Posts by Tom Schimmer


Beware Normative Tendencies in the Classroom

Ask any group of teachers if they grade on the curve and you will receive an almost universal, resounding no! Now, I believe teachers when they say they don’t grade on the curve; however, what has become apparent in recent years is that shedding some of our traditional habits—our normative grading tendencies—is easier said than done. Even those who have moved to a more standards-based approach to grading can, if not mindful, fall back into habits misaligned with a modern assessment system. Read more



Assessment and its Social Context

I recently read the following quote and thought it a great reminder as a new school year begins:

“…development and learning are primarily social processes, and learning cannot be separated from its social context.” (Laboratory for Comparative Human Cognition, 2010 cited in Ruiz-Primo, 2010)

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Their world is real!

Almost every conversation about moving from traditional grading practices to sound grading practices (even standards-based grading) seems to end up with discussions and debates about when students get out into the real world. While I understand the intent of this sentiment and the concern it expresses, this real world conversation can devolve into an overly cynical perspective from which to examine the experiences of our students and seems only to serve as a justification for punitive practices along a very narrow set of circumstances. Read more


Repacking Standards

By now the process of analyzing and unpacking standards is familiar to most educators. In this era of standards-based instruction, unpacking standards to identify specific learning targets and underpinnings, then organizing those targets and underpinnings into a purposeful learning progression is almost ubiquitous. Read more


3 Strikes in Grading Reform

One of the most interesting things about modernizing grading practices is that there is no one-way to go about the work. Sure, there are a few core fundamentals that are non-negotiable (i.e. grades based solely on the achievement of standards), but for the most part, teachers, schools, and districts have much flexibility in going about the business of aligning grading practices to the existing standards-based, criterion-referenced instructional reality. Read more


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Do Your Grading Rules Frustrate Achievement?

One of my favorite books is Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell. For those who haven’t read it, Gladwell writes of the untold stories of success. Rather than telling the stereotypical story of super intelligence or unabashed ambition, Gladwell argues that the true story of success can found by spending more time looking around those who have succeeded; their family circumstances, where they were born, and even their birth date.   Read more


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Most Recent? Most Frequent? Most Accurate?

One of the fundamental tenets of standards-based grading is that greater (if not exclusive) emphasis is placed on the more recent evidence of learning. For years now, the consensus among both experts and practitioners is that the combination of old and new evidence (most often via calculating a mean average) distorts the accuracy of reported achievement levels (O’Connor, 2011; Guskey, 2015; Reeves, 2015). As students move through their natural learning trajectories, they should be given full credit for their learning, regardless of how low or slow the start. Read more


Self-Assessment: Yes, but…

While student self-assessment is not a brand new concept, it has emerged as an essential aspect of effective formative assessment strategies and processes. There is general consensus that self-assessment is positive and has many benefits for students, but it is seldom implemented in many classrooms (Brown & Harris, 2013). Read more


They Only Have to THINK They’re Right

Belief is powerful. When we truly believe something, we don’t just think it – we feel it. When you believe, you know like you know like you know – it’s unmistakable. Our belief about anything is usually what sets the wheels of success or failure in motion. Read more