Some of MC’s AP Calculus classes are currently experimenting with a new grading policy in which quizzes are no longer counted in the grade book. The primary teacher who instituted the policy in her classes last trimester, Patricia Brooks, explains that it is a tactic stemming from a study at Stanford.
“Several of the math teachers in our district completed a Stanford online course titled ‘How to Learn Math for Teachers and Parents’, and there was a research study at Stanford with three groups of students.”
“One group had assessments that were not graded [with] just comments on them, [another] group that got just a grade on them, and then a group that received comments and a grade,” Brooks said. “So then they analyzed how those kids did on the final and the kids who just had comments did significantly better than both the kids who had a grade and comments or just a grade.”
Brooks notes that she is aware that the policy will not work for everyone.
“Some of my students know that it’s not graded so they blow off the whole thing, but then they have more work to do when the assessment comes.”
Brooks has noticed a significant rise in test averages compared to last year’s test scores. However, she elaborates that even without the statistics, she sees how not grading the quizzes truly would make a difference.
“I think when students just get a grade they don’t really analyze it and they just make an assumption, like ‘Oh, I’m not smart’ or ‘I’m smart’ based on their score. But if they look at the comments they don’t feel bad and they actually look at the comments to inform them of the things they need to fix.”
The majority of students have shown positive feedback regarding the policy. A student in AP Calculus BC, senior Brandon Dee, agrees with Brooks’ thoughts, which institutes what Brooks refers to as “formative assessment”.
“I think [non-graded quizzes] do [work] because they allow you to know what you need to work on [based on] what you know already. If you don’t do so well on the quiz it won’t affect your grade and you’ll be able to study off the quiz and hopefully do better on the test.”
Dee personally feels that his grade has been positively influenced.
“I didn’t do too well on the quizzes but then [I] do better on the tests. It’s all about learning from your mistakes.”
Another student of Brooks’, senior Amanda Abedmamoore in AP Calculus AB, concurs.
“I think that non-graded quizzes help students catch their errors earlier so they don’t make that mistake on the test. They have allowed me to catch my errors and improve my weaker areas.”
Upon deliberation regarding whether other math classes would be willing to adopt the policy, Brooks is doubtful.
“I’m glad if they consider it, but I’m always hesitant to insist or mandate something like that because I think some things that work for some teachers don’t work for others and some people might be uncomfortable with it.”
But as far as reinstating the policy next year, Brooks will make her decision based on the results from this year.
“I would like to do a little bit more analysis of the results compared to last year and then make a decision on it after that.”