Be Selective With What You Grade

1. Be very selective with what you grade.

When I first started teaching, I thought in terms of ‘assignments’ and ‘tests.’ Quizzes were also a thing.

But eventually, I started thinking instead in terms of ‘practice’ and ‘measurement.’ All assessment should be formative, and the idea of ‘summative assessment’ makes as much sense as ‘one last tooth cleaning.’

The big idea is what I often call a ‘climate of assessment,’ where snapshots of  student understanding and progress are taken in organic, seamless, and non-threatening ways. Assessment is ubiquitous and always-on.

A ‘measurement’ is only one kind of assessment, and even the word implies ‘checking in on your growth’ in the same way you measure a child’s vertical growth (height) by marking the threshold in the kitchen. This type of assessment provides both the student and teacher a marker–data, if you insist–of where the student ‘is’ at that moment with the clear understanding that another such measurement will be taken soon, and dozens and dozens of opportunities to practice in-between.

Be very selective with what you grade because it takes time and mental energy–both finite resources crucial to the success of any teacher. If you don’t have a plan for the data before you give the assessment, don’t give it, and certainly don’t call it a quiz or a test.

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