Weekly Goal #5 – Being a Honest Grader

This week I’ve reflected on the vastly different backgrounds my students have and bring to the classroom every day. This has been eye-opening, but I have to admit, it’s changed my thinking a little. Which is both good and bad.

I have realized, over the past week, that when I went to grade some of my more challenging students, particularly my ELL student or my student with behavioral issues, I was being lenient because of their life situations. I was overlooking spelling mistakes/punctuation and grading my ELL student more leniently. I was accepting my behavioral student’s paper at full-credit even though it was weeks late and I would have given any other student only half-credit.

When I stepped back and critically reflected on my week, I realized my mistake. Sure, there’s something to be said about understanding a student’s background and life challenges; however, it should not mean I am dramatically changing my thought process and grading system.

I came across this picture on the internet which speaks to the dilemma I’ve been having:


In my opinion, the ‘Halo Effect,’ as shown in this picture, is seeing a strong student as always doing well in class, thus going into grading with the expectation that he or she will automatically score high on an assignment. The ‘Horn Effect’ on the other hand, is then the opposite–thinking a poor-scoring student will always score low. I have to admit, some of these biases have crept into my mind while grading a time or two.

What I’m more concerned with right now, however, is the last bullet statement: being overly lenient. When I really think about the assignments I’ve put into the grade book for some of my struggling students, at times I have awarded them more than they deserved. For example, my student with behavioral issues, who skipped the first week of classes, came in the second and wouldn’t do anything, then finally started to follow along with reading, turned in a journal assignment to me via email. This assignment was close to a month late, and was riddled with spelling and capitalization errors, but I wanted to award her a 6 out of 10 for her effort. She had finally handed something in! She was turning over a new leaf!

The scored she really deserved, however, was a 4. She had not completed the assignment on time, or even within a reasonable amount of time. She had not turned in a printed copy, which I required. She had not taken into consideration the rubric, which outlined grammar and spelling and capitalization as important aspects of the grade. She also had not taken the assignment seriously, using slang and casual language. Despite my heart’s desire to give her at least a 6, I had to award her what I would award any other student in the class.

And that made me realize something–that I shouldn’t accommodate or lower my expectations for students, even struggling students. Part of their progress, and maybe even the most important part of their progress, will come from me motivating them and pushing them to be better, to hand in assignments on time, to put effort into their work, and to meet expectations.

My goal as I move into next week is to keep background and learner differences in mind, while not lowering my expectations. I can change expectations based on legitimate concerns or issues with certain students, but I must grade fairly, honestly, and without being biased or lenient to a certain someone or someones. 

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