Top 10 Standards-Based Grading Books

I received some positive feedback from the Top 10 Standards-Based Grading Articles list, so I thought it might be helpful to share a similar list of books¹.

  1. O’Connor, K. (2009). How to grade for learning, K-12 (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
    Ken O’Connor has written a number of books and articles geared toward practitioners.  How to Grading for Learning was helpful for me to think through several components of grading I needed to change in my own classroom.  These components include “basing grades on standards” and “emphasizing most recent information.”  There’s a reason the grade doctor’s books are so popular!
  2. Guskey, T.R. (2015). On your mark: Challenging the conventions of grading and reporting. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.
    No top ten list of standards-based grading books would be complete without at least one written by Dr. Tom Guskey.  On Your Mark is a comprehensive piece written for an audience who needs to understand why grading practices need to change.  I envision these chapters as meaningful content for book study teams in schools across the country.
  3. Wormeli, R. (2006). Fair isn’t always equal: Assessing and grading in the differentiated classroom. Portland, OR: Stenhouse.
    Rick Wormeli is an author and former middle school practitioner.  This book tackles concepts such as redos and retakes, the role of homework in the final grade and setting up grade books that reflect student learning.  I often categorize Wormeli’s work as less standardized than Marzano and more practical than Guskey.
  4. Jung, L. & Guskey, T.R. (2012). Grading exceptional and struggling learners. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
    Not sure what the role of ELL and special education students is within a standards-based grading context?  When are accommodations appropriate?  When should modifications be made to the standards themselves?  This book has some answers!
  5. Guskey, T. R., & Jung, L.A. (2013). Answers to essential questions about standards, assessments, grading, & reporting. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
    If educators are looking for a book in the form of frequently asked questions, this is it.  Beyond theory and outside of day-to-day classroom practice, Guskey and Jung lay out responses to questions teachers, administrators, parents and school board members may have about non-traditional grading practices.  
  6. Brookhart, S. M. (2013). Grading and group work. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
    Group work is still a valuable part of standards-based grading classrooms!  Susan Brookhart helps readers understand the difference between learning in collaborative groups and assessing group work.  Any teacher or school moving towards standards-based grading would benefit from understanding these ideas early on in the process.
  7. Reeves, D. (2010). Elements of grading: A guide to effective practice. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.
    I have always appreciated Dr. Doug Reeves as a speaker and author.  This book is no exception.  Reeves blends together research, logic and examples from schools to help readers think through toxic grading practices and their solutions.  Keep an eye out for the second edition of this book!
  8. Fisher, D., & Frey, N. (2007). Checking for understanding: Formative assessment techniques for your classroom. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
    Fisher and Frey’s book holds a special place in my heart, because the day I had the initial “I’d like to try out standards-based grading in my classroom” discussion with my high school principal, he handed me this book as a resource.  I believe grading and assessment practices need to go hand in hand.  This book provides more than enough practical tips and strategies for a classroom teacher to try out in a school year.
  9. Marzano, R. J. (2010). Formative Assessment & Standards-Based Grading. Bloomington, IN: Marzano Research Laboratory.
    It would have been hard to create a top ten standards-based grading books without including this Marzano text.  Of all of the books I’ve read the past ten years, this was the most highly anticipated one, however I cannot recommend all of the ideas presented for across-the-board use.  Marzano uses a formulaic way of creating tiered assessments that, while easily scalable across multiple classrooms and buildings, appears to go against my beliefs about authentic and meaningful classroom assessment.
  10. Heflebower, T., Hoegh, J.K., & Warrick, P. (2014). A school leader’s guide to standards-based grading. Bloomington, IN: Marzano Research Laboratory.
    See previous comments about the Marzano book on formative assessment and standards-based grading.  It would also be hard to create a list without including this book, because it is the only book I know of focused on school leaders.  Enjoy!

What books would you add to this list? 

¹All of the books on this list are focused on effective grading practices with or without a strong “standards-based” grading title.

Top 10 standards-based grading articles

Every once in a while, I receive an email from an educator or parent interested in standards-based grading (SBG) and he/she asks for an introductory reading list.  I typically attach several of my favorites and then link to an ongoing list of articles curated during the past several years for further reading. Earlier this week, a professional acquaintance suggested I share a top ten standards-based grading articles list. Challenge accepted!

Without further ado, here is my top ten standards-based grading articles¹.

  1. Scriffiny, P.L. (2008). Seven reasons for standards-based grading. Educational Leadership, 66(2), 70-74 [Available online]
    Patricia Scriffiny is a math teacher who mixes in the “why” of standards-based grading with a few of her own classroom examples.  Any school or department considering the shift to SBG could use this article as a conversation starter.
  2. Peters, R. & Buckmiller, T. (2014). Our grades were broken: Overcoming barriers and challenges to implementing standards-based grading. Journal of Educational Leadership in Action, 2(2). [Available online]
    Two Drake University researchers interviewed a number of building and district administrators in order to describe the ups and downs of implementing SBG systemwide.  Barriers in the process included: student information and grading systems, parents/community members, the tradition of grading and fear of the unknown, and the implementation dip.  I’ll let you read the rest!
  3. Winger, T. (2005). Grading to communicate. Educational Leadership, 63(3), 61-65. [Available online]
    In the summer workshops I’ve facilitated, Winger’s article is almost always a hit.  Tony is a practicing educator who mixes in thought provoking questions with his own classroom reality.  Questions such as “do grades interfere with learning?” and “do grades provide accurate feedback?” are bound to stir up some heated conversations amongst educators at all grade levels.
  4. Erickson, J.A. (2011). A call to action: Transforming grading practices. Principal Leadership, 12(1), 42-46. [pdf]
    Jeffrey Erickson is a practicing school administrator who writes about his experiences changing grading practices in a suburban high school. While his ideas don’t quite meet my personal idea of standards-based grading (e.g. homework still counts towards a small percentage of the final grade), I believe his ideas are on the right track and worth sharing with others.
  5. Clymer, J.B., & Wiliam, D. (2006). Improving the way we grade science. Educational Leadership, 64(4), 36-42. [Available online]
    Looking for a practical view into a standards-based grading classroom?  This is it!  Eighth grade science teacher Jacqueline Clymer shares a sample grade book and a summary of student reaction to standards-based grading in the classroom.  The obvious target audience is science teachers who want to “see” SBG in action.
  6. Jung, L., & Guskey, T.R. (2011). Fair & accurate grading for exceptional learners. Principal Leadership, 12(3), 32-37. [pdf]
    Hold on…what about students with special needs?!  University of Kentucky researchers LeeAnn Jung and Thomas Guskey team up to communicate, “standards-based grading is the most accurate method to assess students’ abilities.”  Students with IEPs and English language learners may need modifications or accommodations and this article describes how to fairly do so in a standards-based grading setting.
  7. Iamarino, D. (2014). The benefits of standards-based grading: A critical evaluation of modern grading practices. Current Issues in Education, 17(2). [Available online]
    In this peer-reviewed article, the author examines the literature to evaluate various grading practices before concluding “modern grading practices are rife
    with complexity and contradiction. They are remnants of archaic conventions, and hybrids of newer methodologies not yet tried by time and application” (p. 9).  I wouldn’t recommend this piece as a first read, but rather for educators with a more philosophical or theoretical bend.
  8. Wormeli, R. (2011). Redos and retakes done right. Educational Leadership, 69(3), 22-26.
    Reassessments are one of the most hotly contested aspects of standards-based grading from the perspective of teachers and parents.  Wormeli’s article describes compelling reasons reassessments make sense while providing teachers a list of practical strategies to try out in their classrooms.
  9. Guskey, T.R. (2013). The case against percentage grades. Educational Leadership, 71(1), 68-72.
    This article alone is worth the price of purchasing the September 2013 issue of Educational Leadership.  Dr. Guskey briefly describes the history of grading and goes on to differentiate percentage grades from percentage correct.  Not sure why a 4 or 5 point scale is more accurate and appropriate when compared to a 100 point scale?  This is your go-to source.
  10. Vatterott, C. (2011). Making homework central to learning. Educational Leadership, 69(3), 60-64.
    Any meaningful conversation about grading practices involves the purpose of homework.  Dr. Cathy Vatterott is often coined “The Homework Lady.” This article provides schools a framework to consider in order to unify educators around the purpose and emphasis of homework within standards-based grading.

What articles would you add to this list?

¹Articles must describe the why and/or how of effective grading practices, and priority was given to articles available publicly online.

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