Educators are committed to providing students the best possible education by using the
practices and tools they know (Zmuda, Kuklis, & Kline, 2004). Unfortunately, the status
quo for grading and assessment practices is faulty, outdated, and ineffective. Current
practices have unwittingly hindered student progress and motivation (O’Connor, 2007).
Educational leaders, administrators, and teachers are faced with questions regarding the
best ways to motivate students and accurately report their progress (Popham, 2011).
Assessing and grading student achievement are primary functions of educators and if
these practices are not approached and applied properly, a grade can misrepresent the true knowledge of the student regarding class standards (Brookhart, 2009). Even though there has been a shift to standards based teaching, grading and assessment practices have not followed suit and continue to lag behind (Zmuda, Kuklis, & Kline, 2004). Conventional grading and assessment practices abound, yet opportunities for the introduction of reform and the necessary professional development for the implementation and sustainability of such reform are lacking (Wormeli, 2006). Second order change is an apparent break from the past and is best presented and maintained through quality, ongoing professional development (Marzano, 2003). Change is inevitable and necessary at times, offering fresh perspective and new ideas, and it is the responsibility of those in the teaching profession to continue to learn and stay apprised of current research to give students the best possible education (Schimmer, 2012). When a district or school becomes aware of the need for change, there is an obligation to address the underlying issues and all relevant facts, logic, and research. Professional development provides the optimal venue for learning, discussing, applying, and evaluating any proposed changes (DuFour &Marzano, 2011). Reeves (2007) asked, “What is the risk if we engage in this change compared to the risk of continuing our present practice” (p. 7). The risk of embracing a proposed change may include limited buy-in, fear of failure, or the perception of more work. Regardless of potential effects, growth can only come through change, and trying new methods is the only way to know what changes work (Schimmer, 2012). The continuation of current grading practices poses a threat to the educational process and the future of student learning by undermining motivation and presenting inaccurate information due to grades’ convoluted nature (Brookhart, 2009). Grades should not represent tradition, opinion, behavior, effort, homework, attendance, or any other extracurricular components (O’Connor, 2007). They should purely and simply report the student’s comprehension of predetermined class standards and goals (Brookhart, 2009). There are new research based methods for grading and assessment that honor the meaning of the grade and could be introduced and implemented in schools across the country through professional development opportunities (Reeves, 2007). The purpose of this study was to investigate the perceptions of grading and assessment practices in Fall River Middle School and to analyze the impact of increased opportunities for professional development in grading and assessment practices on the staff.