Services

Secondary Grading in the Issaquah School District

I have always believed in the importance of being a lifelong learner, and to that end many of us within the Issaquah School District community, began to expand our knowledge about grading and homework. This work began purposely but informally back in the 2014-2015 school year. Since that time we have used the research of Dr. Thomas Guskey, Dr. Lee Ann Jung, and Myron Dueck to become better informed. This research influenced us to explore fundamental questions related to these practices, primarily, how do educators ensure that grades are a true representation of what students know and can do? 

Issaquah School District teachers have already implemented or expressed enthusiasm about implementing some or all of the following guiding principles for grading during the past two school years. I'm pleased to share that these experiences of Issaquah School District teachers, the research, teacher input, along with student and parent input have resulted in the identification of these guiding principles for secondary grade reporting. I look forward to all staff reviewing and familiarizing themselves with these guiding principles in the coming school year.  

  • A student’s grade represents academic proficiency. This means that the grade reports what a student knows and can demonstrate in a particular content area.
  • Learning goals and how they will be assessed are shared with students before learning begins. When students know what they should be learning, there is a greater chance that the learning will occur.
  • The collection of evidence that demonstrates academic proficiency is determined through a teacher’s professional judgment in conjunction with other teachers in their content area. A collection of evidence could include assignments, projects, assessments and other measurements of academic proficiency.
  • Assessments and other evidence of a student’s academic proficiency are rooted in common learning standards. Issaquah School District teachers teach to the standards, and assess what they so aptly teach.
  • Student exceptionalities are an important consideration when determining a student’s academic grade. Public school classrooms typically have a wide range of learners, and teachers will continue to be dedicated to teaching to the needs of all students. 
  • Students are provided multiple opportunities to show their proficiency, and many are motived to make progress with a modified timeline, or an alternate method of demonstrating their learning. 
  • Success indicators such as work habits, initiative, citizenship and collaboration, although important and to be fostered, are monitored and recorded separately from a student’s grade. In other words, behaviors such as attendance, punctuality, and completing extra credit that are unrelated to learning goals do not necessarily show a student’s level of academic proficiency.

I believe that the purpose of reporting (grades and report cards) is to describe a student’s current level of academic proficiency. This important work, already well underway, will continue in the coming years, as principals and teachers continue to dialog, as the District continues to provide professional development, and as teachers reflect on their best practices.  So, as staff spend this year familiarizing themselves with the guiding principles outlined above, and engage in the conversations I envision, and are supported by the District, then teachers will continue to refine their work on homework and grading. I look forward to this refinement taking hold and becoming a natural part of our work with students at the secondary level. 

Our goal is for teachers to give our students, and those who support their learning, the clearest, most informative picture of where students are in their academic proficiency.

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Ron Thiele

Guiding Principles in Secondary Grading Descriptions

Accessing Grades in Family Access