Process Report Cards: Creating a Behavior-Based Reporting System

Guest post by Cameron Soester

Grading has always been a tricky issue for school leaders to master. How do you ensure it captures the full picture of a student’s progress and achievement?

Thomas Guskey suggests that a well-rounded and comprehensive grading policy has three well-defined components. They include a product grade that assesses what students know and can do at the moment the assessment is given; a process grade that measures student behaviors; and a progress grade that considers a student’s improvement over time. Unfortunately, most grading practices lump all of these into one overall grade—which skews and distorts the measure of what students actually know.

Our Approach

At Milford Junior/Senior High School, we have invested a great deal of time and energy into separating these three strands of grading. We began by considering what others had done, in particular, Robert Marzano and Tammy Heflebower’s Teaching and Assessing 21st Century Skills, where they discuss the idea of cognitive and conative learning domains.

report cardAt Milford, we have tackled the cognitive domain and have grading practices that restrict product grades to what students know and can do relative to our essential learnings. Over a pretty long period of time we have developed a way to measure the cognative domain (behaviors, attitudes, and dispositions) by measuring three distinct areas: personal responsibility, work ethic, and personal relations.

To arrive at this point, we had to consider what these items mean and how we are going to measure them. Under each area we developed a series of indicators that are measured using a five-point Likert scale to gather teacher perceptions and student reflections (take a look at this example to get a better idea). One benefit of this is that we now have a meaningful way to communicate Guskey’s process grade. Having the process grade lets teachers minimize the distortion of including behavior and attitude in an overall product grade. This allows for more authentic teaching and learning experiences in our school system.

The Challenges

One of the main issues that our district has encountered with this process is reporting. How do you put a report together for students and parents that is useful? These types of reports have existed for decades in an elementary setting, but at the secondary level, a teacher’s student load makes this process more difficult because of the sheer number of students on their roster. We created a Google Form that utilizes Autocrat, an add-on tool that merges data from a Google Sheet into a custom Google Doc template, to generate the reports. Our school has around 330 students and it generates around 2,500 responses. Teachers fill out the form for each student, and students complete the form for self-reflection. Teachers then print and give the reports to parents at our spring conferences.

Looking to the Future

Moving forward, we are looking for more efficient ways to collect, retrieve, and utilize this data. We are looking at building a more sophisticated database system that will allow us to track student and teacher responses over time. This process will also enable us to utilize this data in the next step in our implementation of the Marzano instructional model. Our plan is to link concepts from The Art and Science of Teaching, Becoming a Reflective Teacher, and Causes and Cures in the Classroom by Margaret Searle, to help us understand the data we retrieve from our process report card.

How can someone utilize this type of data to aid in student achievement? What benefits might someone see in separating knowledge and behavior in grading? Start a discussion in the comments below.

Cameron Soester is the assistant principal of Milford Junior/Senior High in Milford, NE, as well as the 2016 Nebraska Assistant Principal of the Year.

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8 Comments

  • Michael Thomas says:

    This is great, Cameron! It’s wonderful to see schools taking on grading practices with success. You mentioned the challenge of the extra time reporting takes. How much extra time do your teachers need on average to fill out the Google Form? It’s always a tough sell to convince teachers that the extra reporting time is worth it!

    • Cameron Soester says:

      Michael,
      Thank you for your response to this blog post. The buy in was not too difficult. This has been a long time coming for our school, and I was the one to solve the technology issues. Our staff was great and they said it took about 2 minutes per student. Everything was based on a Likert scale, and I gave them plenty of time to complete the task. Most distributed the work load over multiple days which helped.
      The authenticity of the conversations that I had with students changed once I saw these results, and most of the staff said the same thing about their parent teacher conference as well. I think that we are going to complete this task twice this year. Fingers crossed it goes well. Let me know if you need more information.

      Thanks again for your interest.

      ~Cameron

  • Clint Williams says:

    This is a great approach to the grading question. We are looking at our grading practices as well and I like how this splits things up so that it is not all wrapped up in the traditional grade. I really like the growth piece to show that kids are learning. It seems that our current grades don’t do that and some kids see no chance because their behaviors greatly influence their grade. Thanks for sharing!!

  • Mitzi Hoback says:

    Great article, Cameron! It is always interesting to see how schools are putting into practice solid methods of reporting student learning. You tackled a tough issue with a practical approach. Do you mind if I share it in some of my Marzano workshops?

    • Cameron Soester says:

      Mitzi,
      Thank you for your kind words. It is always great having someone you look up to give you a thumbs up. I think it would be great if you would share this information. If you need to collaborate to get more details just let me know. You know how to get a hold of me. I hope all is well.

      ~Cameron

  • Cameron Soester says:

    Clint,
    Thanks for your comment. I really think that how folks graded in the past really cloud the “actual knowledge” of our students. It is a remarkable thing with we notice what kids “actually know” and the growth they have shown, but it gets masked by behavior.

    Thanks for the thoughts.

    ~Cameron

  • Mary Machado says:

    We too are revamping our reporting system, so I was eager to see your example. Thanks so much for sharing. I have a couple of questions…When I read your second domain, it looks as if it is measuring many of our students’ executive functions. How will you assess students who are still developing their frontal lobe? Or how will you address students for whom there is an executive function related weakness/disability?

    • Cameron Soester says:

      Mary,

      Thank you so much for your response. It is funny you should ask the question that you did because we are currently working through a book by Margaret Searle called Causes and Cures as a district. If you are not familiar it is a book that addresses executive function and how that relates to student success.

      These ratings are in place to determine areas that need addressed for students, and I think that the before mentioned book has some keys to help advance our students executive function.

      We are currently working on a system to track longitudinal student data for these perceptions to see how these functions advance over time. I suppose my main remark is: “Stay Tuned”. Definitely a work in progress.

      ~Cameron

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