On Grading/Assessment

Jim suggested that I turn this recent comment on grading into a blog entry so that we can access it via the categories. Here it is:
Most kids have to want to be in the classroom in order for most approaches to grading to be accurate and honest and true indicators of progress. In my view, that one fact changes everything about grading.
If it were clear to me that all my kids wanted to be in my classroom, I would then use standards based grading in a heartbeat, because both my students and I would see it as fair and helpful – we would want to know how we are doing in this acquisition of language process.
But, since all the kids don’t really want to be there (maybe 20% really do), then why should I go to the trouble of assessing them relative to various standards when heart/mind effort isn’t there?
When they walked into my classroom for the first time they didn’t just drop what they have learned to do to survive in all their other classes since about fifth grade, which was to find out what the teacher wants and provide it. I’m not talking about the four percenters – just the majority of them.
Maybe I have different kinds of students than y’all. The fact is that it just isn’t worth my time to put all that effort into thinking about their work for me when, in my opinion, it is not reflective of real effort from them.
It’s like getting all excited about keeping stats on a basketball team in a gym class. I would do it for a real basketball team where a lot is at stake and the athletes are really into it, but not in a gym class where the confidence and the desire to excel is there in only a few of the athletes.
Honestly, Susie has talked all along about simplicity in grading and I do that and it saves me so much time and is at the same time, in my opinion, extremely accurate – more accurate than all the comlicated stuff I did before. Of course, I had to adopt Susie’s simple approach because this past year I had 165 students, and some were fairly rough individuals for whom French was not the number one item of their day.
Now all I have to do is pop some quiz grades in from readings and stories, simple quizzes written by kids for kids, and evaluate what I see in their eyes (to me, the true barometer), and throw in a few dictations and such, which I use largely to make sure that they come to class on time. En bref, I make it more than simple so that I can relax and not be a flailingly accurate teacher.



7 thoughts on “On Grading/Assessment”

  1. Ben, your point is that getting too fancy in language assessment is flailing. I agree. But many grading practices out there are so hugely unfair and archaic for all disciplines that if we lead by grading kids on what they can do (understanding, reading, speaking, writing a language), however simply, then we are lighting a way. Ben, you don’t realize that when you demonstrate comprehension checks, story retells, and everything else you do to keep kids reined into the story or the reading, you are assessing by standards and showing kids how to succeed. You are just such a great teacher that you don’t know that other people need guidelines (kind of like the three steps of TPRS and your books) to assess fairly. You personally have been doing standards-based assessment for years now and not recognizing it. It shows up on all your videos! And a clear idea of assessment guides instruction… which then leads back to assessment, in the same way that discipline must precede instruction. Your lessons flow, but just as I need a yoga teacher telling me how to do an asana, many of us need that guidance on how to teach and assess. You are simply a natural teacher, who is demonstrating the best way to teach and assess by letting the lesson flow unimpeded by traditional ideas of what’s supposed to happen. Luckily for me, you also have the gift of eloquent writing, and you cared then and care enough now to put ideas into writing, or I would still be teaching the old way. Still, there even more you don’t know about what your teaching expresses. Lucky students of Ben! And lucky me, for finding your books and blog.

  2. This is still such a conundrum for me. What I know is that most students who “follow the CI class rules” will do ok. Those who do really well (acquire rapidly and show accuracy) are often just lucky. They have brains that do this easily. It doesn’t mean that if they do not attend, that they will do well. It just means it is MUCH easier for them than others to do well with average effort.
    For many kids, the effort output is immense and the acquisition payoff is slow and often difficult–as they watch their “easy acquirer” classmates race ahead. I still cannot get over the fact that, in some way, we are being asked to grade the brain.
    I know that any student who puts in the effort and follows the rules will do adequately, but I find that grading is a detriment to those slower acquirers whose brains just do it slower or in a bit more convoluted way. (I am/was a slow acquirer but am now considered to have native-like fluency and an excellent accent–took a hecka long time.)
    Schools are not about to get rid of grades, but I find that I cannot get with the standards-based system unless it is meant to show markers or milestones or something–but grades, no.

  3. Wow – now I am rethinking grades..this year, I did the standards based grading…the one person I remember it really making a difference for was a girl who is a slow processor…just as Jody mentioned….she hovered at a C most of each marking period…worked hard..just stank with listening comprehension and reading comprehension…I ended up ‘jockying’ points so she could get a B-, because I knew she worked hard and I didn’t want to deal with her mom…
    The previous year she had earned an A – when I did 20 % HW, 20 % Part and 60 % pot for everything else.
    Hmmm….will read more of what people write.

    1. Lourdes, I would be glad to share mine. We are required to give pre and post tests as part of the implementation of the Common Core, as well as new state teacher evaluation that requires evidence of student growth. Am not totally happy with mine, but it will serve the purpose this year for pre/post. Send me an email at: ardythe.woerly at gmail dot com and I will forward the pdf’s to you.

Leave a Comment

  • Search

Get The Latest Updates

Subscribe to Our Mailing List

No spam, notifications only about new products, updates.

Related Posts

The Problem with CI

Jeffrey Sachs was asked what the difference between people in Norway and in the U.S. was. He responded that people in Norway are happy and

CI and the Research (cont.)

Admins don’t actually read the research. They don’t have time. If or when they do read it, they do not really grasp it. How could

Research Question

I got a question: “Hi Ben, I am preparing some documents that support CI teaching to show my administrators. I looked through the blog and

We Have the Research

A teacher contacted me awhile back. She had been attacked about using CI from a team leader. I told her to get some research from



Subscribe to be a patron and get additional posts by Ben, along with live-streams, and monthly patron meetings!

Also each month, you will get a special coupon code to save 20% on any product once a month.

  • 20% coupon to anything in the store once a month
  • Access to monthly meetings with Ben
  • Access to exclusive Patreon posts by Ben
  • Access to livestreams by Ben