Why is it important to take grading into consideration in a co-teaching arrangement?
Grading is an issue that cannot be minimized during a time of high stakes testing; however, grading seems to be an "antacid issue", especially for teachers at the upper grade levels. Grades are important because they help students understand their progress, or lack of progress.
What are some grading considerations you will want to take into account?
Some ideas related to grading will be discussed. Before you lose a relationship over grading or stay up for hours debating over whether to give a student an A or a B, remember that rarely, if ever, does anyone beyond a child's parent or guardian ever see a report card. It is rare that anyone ever knows what a student received in their 3rd grade, 8th grade, or even high school chemistry course. Yes, someone will look at their GPA when they apply to get into college, but most universities put a higher premium on class rank and ACT/SAT scores than GPAs, because we all know an A at one school means something completely different than an A at another school. With this in mind, be creative and open-minded about the grading process, but use these tips to prevent you from falling into some common traps.
- Decide before you start - If this issue is not addressed prior to co-teaching, then it can become a barrier at the end of the quarter and may hinder future co-teaching relationships. Whatever grading structure you decide to use, be certain the students and their families are aware of how any modifications in grading will occur.
- Be certain to keep content and soft skills grades separate. We really do not do students a favor when we let them think they are doing B work, but we give them so much credit for effort within their grade they are unsure of how they are doing. The implication is not to fail students who are below grade level, but why not give an A for effort and another grade that reflects the content? Combining these grades can be dangerous to students' understanding of their skill levels.
- Combined grading by special and general educator - This method is probably most common but is one that can at times be problematic. First if a combined approach is used, then this should be agreed upon prior to starting the co-teaching relationship. Second, the student and parents should clearly understand how the final grade is being determined.
- Share with parents and students the process - Prior to even starting to co-teach, send home a letter like the one provided below to inform parents and students you both will be working and evaluating student learning in the classroom. Then, if any modifications to grading occur, be certain to share these changes with the student and his/her family.
- Think outside the box and don't be letter grade dependent - Many schools are successfully moving away from letter grades and using other ways to measure learning (i.e., portfolios, rubrics) which make it so much easier in the co-taught classroom.
Questions you will want to answer prior to co-teaching related grading.
- Do you have a clear make-up policy?
- Is your grading policy explicit?
- Do you provide ways to show students' progress in areas beyond the content (social skills, attendance, work habits, etc.)?
- Can you share different grades for process, product, and soft skills?
- Do your grading procedures and evaluation tools embrace students' various learning styles?
- Have you clearly agreed on who will grade and how you will grade daily assignments?
- Have you agreed on how final grades will be determined for all students and specifically for students with disabilities?
- Have you shared any modifications to grading with students and their families?
A data collection tool:
Consider creating a data collection tool for your co-teaching setting. This example tool was created simply using an Excel spreadsheet. The names of the students are put across the top, the goals on the students' IEPs are on the side, and a dot indicates that the specific goal is on that student's IEP. Weekly data can be taken on students' progress and entered into Excel to create graphs of students' progress or lack of progress on their IEP goals.