We’re pleased to share the news that the Third Annual Alabama Conference on Grading and Assessment will take place online on November 7 with national assessment-for-learning expert Dr. Douglas Reeves as our keynote speaker. Read on to learn more about this important initiative. You can now register at the ACGAL website.
Dr. Stoney M. Beavers
Alabama Best Practices Center
Dr. Andrew Maxey
Director of Strategic Initiatives
Tuscaloosa City Schools
Challenging the traditional norms of how we grade, assess, rank, and reward students throughout the schooling process is risky. Parents, educators and the public at large have deep-rooted perceptions of how these systems should work.
However, as we learn more about recent research on grading and assessing for learning – and the possible long-term effects on student achievement and motivation of getting it wrong – it has become crucial that we have these difficult conversations.
Questions around the soundness of the 100-point scale, the A,B,C,D,F and GPA systems, and the misapplication of grades to include non-academic behaviors are being increasingly raised by top educators and researchers over the past several years.
To respond to some of these questions and to broaden our collective knowledge base around effective grading and assessing for learning, Dr. Andrew Maxey and a team of educators launched the first Alabama Conference on Grading and Assessment for Learning (ACGAL) three years ago.
Ready for the Challenge
About 120 educators from around the state attended our first ACGAL conference at Paul W. Bear Bryant High School to hear keynote speaker Rick Wormeli and others present sessions to address these issues. Rick, one of the nation’s first NBCTs and the author of the bestseller Fair Isn’t Always Equal, is well known for his passion and his engaging style. Especially striking at this inaugural conference was the way in which he deeply challenged so many of the practices around grading that are simply taken for granted in public education.
One of the main takeaways from this first conference was that Alabama educators were ready to take on the challenge of examining conventional grading practices. Many systems were already moving toward standards-based reporting while others were struggling for ways to provide more concrete feedback to students and parents. For educators committed to the work, the most empowering point was knowing that we are not alone!
Moving Forward on Assessment, Grading & Feedback
Last year, over 160 educators attended the 2nd Annual ACGAL to hear Dr. Thomas Guskey discuss grading and learning. Participants were also able to attend three separate breakout sessions and hear about the successes that other Alabama educators are having with innovative approaches to assessing student learning. At this second gathering, a critical mass continued to build as even more educators attended and began seriously questioning the aspects of motivation, achievement, and equity associated with traditional grading practices.
This year, we are looking forward to our first virtual conference on November 7th. Our keynote speaker will be Dr. Douglas Reeves, and all registrants will receive a copy of his book FAST Grading with their registration fee.
It is good practice to have teams of educators and administrators attend the conference together because their collective understanding and united voices can be much more effective when approaching colleagues about examining current grading practices.
We think this conference offers a prime opportunity for professional growth for many schools and districts as registration is so affordable and the only expense involved – given the virtual format. Many educators believe strongly in the effectiveness of what they have always done and may not be open to exploring new options, but a group of trusted colleagues who ask them to look more closely at research and best practices can be convincing.
We hope you will join us for this wonderful learning opportunity on November 7th. The $50 registration fee includes Doug Reeves’ Solution Tree book, Fast Grading: A Guide to Implementing Best Practices (a $32 value). For groups of five or more, registration is $40. Registration begins Friday morning (9/25) here.
Background & Resources
► ”Taking the Stress Out of Grading” – A recent article by Joe Feldman, founder of the Equitable Grading Project, in the September 2020 issue of Educational Leadership Grade Expectations.
► “Grading During the Pandemic: A Conversation with Doug Reeves and Joe Feldman” – This joint interview with Reeves and Feldman surfaces their areas of agreement and disagreement.
► “Is School about Grades or Learning and Mastery?” – A March 2020 article by ABPC’s Cathy Gassenheimer supporting the need for more discussion and action on grading and assessment in Alabama, with insights from the work of Thomas Guskey and Rick Wormeli.
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