Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Report Card Grading and Adaptations: A National Survey of Classroom Practices

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Report Card Grading and Adaptations: A National Survey of Classroom Practices

Article excerpt

Two pervasive trends have deeply affected classroom practices for students with disabilities: an increased emphasis on higher standards and accountability for student performance, and the inclusion of students with disabilities into general education classes. For students in integrated classroom settings, some classroom practices may put students with disabilities either at an advantage or at a disadvantage, compared with students without disabilities. Clearly one such practice is grading. Classroom grades earned by students with disabilities provide a direct measure of the successful performance of the students and an indirect measure of the success of integration efforts in general.



Given the trend toward integration, a literature base on grading practices has begun to develop within the past decade. The initial publications included primarily position papers that focused on grading policies and practices, rather than empirical studies (e.g., Carpenter, 1985).

Recently, however, more empirically based work has emerged. For example, Zigmond and her associates (e.g., Donahue & Zigmond, 1990; Zigmond, Levin, & Laurie, 1985) reported pessimistic findings concerning the grading patterns of students with learning disabilities in general high school classes. Donahue and Zigmond (1990) found that although approximately 60%-75% of these students received passing grades in their mainstream classes, these students consistently received below-average grade point averages (GPAs) (i.e., an overall GPA of .99, or D work). Such patterns indicate a persistent lack of academic success when compared with the grades of students without disabilities (e.g., Wood, Bennett, Wood, & Bennett, 1990). Grading patterns have also been researched as part of the National Longitudinal Transition Study. Valdes, Williamson, and Wagner (1990) reported that 60.2% of secondary students with disabilities had GPAs of 2.24 (i.e., C+) or lower, with 35.4% having a GPA below 1.74 (i.e., C-). In addition, they reported that over one third of the students with disabilities who were enrolled in general education classes had at least one failing grade. These data on grading patterns were complemented by discouraging data on school success reported more recently by McLeskey and Grizzle (1992).

The apparent pattern of poor grade performance among students with learning disabilities has led to greater attention on the part of researchers to grading policies and classroom grading practices. A recent national survey of grading policies was conducted by Polloway, Epstein, Bursuck, Roderique, McConeghy, and Jayanthi (1994b). These researchers found that the majority of local school districts (64.9%) did have a policy governing grading; further, over 60% of the districts with a policy indicated that the policy provided for modifications in grading practices for students with disabilities. The two most common ways that modifications were determined were through the development of individualized education programs (IEPs) or through decisions generated by an existing committee structure (e.g., pupil evaluation team). Polloway et al. (1994b) also examined district policies with regard to types of grades recommended or required and the standards used to arrive at these grades. They found that the types of grades most often stated in policies included letter grades at the elementary level, with an increasing trend towards number grades at the secondary level. Most commonly, these grades were to be based on percentage cutoffs, which, as they noted, may lack flexibility and have negative implications for students with disabilities. Also, only 12% of the respondents indicated that their policies called for shared grading systems between special and general education teachers.



As school districts develop grading policies, many are concerned about grading standards and students with disabilities. …

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