Masters Thesis

Redefining assessment and feedback in a rural middle school

A point or percentage based system of grading that is reported in standard letter scores has traditionally been used by most middle and high school teachers to report student achievement to students, their families, and administration. Despite large variation in point gathering policies between each teacher and volumes of research to discourage it, little has been done to develop a system of feedback that improves student learning. This thesis addresses a rural middle school’s attempt to rethink assessment, feedback, and grading to improve student learning. It explores the process one rural middle school employed to implement a criterion referenced grading system based on state standards. The focus of the research is to understand what initiated the change; what process the school community went through in developing a unique system of feedback; and what impact these changes had on assessment, feedback, motivation, and teaching. As the use of this grading system is new, this research also attempts to qualify successes and failures of the system and make recommendations for improvement and growth. This thesis presents a qualitative case study of how a small rural middle school staff researched, designed, and implemented a criterion referenced grading system based on state standards. This is an historical organizational case study that utilizes interviews with teachers at the school and artifact analysis.