Grades and grading can be a source of angst for new and experienced teachers alike – particularly when trying to ensure that grades for students with disabilities are meaningful and support learning. Grading is just one of the topics addressed in CEC’s newly released Survival Guide for New Special Education Teachers. This week, I chatted about grading with Catherine Martin and Clara Hauth, the authors of the Survival Guide. I think you’ll find their insights to be helpful.
Two things primarily: teacher subjectivity and lack of a clear grading policy. These things can snowball. A vague grading policy or unclear expectations can leave teachers feeling like they’re guessing, or students feeling like they don’t know what’s expected of them. This increases anxiety for everyone.
So if we want to feel less anxious about grades, we need to make grading less subjective? How do we do that?
Well, it’s important to make assessments as objective as possible. But it also involves effective lesson planning: are learning objectives and standards incorporated into the lesson plan? If a teacher knows where a lesson is going from the outset, it’s much easier to plan assessments that measure progress in getting there.
You’re saying to start at the end…like writing a book backwards?
Yes. It’s actually called “backward design”—a term coined by Wiggins and McPighe. You start with the objectives, design assessments that reflect the objectives, then create lessons that align with the assessments.
Makes sense! It seems like anyone could benefit from information like this. Is The Survival Guide just for new teachers?
Not at all. There’s so much in this book, for both new and experienced teachers. We talk about the classroom and school environment and have pulled together a lot of resources on identifying and implementing evidence-based practices. We feel confident it’s a handbook no one will outgrow.
Watch for monthly installments of Off the Shelf, with Lorraine delving into new publications, chatting with authors and connecting you with the research-to-practice knowledge you need in your classroom.
About the authors
Clara Hauth, Ph.D. (left) has more than 10 years of public school service as a special education classroom teacher, and as a lead mentor for new teachers. She is an assistant professor of special education at Marymount University. Catherine Martin, Ph.D. (right), teaches students with disabilities at Fairfax County Public Schools, is an adjunct professor at George Mason University, and is the mother of a child with a disability.