Top 10 Grading Articles (2020)

As another year comes to a close, it is once again time to sift through the research and commentary from the past twelve months. In case you missed it, 2020 has been filled with media headlines describing flexibility in grading practices due to emergency remote learning for many K-12 schools in the spring and increasing course failure rates due to the ongoing pandemic in the fall. In response to these events, several journals and periodicals published special issues in order to support educators during such unprecedented times. Without further ado, I present to you what I believe are the top ten (10) articles from 2020 written about grading (in alphabetical order by lead author’s last name).

  1. Brookhart, S. M., Guskey, T. R., McTighe, J., & Wiliam, D. (2020). Eight essential principles for improving grading. Educational Leadership, 78(1). Online exclusive. [Available online]

    Four experts share their thoughts exploring the place of grading as an important component of comprehensive and balanced district assessment systems. The eight principles described in this article are worth considering for schools interested in changing their grading practices today, next week, next month or next year.
  2. Feldman, J. (2020). Taking the stress out of grading. Educational Leadership, 78(1), 14-20. [Available online]

    Educators everywhere could use less stress in their lives right now. Joe Feldman suggests how shifting away from these traditional and stress-inducing grading practices can bolster equity.
  3. Guskey, T. R. (2020). Breaking up the grade. Educational Leadership, 78(1), 40-46. [Available online]

    Thomas Guskey discusses the inadequacy of a single grade and the advantages of reporting multiple grades. In this article, he describes how providing multiple grades that reflect product, progress, and process criteria can be done without requiring more work.
  4. Guskey, T., Townsley, M., & Buckmiller, T. (2020). The impact of standards-based learning: Tracking high school students’ transition to the university. NASSP Bulletin, 104(4), 257-269.

    In this study, we sought to determine if the implementation of standards-based learning in high schools affects students’ transition to learning in university courses. The results revealed no detrimental effects and the most frequently mentioned transition difficulties related to social issues and time management.
  5. Jung, L. (2020). Does this count? Educational Leadership, 78(1), 34-38.

    Nearly every educator has heard the question, “Does this count?” as it relates to students’ motivation to complete assignments. Lee Ann Jung posits that educators can fix gaming-for-grades school cultures by changing our understanding of formative classroom work.
  6. Link, L. J. (2020). Effective grading practices: Creating a culture of achievement. Principal Leadership, 21(2). [Available online]

    In this article written for school leaders, Laura Link shares four enablers frequently used to implement successful grading reform. Perhaps most importantly, she argues that school leaders must make cultural changes that include effective grading practices.
  7. Schimmer, T. (2020). Quality over counting: Mindsets of grading reform. ASCD Express, 16(2). [Available online]

    I plan to share this write-up by Tom Schimmer more widely in the upcoming year. He describes mindsets such as “quality over counting” and “standards over tasks” that I believe resonate with classroom teachers who have many years of points and percentages experience.
  8. Townsley, M. (2020). Grading principles in pandemic-era learning: Recommendations and implications for secondary school leaders. Journal of School Administration Research and Development, 5(S1), 8-14. [Available online]

    In this essay, I offer three grading principles schools should consider in the era of hybrid, remote, and quarantine-induced learning. I believe the current pandemic-era of learning provides school leaders with an opportunity to reclaim the purpose of grades to communicate student learning, whether the “new norm” is here to stay or schools eventually return to primarily face-to-face instruction in the years to come.
  9. Townsley, M., & Knight, M. (2020). Making change stick: A case study of one high school’s journey towards standards-based grading. Journal of Educational Leadership in Action, 6(3). [Available online]

    I almost left this article off the list, because “Townsley” has been noted a few times already! Yet, this study co-authored with Dr. Megan Knight was unique in that it explained the experiences of high school teachers and administrators in the midst of transitioning to standards-based grading practices. Using Kotter’s eight steps for leading organizational change as a framework, we recommend school leaders blow off the cobwebs and get started, understand staff needs and provide teacher support, and be comfortable with being uncomfortable.
  10. Venables, D. R. (2020). Five inconvenient truths about how we grade. Educational Leadership, 78(1), Online exclusive. [Available online]

    Venables describes the “monsters” that often drive our grading practices such as grading everything that moves and grading what students did rather than what they learned. He argues a more formative mindset towards assessment is needed in order to slay these grading monsters.

What grading articles from 2020 would you add to this list?

Also, see my previous “top” articles lists:

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