Grading Adaptations for Students With Disabilities

By Silva, Melissa; Munk, Dennis D; Bursuck, William D

Issues surround grading for all students, especially those with disabilities, who are at increased risk for grades that are low, inaccurate, and lacking in meaning. Teachers often recognize grading issues and will exercise judgment in making informal adaptations to the regular grading system. When chosen collaboratively and implemented systematically, grading adaptations can be incorporated into the regular grading system to produce accurate and fair grades. A systematic process for selecting and monitoring grading adaptations, the Personalized Grading Plan (PGP) Model, has been implemented successfully with included students with disabilities.

The following vignettes include common grading issues for students with disabilities. Have you encountered these issues as a student, teacher, or parent?

Marcus

Marcus is a 12-year-old boy in Ms. Rodriguez’s seventh-grade language arts class who has been diagnosed with a learning disability. His Individualized Education Program (IEP) addresses his special needs in reading decoding and comprehension and written expression. For Marcus, who is reading at the third-grade level, keeping up with the assignments in language arts class is a struggle. Marcus is always one step behind the other students. When he is expected to write paragraphs and longer assignments, he almost never completes his work. When Marcus manages to complete his work, it is sloppy and in need of revision. His IEP states that he is to improve his writing by using a writing strategy to help him complete written work, and his teachers have provided him with an editing checklist to turn in with all of his assignments. In the classroom, Marcus has a peer tutor available to help him, and he is able to rewrite and revise assignments. Despite all of the challenges that Marcus faces in language arts class, he received an A- on his first- quarter progress report. Marcus’s parents, who frequently talk with Ms. Rodriguez on the telephone about Marcus’s difficulties reading and understanding the texts and materials, and turning in his work, are perplexed by the grade. After receiving the progress report, Marcus’s parents immediately contact Ms. Rodriguez to ask her how Marcus received an A- when he did not turn in all of his assignments. Ms. Rodriquez said that because Marcus struggled in language arts class she did not want to discourage him with a low grade.

Did Marcus receive the grade he deserved? Does Marcus’s grade accurately refleet his performance? Are his teachers implementing an informal grading adaptation? Would a personalized grading plan (PGP) resolve the issue?

Shareka

Shareka, an 11-year-old girl in Mr. Martin’s sixth-grade science class, has just spent her first quarter in a general education classroom. Shareka was diagnosed with a severe learning disability in second grade and has since received special education services in a self-contained classroom. However, at Shareka’s annual IEP meeting last year, her parents advocated that she be included in the general education science and social studies classes. Mr. Martin, the science teacher, was wary of having Shareka in his classroom, but felt that with the help of an aide, Shareka would be able to keep up with the rest of the class. In addition, Mr. Martin provided Shareka with copies of the notes and study guides, and she received modified tests that were read aloud. At the end of every week, Mr. Martin wrote positive comments about Shareka’s progress in her assignment notebook. When Shareka’s parents met with Mr. Martin on conference day, he told Shareka’s parents how motivated she was to complete her assignments and to answer questions in class. Mr. Martin said that if he were giving Shareka a grade for effort she would receive an A. Because Shareka’s parents had only received positive feedback from Mr. Martin, they were shocked when Shareka received an F in science class 5 weeks after the conference. They didn’t understand how Shareka could be working so hard and receive a failing grade. When Shareka’s parents contacted Mr. Martin about Shareka’s grade, he said that although Shareka worked the hardest out of any of the students in the class, she wasn’t mastering the material. He didn’t think it would be fair to the other students to include effort, or any other factors other than scores on assignments, when determining Shareka’s grade. Were Mr. Martin’s classroom expectations clear? Should Shareka have gotten a higher grade? Would Shareka benefit from a grading adaptation?

What Is a Grading Adaptation?

Grading adaptations are procedures or strategies that can be used to individualize the grading system for a student with disabilities. As you will read later in this section, they involve using a grading system that is individualized to fit a student’s needs. Grading adaptations are legal modifications for students with IEPs. However, they should not be used with students without IEPs unless they are available to all students in the class (Salend & Duhaney, 2002). All schools have some type of grading policy, and you should check to see if grading adaptations are covered by your policy.

Inclusion of factors other than performance on classroom assessments in grading systems for general education classrooms has been discouraged because it may shift focus away from actual mastery of the curriculum, and because students and parents become confused about what grades mean (Guskey & Bailey, 2001; Marzano, 2000). The PGP Model is intended as a complementary or alternative grading system for students with disabilities, and not as a framework for grading systems for general education classrooms. Our research suggests that broadening the factors considered in grading may be helpful for students with disabilities and a history of low or inaccurate grades, and may result in improved performance on the general curriculum. One effect of developing grading adaptations is that students with a history of low or failing grades may be motivated to follow a personalized grading plan that has been developed to meet the student’s particular strengths and needs.

Classroom teachers frequently use judgment when grading students, and grading adaptations might be considered systematic use of informed judgment. For example, teachers often consider basing part of a student’s grade on whether he or she followed the correct steps or used a specifie strategy (the process). When done systematically for a particular student, this is considered a grading adaptation.

Informal or unsystematic decisions, even when made in the student’s best interest, can lead to confusion and threaten the meaningfulness of the resulting grade. Grading adaptations involve teacher judgment, but in a more systematic way. Because research suggests that approximately 50% of general education teachers informally practice the use of grading adaptations, a more systematic approach might help teachers develop more meaningful grading practices (Polloway, Bursuck, Jayanthi, Epstein, & Nelson, 1996). As you will see when you begin reading about the different types of grading adaptations, these are familiar strategies that can and have been implemented by both special educators and general educators in inclusive classrooms.

Researchers have identified five types of grading adaptations that can be used to assign student grades on both classroom assignments and report cards. The five types of grading adaptations involve basing all or part of a student’s grade on the following criteria:

1. progress on IEP objectives (Cohen, 1983; Frierson, 1975; Munk, 2003; Munk, Bursuck, & Silva, 2004)

2. improvement over past performances (Bradley & Calvin, 1998; Frierson, 1975; Lieberman, 1982; Munk, Bursuck, & Silva, 2004; Slavin, 1980)

3. performance on prioritized content and assignments (Drucker & Hansen, 1982; Guskey & Bailey, 2001; Munk, Bursuck, & Suva, 2004; Zobroski, 1981)

4. use of process and effort to complete work (Carpenter, 1985; Frierson, 1975; Gersten, Vaughn, & Brengelman, 1996; Guskey & Bailey, 2001; Hendrickson & Gable, 1997; Horowitz, 1982; Lindsey, Burns, & Guthrie, 1984; Munk, 2003; Munk & Bursuck, 2001; Munk, Bursuck, & Silva, 2004)

5. modified weights and scales (Drucker & Hansen, 1982; Munk, 2003; Munk & Bursuck, 2001; Munk, Bursuck, & Silva, 2004)

Following are detailed descriptions of the different types of grading adaptations.

Progress on IEP Objectives

One type of adaptation involves the use of a student’s IEP. The measurable goals and objectives and progress monitoring components of the IEP can be used as part of a daily work or report card grading adaptation (Munk, 2003). Grading adaptations involving, progress on IEP objectives for daily work base part of a student’s grade on criteria established by an IEP objective. For example, if a student has an IEP objective that states, “The student will use a strategy to solve math problems with 85% accuracy,” then the student’s use of the math strategy on an assignment with 85% accuracy might result in the student receiving an A on the assignment, or in a more likely scenario, the student might receive two grades for the assignment, one for the overall quality of the work (the product) and one specifically for strategy use (the process).

Basing part of a student’s report card grade on her progress on IEP \objectives could be a report card grading adaptation. For example, 10% of a student’s science grade could be determined by progress on an IEP objective. If the IEP objective stated, “The student will write complete sentences using correct spelling, grammar, and sentence structure,” then the teacher would evaluate the student’s written work for correct spelling, grammar and sentence structure. The points the student earned for this objective can be added up to compute 10% of the student’s report card grade.

Basing all or part of a student’s daily work grade or report card grade on his or her IEP objectives has several potential benefits. First, it allows the team to consider how and when IEP objectives can be addressed in the general education classroom. Second, it informs students, parents, and teachers as to which objectives are important and how supports can be provided. Third, it ensures that a student’s grade reflects progress on skills that have been identified as most important for him by the team. Finally, it eliminates the redundancy of reporting grades separately from progress on IEP objectives.

An issue related to incorporating progress on IEP objectives is focusing on learning objectives that will maximize performance on the general curriculum. When grades are based heavily on learning objectives for basic or “remedial” skills taught in earlier grades, the resulting grade, even when explained, may not reflect the student’s performance in the present curriculum. Another issue is the proportion of the grade determined by progress on learning objectives. In the absence of any research-based criteria, the proportion should be determined in a collaborative meeting between the student, parents, and teachers.

Improvement Over Past Performances

A second category of grading adaptations involves basing part of a grade on improvement. Daily work adaptations that involve improvement might include basing all or part of a student’s grade on improvement over past assignments. Adaptations based on improvement might also include boosting a student’s grade with “bonus points” if the student improved her performance on a certain assignment. For example, if a student raised her test scores’ average from 50% to 65%, the teacher could add the 5% that would allow the student to raise her grade from an F to a D.

A report card grading adaptation that is concerned with measuring improvement might involve basing part of a student’s grade on improvement over past work or assigning bonus points for meeting or exceeding specified criteria. For example, a student could be given 5 bonus points for each correct paragraph he or she writes beyond the three paragraphs required as part of the modified assignment. Thus, if the student earns 75 points on the assignment but wrote a fourth paragraph, he or she would be able to earn5 bonus points for writing the additional paragraph.

A potential benefit of using a grading adaptation that involves improvement is motivating the student to try harder. In fact, basing part of a student’s daily work grade or report card grade on improvement could provide incentive for a student to utilize supports that are available or to attempt more work if she or he chooses. In addition, using a grading adaptation based on improvement allows teachers to gradually increase expectations for low-achieving students.

One obvious issue with grading improvement is the risk of the student becoming dependent on special contingencies. When a student appears to be dependent on an additional incentive, the teacher should continue to increase the criteria through use of a progressing average, in which students’ scores or grades are averaged after each assignment to establish a new baseline upon which to improve (Slavin, 1980). Another concern is offering an incentive for improvement when the student does not possess the necessary skills to improve. In our research, teachers who select improvement as a grading adaptation have accumulated permanent products and observational data suggesting the student has potential to perform at a higher level when motivated to do so.

Basing All or Part of Grade on Performance on Prioritized Content and Assignments

The third category of grading adaptations, basing all or part of a student’s grade on performance on prioritized content and assignments, focuses on specific content and related assignments determined to be most important (Munk, 2003). How a teacher prioritizes specific content and related assignments can be driven by national, state, or local standards; the classroom curriculum; or other criteria established by the team. For example, a teacher might first rank the course objectives to be covered during a marking period. If a teacher determined that one of the two units being covered during the marking period was more important than the other, the teacher could prioritize the assignments within that unit. The student would spend more time on the assignments of the most important unit. An advantage of prioritization is that it allows the team to consider the appropriate amount of support for each assignment. Prioritization may allow the student more time to complete assignments, which may also allow him or her to work more independently. Those assignments would count more toward the student’s report card grade. With standards-based reforms sweeping our country (Thurlow, 2002), grading adaptations based on prioritization may be especially desirable.

Using a grading adaptation that involves prioritization of content and related assignments allows a student, parent, and teacher to focus support on the most important assignments. The use of this adaptation might also reduce the risk that the student will perform poorly on less important content and receive a low grade. More important, the process of prioritizing content may inform a teacher on other important decisions regarding planning and grading for an entire class.

The primary issue related to grading prioritized content and assignments is how the prioritization is conducted and what content and assignments are given less priority. This decision is best made collaboratively by the student, parents, and teachers.

Emphasizing Process and Effort in a Balanced Grading System

Grading systems often consider (a) products of student performance, (b) processes that students use to complete their work, and (c) effort the student puts into the work (Gersten, Vaughn, & Brengelman, 1996; Munk, 2003). Processes that include the use of metacognitive or learning strategies, assistive technology, and self- management strategies positively affect an included student’s performance in the general education classroom. Focusing on processes can be used as part of a grading adaptation. A daily work grading adaptation might involve basing part of a grade for an assignment on processes used by the student to complete the work. For example, editing is a process that a student might use while completing a writing assignment, so a portion of a student’s grade could come from the effective use of an editing strategy. A teacher could determine that if a student used the editing strategy correctly, 10% of the student’s grade on the assignment would come from the effective use of the editing strategy.

When a grading adaptation emphasizes effort, part of a student’s daily work grade comes from effort. How effort is measured should be a decision made by a student’s teachers, the student, and, when possible, the student’s parents. An example of basing part of a student’s grade for an assignment on the student’s effort would be to base part of the grade for a math homework assignment on the number of word problems attempted. The teacher could assign 10 of the 100 points for the word problem worksheet to the number of problems completed, with the criteria that the student needed to complete 10 problems to earn 10 points.

Emphasizing process and effort in a balanced grading system has several potential benefits for teachers. First, emphasizing process and effort allows teachers the opportunity to consider those areas when determining how work will be graded for a whole class or an individual student. Second, teams have the ability to decide how weight assigned to processes and effort should be balanced. Third, students can receive “credit” for learning and using supports that are provided. Fourth, emphasizing processes and effort in a balanced grading system allows students to receive credit for their time and effort to learn how to use certain processes that will allow them to be more successful in the future.

Two issues must be considered before incorporating process use or effort into a personalized grading plan. Students may become proficient with the processes targeted for grading but fail to improve the quality of the final product. If this occurs, it may be due to a focus on a process (e.g., learning strategy) needed for only a part of a task, and hence having minimal impact on the final product. Placing too much emphasis on process use in grading may also send the erroneous message that the quality of the final product is not crucial to grading, a message that is inconsistent with the philosophy of most grading systems in general education classrooms.

Modifying Weights and Scales

The last category of grading adaptations involves changing the scales used to assign a specified letter grade or changing the weights assigned to different types of expectations for determining a report card grade. Daily work grading adaptations that change scales and weights involve changing the number of points or percentages a student is required to earn to receive a specified letter grade on an assignment. A teacher could change the grading scale so that a student must earn 90 out of 100 points (90%) rather than 93 points (93%), indicated in the schoolwide grading policy to earn an A.

Report card grading adaptations that change scales andweights involve (a) changing the number of points or the percentages required to earn a specified report card grade, or (b) changing the weights assigned to different performance areas. A teacher could change the number of points or the percentage required to earn a specified report card grade by changing the grading scale so that a student earning 60% of total points would earn a D rather than an F, as indicated in the schoolwide grading policy. A teacher could change the weights assigned to different performance areas by changing the weights assigned to tests and homework to reduce the penalty to a student who struggles with tests but benefits from doing homework. For example, the weight of tests could be reduced from 60% to 40%, and the weight of homework could be increased from 10% to 30%.

If a grading adaptation that changes the grading scale or weights is used, a student may be motivated to try harder because he or she can earn a grade that seemed “out of reach” before the adaptation. In addition, changing the weights assigned to different performance areas allows teachers to shift weights from the types of assignments that are always difficult for the student. This grading adaptation must be implemented cautiously because it does not require a change in the student’s performance. Peers and colleagues may perceive changing the grading scale or weights to be less fair to other students. We do not recommend changing the grading scale to allow a student to earn a C or better, unless other adaptations will be used in conjunction with changing the scale. Changing weights is perceived to be fairer if weight is shifted to an assignment that can be used to assess student learning, and not simply away from an assignment that is particularly difficult for the student. A common adaptation is to shift weight to projects or homework and away from written tests.

Table 1 summarizes the types of grading adaptations, their potential advantages, and cautions associated with using each adaptation.

When Should We Use Grading Adaptations?

Grading included students with disabilities can become problematic for educators for a variety of reasons. Researchers have identified five common problems associated with grading included students with disabilities (Bietau, 1995; Bradley & Calvin, 1998; Calhoun, 1986; Christianson & Vogel, 1998; Donahue & Zigmond, 1990; Drucker & Hansen, 1982; Frisbie & Waltman, 1992; Hendrickson & Gable, 1997; Marzano, 2000; Munk, 2003; Munk & Bursuck, 2002, 1998a, 1998b, 2002; Munk, Bursuck, & Silva, 2004; Rojewski, Pollard, & Meers, 1992; Salend & Duhaney, 2002):

* Included students often receive low or failing grades.

* Grades serve different purposes for students, parents and teachers.

* Teachers feel pressure to give passing or inflated grades to students with disabilities because the work is difficult in general education classes.

* The system or processes used to grade included students may not be aligned with auricular or instructional modifications being implemented in the classroom. Students and parents have no input into how the student will be graded.

The use of grading adaptations for included students with disabilities can help both special educators and general educators address some of the common problems associated with grading. If you can identify with one or more of the problems mentioned above, then a grading adaptation has the potential of making the grading process more meaningful and fair for you and your included students.

Selecting the Best Grading Adaptation for Your Student

Selecting grading adaptations for a student should be a collaborative process that involves special educators, general educators, the student, and his or her parents. When deciding which grading adaptations to use, the special educator and the general classroom educator need to ask themselves several questions about the potential benefits a grading adaptation could have for the included student. By asking whether the adaptation has high, medium, or low potential for fulfilling each of the benefits below, the team can pick grading adaptations that will best fit into the general education class (Munk, 2003):

Table 1. Types of Grading Adaptations

Table 1. Types of Grading Adaptations

1. Could the adaptation be implemented within the general education classroom?

2. Could the adaptation be implemented by the general and special educators together?

3. Could the adaptation improve the student’s performance on the curriculum for the class?

4. Could the adaptation result in grades that accurately describe the student’s performance?

5. Could the adaptation motivate the student to work hard?

6. Could the adaptation result in communication between the student, parent, and teachers about grading?

7. Could the adaptation result in coordination between the classroom supports for the student and how she or he is graded?

8. Could the adaptation result in IEP objectives being worked on in the general education classroom?

9. Could the adaptation result in writing of IEP objectives that could be worked on in the general education classroom?

10. Could the adaptation result in the student receiving a higher grade than in past marking periods?

If you answer that the potential of a grading adaptation is high based on the questions above, then it might be appropriate for one of your students.

Earlier, we described how grading adaptations involve judgment and are often implemented informally for students with and without disabilities. We have field-tested a model (i.e., the PGP Model) for making grading adaptations for students with disabilities that promotes collaboration and systematic use of the most appropriate adaptations for a particular student, along with careful monitoring (Munk, 2003; Munk & Bursuck, 2001; Munk, Bursuck, & Suva, 2004). In the PGP Model, teachers (a) identify a student who might benefit from a PGP; (b) identify the student’s strengths and challenges that affect performance in the general education classroom; (c) clarify what aspects of student’s performance teachers and parents want grades to reflect; (d) review and evaluate different types of grading adaptations to select those with the most potential benefit to the student; and (e) develop a PGP that includes description of types of adaptations, responsibilities for each team member, and a plan for monitoring and reporting the student’s progress with the PGP (Munk, 2003). Following is a description of how the team for Marcus could implement relevant steps in the PGP Model. A detailed description of materials and procedures in the PGP Model can be found in Munk (2003), or by contacting the second author.

Identifying and Implementing Grading Adaptations for Marcus

After Ms. Rodriguez, Marcus’s general education teacher, and Ms. Smith, his special education teacher, discussed Marcus’s language arts grade with Marcus’s parents, Ms. Smith suggested that in order for Marcus to get a more fair and accurate grade, he might benefit from a grading plan. By having the whole team (Marcus, his teachers, and his parents) decide how Marcus would be graded, everyone would have input and would be able to determine what Marcus’s language arts grade would represent. Ms. Rodriguez was reluctant to participate because she felt that as a special education student, Marcus was Ms. Smith’s responsibility; however, in an effort to improve her relationship with Marcus’s parents, she agreed to collaborate with Ms. Smith.

The first tool that Ms. Rodriguez and Ms. Smith completed was the “Strengths and Challenges” chart (see Figure 1). Together, Ms. Rodriguez and Ms. Smith checked off which items were most difficult for Marcus. Both agreed that Marcus was struggling when he had to read or write on his own. Despite having Marcus in her classroom for almost a marking period, Ms. Rodriguez was surprised when Ms. Smith said that Marcus had trouble finishing his work on time and that he couldn’t finish the study guides in time to prepare for the tests. Ms. Rodriguez always saw Marcus diligently working in class, so she thought that he didn’t finish his homework because he was lazy and wouldn’t bring home his materials.

After completing the “Strengths and Challenges” chart, Ms. Smith asked Ms. Rodriguez to collaborate with her in completing the “Grading Adaptation Rating Forms” that would help them determine which grading adaptations would have the highest potential in Ms. Rodriguez’s class (Munk, 2003). Both Ms. Smith and Ms. Rodriguez rated each of the types of grading adaptations using the criteria described earlier. After reviewing the forms, both teachers agreed that “Grading prioritized content and related assignments” and “Basing all or part of the grade on student’s use of processes” had the highest potential benefit for Marcus. Both teachers felt that Marcus would benefit from having the class content prioritized, since he was spending a lot of time working on assignments but never completing any of them. By deciding which assignments were the most important, Ms. Rodriguez could provide Marcus with the materials and supports he needed to be successful in her classroom. Additionally, both teachers felt that Marcus would benefit from spending time learning processes that would help him be a more successful student in the future and improve the quality of his work.

After deciding which grading adaptations to use, Ms. Rodriguez and Ms. Smith completed the tools (see Figures 2 and 3) necessary for implementation (Munk, 2003). On the “Tool for Preparing to Base Grade on Prioritized Content and Related Assignments,” Ms. Rodriguez listed the two units, Biographical and Autobiographical Writing and Poetry that she would be covering during the second marking period. Because in her opinion the Biographical and Autobiographical Writing Unit was the more important of the two, she thought Marcus would benefit from spending more time reading a biography an\d writing a paper. Ms. Smith agreed that by focusing on large assignments during the unit, Marcus would be able to spend extra time working on those assignments that would be difficult for him to complete. Since Marcus would be spending so much time on the assignments, Ms. Rodriguez and Ms. Smith agreed that 25% of Marcus’s report card grade would come from reading a biography or autobiography and 50% of his grade would come from writing an autobiographical or biographical paper.

Figure 1. Student Strengths and Challenges chart.

Although AIs. Rodriguez thought that the Biographical and Autobiographical Writing Unit was the most important, she still felt that Marcus should learn about poetry. Therefore, Ms. Rodriguez and Ms. Smith both decided that Marcus would read and interpret the poetry in the language arts textbook and that his daily grades would count toward 15% of his report card grade. Because Ms. Rodriguez and Ms. Smith wanted Marcus to become more proficient at reading and understanding poetry, they decided that the poetry book would count substantially less for Marcus than it would for the rest of the class.

When deciding which processes they wanted to incorporate into a grading adaptation, Ms. Rodriguez and Ms. Smith decided that processes that would help Marcus on the prioritized assignments would be the most beneficial. Marcus’s teachers consulted Marcus’s IEP to determine which IEP objectives included the use of processes that could be implemented in the general education classroom. Ms. Rodriguez and Ms. Smith chose (a) The student will increase reading fluency and (b) The student will write paragraphs with correct grammar, spelling, and sentence structure at 85% accuracy. The teachers then chose the processes that Marcus could use to take advantage of available accommodations. As shown in Figure 3, the teachers chose a reading strategy and a writing strategy because both strategies would benefit Marcus in the present and in the future.

Figure 2. Tool for preparing to base grade on prioritized content and related assignments.

After Ms. Rodriguez and Ms. Smith completed the tools that corresponded with the grading adaptations they wanted to implement, they invited Marcus and his parents to the PGP meeting, where a grading plan was created. At the meeting, Ms. Rodriguez and Ms. Smith shared their ideas with Marcus and his parents. Marcus’s parents agreed that if Marcus had more time to complete assignments, and if his teachers made their expectations for Marcus clear, he might receive a more accurate grade. Marcus’s grading plan included the reason why a grading plan was being implemented and the adaptations that would be made for grading daily work. Marcus’s first grading adaptation, which is detailed in Figure 2, is that “Marcus’s classwork, homework, and projects will be prioritized.” The second grading adaptation that Marcus’s teachers will implement is, “A percentage of Marcus’s writing assignment grades will come from using an editing checklist.” The roles of Ms. Smith, Ms. Rodriguez, Marcus, and Marcus’s parents are outlined in the grading plan. Ms. Rodriguez and Ms. Smith will work together in prioritizing Marcus’s classwork, homework, and projects, and will as help Marcus learn to use an editing checklist. Because Ms. Rodriguez generally grades Marcus’s papers, she will be responsible for making sure that 20% of Marcus’s writing grades come from his use of the editing checklist. Marcus is expected to spend time improving the quality of his work, using the editing checklist, and notifying his teachers if the grading plan is not helping him. Marcus’s parents are also responsible for contacting Ms. Rodriguez or Ms. Smith if they have any questions or concerns.

Ms. Rodriguez and Ms. Smith agreed that it was important to keep Marcus’s parents informed about Marcus’s progress. They decided that every 2 weeks Marcus’s parents would receive a monitoring form that detailed Marcus’s progress on the grading adaptations (Munk, 2003). Marcus’s parents are expected to sign the monitoring form and then indicate if the team should (a) continue the PGP as currently written, (b) talk about minor concerns they have with the PGP, or (c) have a team meeting to review the PGP.

Identifying and Implementing Grading Adaptations for Shareka

Like Marcus’s teachers, Shareka’s teachers suggested to Shareka’s parents that a grading plan might help Shareka get a more fair and accurate grade. The first tool that Mr. Martin, Shareka’s science teacher, and Ms. Jones, Shareka’s special education teacher, completed together was the “Strengths and Challenges” chart. Both agreed that many of the classroom demands were difficult for Shareka, and Mr. Martin noted that Shareka often relied on the help of the classroom aide to complete all of her assignments; Shareka rarely initiated or completed any classroom assignments independently.

After completing the “Strengths and Challenges” chart, Ms. Jones and Mr. Martin completed the grading adaptation rating forms to help them determine which grading adaptations would have the highest potential in Mr. Martin’s class. After reviewing the forms, both teachers agreed that “Grading prioritized content and related assignments” had the highest potential benefit for Shareka. Both teachers felt that Shareka would benefit from having the class content prioritized, so that she could spend more time working on the most important assignments. Both Mr. Martin and Ms. Jones felt that by allowing Shareka more time to work on the most important assignments, she could begin to work more independently and rely less on the support of the classroom aide. Mr. Martin felt that if Shareka learned to work more independently on classroom assignments, the quality of her work would improve and she would become more confident in her ability to complete assignments on her own. After deciding which grading adaptations to use, Mr. Martin and Ms. Jones completed the tools necessary for implementation. They completed the “Tool for Preparing to Base Grade on Prioritized Content and Related Assignments.” When the teachers completed the tool, they listed the most important science unit that would be covered during the marking period-The Planets. Then, Mr. Martin and Ms. Jones listed the most important assignments for the topic and determined how much the assignments would count toward Shareka’s report card grade.

Figure 3. Evaluating processes to be incorporated into the grading process.

After Mr. Martin and Ms. Jones completed the tool that corresponded with the grading adaptation they wanted to implement, like Marcus’s teacher did for her student and his parents, they invited Shareka and her parents to the PGP meeting, where a grading plan was created. At the meeting, Mr. Martin and Ms. Jones shared their ideas with Shareka and her parents. Shareka’s parents agreed that they wanted Shareka to work more independently. They felt that if Shareka was allowed to spend more time on the most important assignments and she was encouraged to work more independently, her science grade would be a more accurate reflection of the work she was completing in class. Mr. Martin agreed to encourage Shareka to work more independently in class and to grade Shareka less on the effort she put forth in class, so that her grade could reflect the progress she was making on the prioritized assignments. Like Marcus’s, Shareka’s grading plan included the reason why a grading plan was being implemented and the adaptation that would be made for grading daily work. The roles of Mr. Martin, Ms. Jones, Shareka, and her parents were outlined in the grading plan. AS in Marcus’s case, Mr. Martin and Ms. Jones agreed that it was important to keep Shareka’s parents informed about her progress. The team decided that every 2 weeks Shareka’s parents would receive a monitoring form that detailed Shareka’s progress on the grading adaptation, which Shareka’s parents would be expected to sign and return to Shareka’s teachers.

Conclusion

Although grading included students with disabilities can be a stressful process for teachers, the use of grading adaptations can help teachers make better informed decisions when assigning classwork and report card grades. By inviting both parents and students to participate in the decision-making process, the team can decide the criteria by which a student will be graded and how a student’s performance will be evaluated. Grading adaptations can make the grading process more meaningful and fair for included students with disabilities.

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ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Melissa Silva, MEd, is the project coordinator for Project PGP, a federally funded research project on personalized grading plans for middle school students with disabilities. She is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Counseling, Adult, and Health Education at Northern Illinois University. Dennis D. Munk, EdD, is an associate professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning at Northern Illinois University in Dekalb, Illinois. He is co- investigator and director of Project PGP and author of the book Solving the Grading Puzzle for Students With Disabilities. William D. Bursuck, PhD, is a professor in the Department of ‘leaching & Learning at Northern Illinois University, and co-investigator on Project PGP. He is the coauthor of a textbook on inclusive education and is currently conducting research on preventing beginning reading problems. Address: Dennis D. Munk, Department of Teaching & Learning, Gabel Hall, Northern Illinois University, Dekalb, IL 60115.

Copyright PRO-ED Journals Nov 2005

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