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Douglass Reeves: Assessment Reform In Education

1500 words - 6 pages

Douglass Reeves has devoted a great deal of time and energy championing assessment reform in education. He believes that current practices employed by so many educators are not only deeply flawed, but unjust to the very peoples who are intended to be the beneficiaries of our educational system. Among Mr. Reeves’ many proposals, his “Case Against Zeros” is perhaps his most revolutionary… and controversial. The crux of his argument is that the grading scale that has seemingly existed since the days of the one-room schoolhouse assigns a disproportionate punishment for students who earn an ‘F’. Mr. Reeves is referring to the traditional 100 point scale, in which, the lowest grade a student can ideally achieve and still pass, is a 60 percent. He argues that the drop off from a proficient mark and a zero makes no mathematical sense. His solution? A 4 point scale, with an A equal to 4 points and each subsequent level worth one point less. Thus, this new scale, in Mr. Reeves’ opinion, is a far more just method of assessing student work.
I had adopted a modified version of the 4 point scale in my classroom prior to learning of its proponent’s views. Its implementation originated for many of the same reasons Mr. Reeves puts forth in his publications. The primary being that missing one grade should not negatively impact a student’s final grade to the degree it would on a 100 point scale. However, instead of each project or paper only meriting 4 points, my assignments are valued at 20 points. I feel this mitigates the effects of missing some work, while still making each task seem worthy of completion to the students. I believe Mr. Reeves’ scale devalues the undertakings the learner is charged with completing.
Reevaluating the overall worth of each assignment and the consequences for not fulfilling those charges are not Reeves’ only thoughts on the concept of assessment reform. He makes an argument against projects he refers to as “Semester Killers.” In essence, these are one activity, perhaps a lab or presentation, which counts for a disproportionate percentage of a student’s final grade. For example, if an English teacher were to assign a daily journal worth 5 points per week, yet in addition, required a book report presentation worth 200 points and a final exam worth the same, a student who completed every journal entry but struggles with public speaking and writing assessments, might fail despite passing all but TWO objectives. I concur with this theory, especially if struggling with a “Semester Killer” in turn means that a student gives up on the other work that he or she was doing consistently well because they realize the mootness of it in the grand scheme of their final, overall grade. This is why all of my assignments carry with them the aforementioned 20 point value. Students within this form of assessment structure realize that no one ‘F’ can irreparably damage their chance at passing any given marking...

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