Grading and Report Cards for Standards-Based Physical Education: Methods of Grading Have Become More Complicated-And More Appropriate!

Article excerpt

Physical education teachers are confronted with a high-stakes, standards-based environment that has produced a grading and report card crisis. The development of content standards, greater access to information about student achievement, and an emphasis on self-directed learning styles have led to changes in the way students are taught and assessed. The shift towards authentic learning (i.e., learning that is relevant to students and the real world) and authentic assessment (i.e., an accurate determination of what students really know, can do, and value) raises questions about traditional grading practices. Traditional letter grading systems fail to provide specific information about learning targets, which is why authentic learning and assessment have begun to influence grading and reporting practices. We need to move away from traditional letter grading and begin to use a grading system that informs and truly assesses learning (O'Connor, 2002).

The purpose of this article is to explore the reality of grading and report cards within the context of standards-based physical education (SBPE). The article's specific objectives are to (1) identify standards for conducting quality assessments, (2) examine grading issues and concerns, (3) present guidelines for grading in SBPE programs, and (4) show examples of grading and reporting schemes that emphasize clear reference points (content standards and learning targets).

Standards for Quality Assessments

In order to achieve excellence in education, school accountability models have been designed to transform high standards and expectations into rigorous assessments, such as on-demand, standardized achievement tests. The United States--particularly legislators, parents, and many educators--strongly believes that increased student learning, and therefore, school improvement, comes from frequent, intense, high-stakes testing. Although such tests provide important information for program and policy decision-making, they are limited in meeting the information needs of teachers and students at the classroom level (in this article, the term classroom level refers to the physical education setting).

Grades, progress reports, and report cards are related to assessment because each is usually derived from a variety of assessment scores. If teachers are responsive to the meaning of SBPE, quality assessments are a must. Teachers need to assess accurately and use assessment to benefit students, not merely to sort and grade students. Quality assessment practices are built on five dimensions (Stiggins, Arter, Chappuis, & Chappuis, 2004):

1. Clear Purpose. Assessments should arise from, and be designed to serve, the specific information needs of intended users. Quality assessments serve appropriate, clearly articulated purposes. Why is the assessment being conducted? Is there a clear picture of who will use the results and how the results will be used? How do the purposes of the assessment fit into the bigger plan for assessment over time?

2. Clear Targets. Assessments should arise from appropriate, clearly articulated achievement targets. Quality assessments are directed toward achievement expectations that are completely defined. Is there a clear picture of what is being measured? Are the learning targets stated and easy to find? Would teachers agree on what they mean? Are they appropriate? Do they represent the discipline and are they worth the instructional and assessment time devoted to them? Are they clearly connected to standards? Do they reflect a bigger plan across grade levels in a vertical curriculum?

3. Sound Design. Assessments should accurately reflect student achievement. Quality assessments are designed with purposes and learning targets in mind. The assessment should use an appropriate method, should sample student achievement to make appropriate inferences, and should avoid potential sources of bias that could distort results. …