Shift Happens: Communicating with Parents about Standards-Based Report Cards

When parents are used to thinking of “grades” as an A or B or C…a lot of mindset shifting has to occur as their students move to a standards-based grading format. Parents “know” what an A means, but many are unfamiliar with the idea of standards-based grading and may have never heard the term.  Making the shift to standards-based reporting will require us as educators to clearly communicate why standards-based reporting will benefit their students.

Parents will likely want to know why a new format for reporting grades is necessary in the first place, which is completely understandable. I grew up earning grades like A’s and B’s as most of you probably did as well. With that in mind, let’s compare 2 report cards brought home by a student (let’s call him Peter Parker) and see what rationale there may be for such a shift.

peter parker

  • After checking out Peter’s report card, what can you tell about his academic progress?
  • Which skills did he have a difficult time gaining or retaining?
  • What is his current level of mastery with addition and subtraction fluency within 5? 
  • How well does he read high-frequency words?

Now, let’s check out this standards-based report card and consider the same questions.

report card 2

  • After checking out Peter’s report card, what can you tell about his academic progress?
  • Which skills did he have a difficult time gaining or retaining?
  • What is his current level of mastery with addition and subtraction fluency within 5? 
  • How well does he read high-frequency words?

The second example lays out each standard that the student has been assessed on and gives a rating for each individual standard (see scale marked “Grading Key” above). Our first example, which shows a more traditional report card format, makes it pretty much impossible to answer any questions about the student’s specific skills, abilities, and levels of mastery. It also leads me to ask many more follow-up questions:

  • What percentage of this grade is classwork/homework/tests?
  • What standards were assessed?
  • Which specific standards is the child excelling in and which are a struggle currently?
  • Are there other factors besides standard mastery weighing into this score (compliance, neatness, work habits, extra credit, etc.)?

One of my favorite aspects of standards-based report cards is how easily you can communicate a student’s specific levels of mastery for specific standards to parents (and the students themselves). A couple of weeks before report cards go home, we send out letters to ensure parents are aware of what standards the students will be assessed on each quarter. These standards are phrased in “I can” statements exactly how they appear on the report card.

k report card

As you shift gears toward standards-based grading and report cards, you are sure to hit a few potholes along the way when explaining this grading philosophy to parents. It is tempting to equate a standards-based rubric with a traditional grading system (e.g. thinking of an “M” for mastery as the same as an “A,” a “P” for progressing is a “B,” and so on).  Because of this, we host a parents’ night each August to explain the grading scale and try to explicitly dispel this idea.


Another possible roadway hazard is student and parent expectations. If a student is used to earning “straight A’s,” then a natural assumption under this grading system would be that the same student will earn “straight M’s.”  However, standards-based grading is built on a rubric of mastery, or exceeding the standard. I have had a few conversations to explain that “all M’s” is simply not a reasonable expectation and that a “P” shows that the student is progressing with his or her ability on that skill.  A student is quite unlikely to master all standards in the first nine weeks, so that student will not have all M’s on the report card.  A students earns an “M” by mastering all aspects of that standard. Again, this is a conversation worth having on the front end of the school year so that reasonable expectations are set before the first report card goes home.

Surely, simply slapping different letters on a report card will mean nothing if it is not an extension of high-quality instructional and grading practices. This type of report card is a continuation of better teaching and better grading practices as a whole.   

It is imperative that as you switch lanes into standards-based reporting, you communicate to your parents that standards-based report cards are a true picture of what a student knows and is able to do. The drive from traditional report cards to standards-based report cards may bring its share of potholes or bumps in the road, but I assure you it’s a drive worth taking.  The trek will not be short…this conversation will continue far past the first few weeks of school. If we are to truly transform our current grading practices as an educational community, the communication highway must stay open! Just keep in mind, shift happens.

Heather is a kindergarten teacher at Hueytown Elementary. She is married to Micah and they have two sons, Daniel (5) and Nathan (1). Heather has a love for sushi, Flair pens, and all things college football.

How You Can Impact Your School’s Grading Culture

I am a former first-grade teacher. As a primary teacher, grading requirements never worked as a barrier to providing new learning experiences for students. When new ideas were presented to me, I asked questions like, “Is this best practice?” or “What does the research say?” And I could never fully understand why intermediate grade teachers were so consumed by grading. It was simple to me. Did the student meet the standard? How do you know? The end. However, if the AMSTI (Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiative) specialist suggested using science journals, intermediate teachers would ask, “How will we grade that?” If the math coach encouraged teachers to downsize from 25 questions on math assessment, when sufficient evidence of learning could be collected with only 4 questions, teachers asked, “How will we grade this? Missing one question would be a score of 75%.”

Grading. Grading. Grading. At the time, sitting in my world of standards-based grades, I thought that this endless questioning about grading was simply a delay tactic or an attempt to avoid trying something new in the classroom. But now that I am older, wiser, and teaching fourth grade, I realize that grading is a factor in every decision I make. As an intermediate grade teacher, I am required to report traditional grades. (One grade per week per subject is the district’s guideline or strong suggestion.) Needless to say, I am grappling with my colleagues’ same questions nowadays.

Sparking An Awakening

Over the past three years, I have struggled to bridge the gap between communicating with stakeholders about student learning and reporting grades. I began my journey by listening to series of YouTube videos produced by Rick Wormeli on standards-based grading, which led me to attend the Alabama Conference on Grading and Assessment for Learning (ACGAL). During the conference, someone asked me, “Where do we go from here?” In response, I rattled off a list of things teachers at the conference could do:

“Tell a friend, who asks about your weekend, about ACGAL.”

“Speak up when you see bad practices taking place. Simply question it.”

“Ask for seven minutes on the next faculty meeting agenda.”

I went home feeling convicted to take my own advice. Awareness was not enough. I needed to turn awareness into action, action beyond myself. So, after the conference, I sent a text message to a group of teachers.

“Hey, it’s Rachel Hill. I attended a grading conference today and I am really wanting to reevaluate my assessment and grading practices. On Tuesdays directly after school from 3:00-3:30, I am planning to reflect and learn more about grading. I would love your input and help during this journey if/when you can come & are interested. (Feel free to invite whoever else might be interested too.) *Starting on Oct. 16th, no pressure to respond.”

Honestly, I did not know if any of them would respond. Just before sending the text message, I told myself that no matter who showed up (or didn’t), I was going to devote at least one hour to improving and refining my grading practices, even if the work was to be accomplished through self-reflection and self-directed learning. Much to my surprise, all of the invited teachers showed up.

Building Community

Since October 2018, every Tuesday afternoon, a small group of teachers, from kindergarten to fifth grade, has met for an hour (or often times longer) to discuss and reflect on topics such as the purpose of grades, defining mastery, and providing descriptive feedback. We begin with reflections, explore some research, decide on an action step based on today’s learning, and plan our central topic for the next week. Thus far, we have mostly referenced research provided in Rick Wormeli’s book Fair Isn’t Always Equal, 2nd Edition.

Discussing the research increases awareness, but the true impact often takes place in our opening discussions of what is working and what we are struggling with in our classrooms in regards to grading. This impact is compounded at the close of each session, when we openly commit to our next steps. We do not always commit to the same next step, because we are different people, who teach different groups of young people. Still, we are committed to doing the work of improving our grading practices together.

In this unlikely group, we have discovered a way of talking about instruction and grading that focuses on student learning and not the grade. When we discuss our gradebooks, we refer to the learning target and evidence of learning. At times, I felt discouraged or unqualified to facilitate a group like this one, but about a month after we started meeting, I received this message from a group member:

“Just want to say thank you for introducing me to these rubrics! I’m grading my math tests now and it makes me feel better about what my kids really know and don’t know!”

Maybe one day, compliance with district policy will not undo the good work done through conferencing with students and providing descriptive feedback. I hope we will stop being forced to squeeze weeks’ worth of learning on various learning targets into a single number, but until then I will do my part. And right now, my role is to simply ask questions and share my new learning when I can.

So what about you, what is your next step?

Rachel Hill teaches fourth grade in Tuscaloosa, AL. Her passion for teaching is fueled by the realization that, “When we know better, we should do better.” When Miss HIll is not yelling Roll Tide, she can usually be found reading a novel or watching the latest episode of GREY’s.

Take it from a Pro: Tips for Teachers in Standards-Based Grade Reporting

When I saw my doctor recently, he took me off some medications that I had been taking for a few years. He provided me a rationale for that change. I had lost a pound or two, and a couple of indicators in my bloodwork that he had been tracking were looking pretty good. Plus, I reported to him that I am still working with my trainer twice a week – so all of those factors together lead him toward that conclusion. My doctor is deliberate in linking current research, multiple data points, and personal knowledge of me in his assessment – and I trust him.

Last year, my dentist recommended a crown – much to my chagrin. During the examination, her pick stopped a bit on a certain tooth when checking my teeth. That, along with the x rays and her overall knowledge of my teeth, led her to the conclusion that I needed a crown. My dentist is deliberate in linking current research, multiple data points, and personal knowledge of me in her assessment – and I trust her.

Also last year (it was a busy year), my wife and I visited our broker who examined our finances thoroughly. He looked at our current investments, expenditures, and debts. He examined possibilities in the market and asked us about our retirement goals. From all of that data, he recommended some courses of action for us to pursue that would help us to securely meet those goals. Our broker is deliberate in linking current research, multiple data points, and personal knowledge of us in his assessment – and I trust him.

So why do you care?

My doctor, my dentist, and our financial broker are all professionals. They and many others like them are experts in their fields. They assess a given situation and provide us a thoughtful evaluation – usually with a course of action. And we tend to trust those recommendations.

Teachers, too, are professionals – experts in our field. Yet many times, we teachers lack the confidence to use our professional knowledge to render evaluations to parents. Standards-based grading practices should provide teachers with some assistance, as the focus of any grade is the relationship between the standard and the student’s mastery level of that standard. Teachers often tell me, however, that they fear the subjectivity that accompanies their personal assessments to parents. They would sometimes rather hide behind an 86.34% average, as if that figure represents some kind of definitive, objective evaluation.

So what can we as teachers learn from these other professionals?

  • Professionals use research when administering assessments and interpreting results. Professionals take the responsibility to “stay current”, to know what practices merit what level of implementation and what strategies should be employed in what situations. Their work, at all stages, is impacted by research. Teachers who allow research to inform their instruction – the work that they have students do and the manners in which they assess that work – will bring increased credibility to the table when talking with parents about their children’s progress.
  • Professionals use multiple sources of varied evidence to drive their judgments. Professionals recognize that one single assessment is NOT enough evidence to make an effective evaluation. Just as several different kinds of tests work together to shape a doctor’s opinion, the best teachers utilize multiple assessments in their evaluations. One key here, though, is that these multiple assessments are also varied in nature. My doctor looked at different kinds of blood work, but also conducted an examination, questioned me, understood that I was working out regularly, and used ALL of those varied data points to reach his conclusion. Teachers need not shy away from their observational data on students, as this “soft data” provides valuable, confirming information when lined up alongside other sources of evidence.
  • Professionals recognize that evidence and research must align with what is unique about an individual. Professionals do not operate in a vacuum. Most professionals are working to some degree with people, who all have different motivations, goals, and circumstances. My broker could have just offered me cold numbers to help with my retirement. But that data was useless in the absence of my personal goals for my post-work life. My wife and I wish to travel, while someone else may want a winter home. When teachers report out on student progress toward mastery of a learning target, individual student growth is an important component. A student could still be performing sub-par on the whole but may have made unbelievable progress from the previous grading period. The context of what is happening in a student’s life could drastically affect a number of data points and how that data is interpreted. The best teachers can offer a more personalized evaluation of a student’s set of data points, taking into account the context of a student’s given situation.
  • Professionals who combine best practices with multiple sources of evidence in a personalized context inspire trust. I have only had one cavity in my entire life, so it would be somewhat understandable for me to question my dentist’s recommendation for a crown. But my dentist didn’t suggest that I just take her word for it. She understood how I would receive this news, because she knew my history well. I appreciated the newer tools and x rays she had begun using. And I couldn’t argue with the data that she had presented. At the end of the day, I trusted her. But it’s important to note that it wasn’t blind trust; it was justified. Teachers worry that their standards-based grades and evaluations will be discounted by parents or seen as too subjective. The truth is, most professional’s evaluations usually are subjective to some degree. Teachers should not be afraid to utilize their professional judgment in assessing students. They should just be sure those subjective judgments are undergirded on a sound rationale and delivered with sensitivity.

Because….the BEST teachers are deliberate in linking current research, multiple data points, and personal knowledge of their students in their assessments – and students and parents, therefore, trust them.

Dr. Patrick Chappell is a veteran teacher and administrator in Homewood Schools. Patrick currently serves as the Director of Instructional Support for the school district and has worked as an adjunct at Samford University. Patrick has served several positions in AASCD, including president, and is in his 3rd year representing AASCD on the executive council of the CLAS Board. He and his wife, Sharon, enjoy reading, traveling, and watching films.

Making Data Walls Meaningful

First, a confession: We’ve spent no small amount of professional time thinking of data as a four-letter word.

This is not to say that we were disinterested in knowing our students and where they were in their progress toward mastery of standards. As veteran teachers, we continually sought ways to know our kids, to check in on their learning, and to confer with them to ensure that they were able to reflect and set goals.

But that word – data, and its accomplice data wall – had come to represent something disconnected from those endeavors. It meant high-stakes testing, decision-making that served scores rather than student learning, and shame in the guise of accountability.

So this year, when our principal issued the mission to go forth and create our data walls, she also did something else significant, something so important that its weight cannot be overstated.

“Make them look how you think they should look,” she said.

Here’s the thing about teachers like us: When it comes to the administrative nuts and bolts, we often prefer to be told what to do. Tell us which square to stand in and for how long at duty, set the activity day schedule, tell us which zone to monitor at the dance. Free up our brainpower and time, which are better devoted to instructional decisions.

On the surface, the format of a data wall might seem like one of those decisions we’d prefer not to dwell on. In reality, however, the structure and content of a data wall reveals our mindset about what evidence to collect and how to examine student learning.

In telling us to design our data walls to make them work for us, our principal gave us the room to think through how we evaluate and communicate student progress. We were long overdue for a data wall makeover (and, quite frankly, an attitude adjustment regarding data altogether), and we love a before-and-after, so please consider the next section of this post as Fixer Upper: Assessment Edition.

The Before – a snippet from one of our old data walls (names changed to protect the adolescent):

STUDENT NAME Argument Analysis Pre-Assessment 1/9
RI.8.1 Cite textual evidence
RI.8.2 Determine central idea
RI.8.3 Analyze how a text makes comparisons and analogies
RI.8.4 Determine meaning of words in context
RI.8.6 Determine an author’s point of view or purpose
“I Have a Dream” Vocabulary Quiz 1/19
RI.8.4 Determine meaning of words in context
Haley 85 67
Kenzie 50 77
Sierra 69 100
Robert 46 50

This data wall organizes data by assignment and is almost 100% a copy-paste job from one of our old gradebooks. The only addition is the notation of standards represented by each column. Color-coding might allow anyone examining the chart to note patterns of trouble but little else. And this is important: a data wall like this is good at identifying kids as problem spots. We’re headed down a slippery slope when we start talking about our “red,” “yellow,” and “green” kids.

Additionally, and particularly in the case of the Argument Analysis Pre-Assessment, it’s impossible to know students’ progress toward mastery of each of the five standards assessed. If we were to hand it over to someone outside of our classrooms, it’s unlikely they could make any decisions for these students without some serious digging. In fact, examining the data wall for ourselves as it stands was not especially useful  or informative.

This was going through the motions – completing the assignment of adding data to a spreadsheet to comply with building and district instructions. It did not make us better at meeting student needs.

The After –  a glimpse at this year’s data wall in progress:

STANDARDS PRIORITY STANDARD 1: Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence. [W.8.1]
LEARNING TARGETS I can write claims that address a writing prompt. I can support claims with specific and logical reasoning and evidence. I can use transitions and embed evidence effectively.
Rachel 85, 90, 85 80, 80, 95 75, 80, 85
Robin 55, 60, 60 55, 65, 55 55, 55, 70
Stacey 100, 90, 95 95, 95, 95 80, 85, 85
Blake 75, 75, 80 90, 85, 85 75, 75, 80

In designing a data wall that worked for us, we began with our priority standards, established through our district’s curriculum development team. However, we opted to break down the standards even further into learning targets. An examination of our data (by us, an instructional coach, or an administrator) yielded a clearer picture of how to support each kid.

We knew that these targets would be assessed multiple times throughout the grading period, which led to a discussion about the final grade to communicate progress for each target. Should we average? Rick Wormeli had something to say about that. What about other measures of central tendency? What sample size yields enough evidence for us to be confident in what each kid can do?

These questions sparked further discussion of how to design our assessments. Did we need to revamp some old tasks to make sure they were truly assessing what we said they were? And let’s be honest: this kind of evidence gathering and examination takes more time than copy-pasting from a gradebook did. So we took some care with the formatting of our evidence gathering documents to avoid wasting time hunting around for what kids could do.

Our assessment practice is ever-evolving, and we know that we’re not there yet. But we believe that the questions we continue to ask ourselves will help us to be better for our students. We hope you’ll ask us some, too.

Laren Hammonds and Jamie Thomas are 8th grade language arts teachers at Northridge Middle School.

Students Talking Standards

The Surprisingly Quick Impact of Implementing Standards-Referenced Grading in
My High School English Classroom

I wish I could’ve recorded every conversation with my students in the first five months. I wish I’d kept all their emails. I wish I could put into few words the one-on-one conversations I’ve had with them and the conversations I’ve heard them have among themselves.

But I haven’t. And I can’t.

I’m pretty sure, though, that if I hired 15 of the students who’ve best embraced standards-referenced grading (SRG) in my Pre-AP English 10 classroom to serve as team members on my imaginarily lucrative side business of selling it to all the students, parents, or professionals who stubbornly resist it, there’d be little hope for the future of traditional grading practices.

The transition to SRG is not all sunshine and roses, so don’t assume that’s all I’ve experienced or that’s all the perspective I have to offer.

But I am here to share with you my experiences — the experiences of a fifth-year teacher who loves challenging the norms of tradition, provoking students to think, researching best practices, stimulating reflection, and cultivating self-efficacy. And I think SRG is successfully making these things happen for me more than ever.

In education, we spend the most time collectively analyzing the big measurements: quarterly benchmarks; yearly summatives; cross-grade-level comparisons; Tier 1, 2, and 3 movements.

For most teachers, though, the day-to-day measurements mean so much more. They’re what determines the next day’s shifts. They’re what hints at long-term results. They’re what animates a teacher’s ethical consciousness. They’re what gives teachers something to hang their hat on.

Daily measurements convince me to stay up a little later to strategize, get up a little earlier to grade, think a little harder to plan, collaborate a little more purposefully, feedback a little clearer, praise a little more, feel a little prouder, smile a little bigger.

Thinking about how quickly my students have responded to SRG and begun talking standards gets me so pumped up.

Here’s how that’s looked:

Approximately a month before Day One: My Oxford High School colleague and Across the Hall podcast co-host, Michelle Shelton, says she’s piloting standards-referenced grading with her Pre-AP English 9 classes and would like me to opt in, too, so we could strengthen each other’s practices and combine forces in some of the ground work: crafting proficiency scales, designing digital data binders, drafting parent communication letters, and projecting likely hurdles.

Weeks before Day One: A teacher from a SRG Facebook group shares with Michelle access to a Google Sheet file she uses as a data binder for each of her students. We collaboratively modify the file to our needs and officially call it a digital data binder. Michelle attends a summer workshop at which she develops proficiency scales worthy of immediate use.

Days before Day One: The parent communication letter is completed, largely benefited by ideas from our friend Joy Kirr, author of Shift This!

Day One: I’m anxious that the first day will not go well. I expect students to immediately buck at the idea of SRG — to request schedule changes the moment I preview the course SRG teaching and grading procedures. I provide them letters that include an introduction to SRG, a grade conversion chart I’ll use to convert SRG scores to traditional grades at the end of the semester, and example proficiency scales. Students sit through the spiel, claiming they’ve got it and, upon my inquiry, having no immediate questions.

Week One: That silence on Day One? You’d think that might not have been a good sign for how well students would handle this seemingly monumental shift. It takes direct questioning to my students over the next few days to see what students thought.

They started talking then.

“My mom read the letter. But she said she has to read the letter over again to see what she thinks.”

“My mom’s okay with it. She teaches at the elementary school, and they’ve been doing this for a while now.”

“My parents don’t know what to think yet. They want to know what the grades are actually going to look like.”

“My parents were confused about the conversion chart. Could you describe that better to us so we can tell them?”

“How can I get a four?”

Months One and Two: Month One blows by. Lessons begin like usual: a hook, a preview of a learning target students also add to their digital target trackers, a look at the proficiency scale(s) for the standard(s) being taught and assessed, and an explanation of how the target relates to the performance task. As early assessments are submitted, I begin to notice that students are not scoring to anyone’s expectation, students or mine. Scores of one or two (we use a four-point scale promoted by Marzano Research) suggest a two-fold problem: (1) I’m not preparing them well enough to score above a two, and (2) they aren’t recognizing how to meet the expectations of the different levels of the proficiency scales. They begin communicating with me a little more, both in class and by email:

“What am I doing wrong?”

“I thought I did well, but my score wasn’t what I expected.”

“What day is your intervention?” (Intervention is a one-period class that meets once per week as a time for students to receive extra help.)

“Can I redo this assignment? I didn’t do as well as I know I could.”

“So I get a higher score for embedding text evidence?”

“What do you mean by ‘contextualize’ my evidence?”

“Could you take a look at my assignment? I revised what I did based on some of the feedback you gave me.”

I begin to occasionally display student work from the document projector to conduct live scoring. I model my thought processes: what I notice in their writing and how I apply proficiency scales to the process of analysis and scoring. After going through a couple students’ work, giving scores on multiple standards, I display another student’s, then another (By the way, I use students from other class periods when doing this, and I cover or omit the student’s name as it’s projected), but now it’s their turn to discuss aloud and score their peers’ work (which I do beforehand in order to allow them to see the equitability of the scales and practice itself).

“That’s a one. The student didn’t cite any direct evidence.”

“That’s a two. The student only gave explicit character traits.”

“No, that’s a zero. That doesn’t even address the characterization of Melba. That’s only about Grandma.”

“The writer begins every sentence the same, and there’s only one sentence of commentary each time. That’s a one.”

Months Three through Five: Those who’ve risen in achievement in the first three months have been those who’ve asked questions, sought help, read feedback, revised work, and repeated this same process over again and again. Teaching the standards has become fun for me. Despite my students having dozens of other priority standards in other classes (and hundreds total, if counting them all), their constant dependence on them for satisfactory scores and regular visits to their data binders to check feedback, review scales, and track progress has done more than just made them aware of their location and basic nature. I didn’t anticipate the whole-class and individual conversations I’m now having.

I say, “So this reflection will assess you on L 10.1,2 again. What types of things should you be concerned with?” They say:

“Not repeating the same words and phrases.”

“Using correct grammar.”

“Correct mechanics.”

“Three to one.” (That’s the ratio of commentary to evidence I require of my students in order to fully explain evidence.”)

“Variation in sentence structure.”

I say, “What standard have we all struggled with the most this year?” Almost in unison, they say:

“RL 10.4.”

 “Well, what is it about that standard?”

“We have to explain deeper meanings of words and phrases.”

“Denotative and connotative meanings.”

You’re getting the idea. When you start a class with a target, and that target is connected to a standard, and that standard is a priority standard, and that priority standard is what students know they’ll be assessed on, they pick it up. They pay attention. They seek to improve where they are, even if they’re disgusted with low scores — even if they direct their grievances toward SRG instead of their own weaknesses.

I could write a book about all the growing pains students are pushing through to succeed with SRG. It hasn’t been easy. But I prefer the prospect of describing to others how SRG systematically improves student learning over authoring anything about the alternative; my experiences with traditional grading practices lead me to see teaching and learning using them as anything but systematic. SRG’s upward trend is all because of its simplicity: a viable and guaranteed curriculum, being priority-standards driven, assigning relevant tasks, and providing quality feedback.

It’s hard for even me to believe, but my students are actually talking standards.

What about yours?

Cade Somers teaches English 10 and Pre-AP English 10 at Oxford High School where he is piloting standards-referenced grading along with some of his secondary colleagues. He also cohosts the Across the Hall podcast, available on iTunes and Google Play.

ACGAL – for us, by us

On October 6, 2018, five state-level educational organizations in Alabama collaborated to present the Alabama Conference on Grading and Assessment for Learning – a one-day conference focused on classroom grading and assessment practices. For some, this event was long overdue and a natural next step in the professional dialogue that has been building in recent months and years.

On the other hand, the event was also seen as a beginning. Educators who reflect carefully on their practices around grading and assessment and who dig into this area of practice often view this work as essential. Many in attendance at the conference (and many who were unable to attend) voiced strong support for continuing this collective work. 98% of respondents to the conference survey indicated they are either likely or extremely likely to attend again or recommend it to colleagues if it becomes an annual event.  More importantly though, is the discussion and feedback offered by many suggesting that for improvement in our individual and collective practice around grading and assessment, we need a network of practitioners.

So, today is the launch of a blog to answer that call. Each week, a different educator from around Alabama will author a post. The purpose is for people doing this work to share what they have learned and are learning. We hope that this format will provide a wide range of ideas, examples, and opportunities for growth.

Many of the presenters from the conference have agreed to share to get the ball rolling. If you (or someone you know) is interested in contributing, please contact Andrew Maxey (who manages the logistics of the blog – amaxey(at) for more information. If we are to learn from each other, we need lots more folks to step up and share!

Please share these posts as they are published, use them to spark discussion in person and on social media, interact with the authors, and keep the conversation going. We welcome your feedback and look forward to being part of strong professional collaboration that directly benefits our students.

Andrew Maxey is the Director of Special Programs for Tuscaloosa City Schools.