With Spring Break starting next week (for my school, at least), I thought I’d give myself a question to chew on.  You can chew, too, if you want.  I don’t have an answer, but it’s one of those things that popped into my head one day.

When you grade student work, do you attempt to grade everyone exactly the same way?  Or do you take into consideration the level of ability of the student who submitted the work?

This is a tricky question.  We all want to be fair with our grading, and traditional teaching would tell us that it’s important to grade every student exactly the same so we’re comparing apples with apples.  Except students aren’t apples.  Each of my students is different.  So, if I assign a movie poster  analysis, I know that my students are going to analyze the text and see into it at different levels.  For some of my students, just grasping the main ideas of the text and the characters is going to be a huge accomplishment.  For others, getting the main ideas and understanding the characters is easy, and the challenge is digging deeply into the text to find and understand the symbols and motivations.  Should I grade both groups of students with the same measure, assuming they all have the same starting point?  Or should I measure how far they go based on their individual starting points?

Of course, differentiation is all the rage (and rightly so).  Everyone acknowledges that different students learn and flourish differently.  So why do I still feel heretical when I think about grading students based on their individual level of ability rather than from a pre-established baseline?  Even using rubrics, which I love, I question which method I’m using.

I want to be fair.  Fair isn’t always equal.  Or is that just a line we’ve been fed?  What is fair?

What do you think?  Is it better to grade everyone using the same measure with the same expectations for accomplishment?  Or is it better to grade everyone using a measure that allows the teacher to take into account ability and acumen?

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