Grading Students in Inclusive Settings

By Salend, Spencer J.; Duhaney, Laurel M. Garrick | Teaching Exceptional Children, January/February 2002 | Go to article overview

Grading Students in Inclusive Settings


Salend, Spencer J., Duhaney, Laurel M. Garrick, Teaching Exceptional Children


Based on his success in being mainstreamed for mathematics, Victor was placed in a general education classroom on a full-time basis. Victor was excited about his new placement and looked forward to being in class with his friends. His parents and his teacher were impressed by Victor's effort as he put in extra hours working on his assignments and studying for tests. Unfortunately, his grades on assignments and tests were not commensurate with his effort, and Victor was disappointed when he received Cs and Ds on his report card. His parents and teacher were heartbroken when they heard him say, "I worked so hard and this is what happens. Why bother?" The Smiths were pleased that their daughter Mary was being educated with her peers in the general education classroom. Although they wanted Mary to develop her academic skills, they viewed this placement as an opportunity for Mary to make friends, have the same experiences as other children, and learn to be independent, goals which were listed in Mary's individualized education program (IEP). They were pleased that Mary was happier, more confident, and making new friends, but they were disappointed when her report card focused only on letter grades for academic subjects and did not reflect Mary's development in other areas.

Before recently moving to the United States, Rafael had been an A student in his native country and was on his way to fulfilling his family's dream that he attend college. On arrival in the United States, Rafael was placed in a 10th-grade general education class and received the services of an English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) teacher.

Although he had learned many of the concepts in his native language, Rafael began to struggle in school and failed several classes because of his limited knowledge of English. Embarrassed by his poor grades, Rafael considered leaving school.

Mr. Jones, a high school science teacher, and Ms. Washington, a special education teacher, recently began to work together as a cooperative teaching team. They were beginning to adjust to each other when it was time to grade students for the first marking period. Mr. Jones felt that it was his responsibility to grade all the students. He also felt that it was only fair to grade all students in the same way, because their averages and class ranking would determine their eligibility for honors and awards and their admission to college. Though he recognized the importance of classroom-based assignments, he felt that students' grades should be based on tests because all students would ultimately have to pass the statewide assessments; and he felt that some of the students had received special help from Ms. Washington to complete their assignments. Ms. Washington believed that she should collaborate with Mr. Jones in grading students, and that grades should be based on multiple assessment measures and not just tests. She felt that students with special needs should not be penalized for receiving her services, because these services allowed them to learn and demonstrate their mastery of the class content, based on their unique learning needs and styles, and did not violate the integrity of the curriculum and standards.

As these situations demonstrate, the issue of grading students is multifaceted and has implications for students, families, and educators. These scenarios indicate that grading is more complex than selecting alternative grading systems to assign report card grades to individual students. Grading is an important issue for all students; but it is especially important for students with disabilities educated in inclusive settings, who tend to receive lower grades than their general education peers (Munk & Bursuck, 2001).

Issues related to grading are further complicated by several factors. One facfor is the conflict between the movement toward more "rigorous standards" and the movement to educate all students in general education settings (Hendrickson & Gable, 1997). …

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