Grades Below Average

Submitted By:
Carla Jantos MacMullen, Hopkins School, New Haven, CT

On Your Mark: Challenging the Conventions of Grading and Reporting
by Thomas R. Gruskey, PhD 
Solution Tree Press, July 2014

Many educators learned in environments where their work was graded and grades were formally communicated, and those educators continue a tradition of measuring and reporting student success based on points earned for content and skill mastery. Grading and reporting methods vary, yet educators and schools do not commonly discuss or agree upon the purpose and rationale behind either. Thomas R. Gruskey’s highly readable book is a call-to-action and challenges educators to not simply rely on five letters of the alphabet. With clear, quantitative examples, the book highlights limitations and negative outcomes for common grading and reporting practices including plus/minus letter grades, grade distribution curves, class rank and single grades for all coursework. The author attempts to stop educators in their tracks and stir motivation to devise a better way. While part of the book provides opportunity to tally a current practice checklist, the author then provides a roadmap for revision that suggests clarifying the purpose of grades, aligning all school practices with that purpose and grounding change in research-based evidence. This book will spark reflection, discussion, and at best, fair and authentic grading and reporting practices that will support the children we teach.

Teaching Practice