Educational Administration, Department of


Date of this Version



A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Education, Major: Educational Administration, Under the Supervision of Professor Jody Isernhagen. Lincoln, Nebraska: December 2010
Copyright 2010 Summer Elizabeth Stephens.


A problem exists in grading practices accurately measuring student achievement. Both students’ academic achievements and nonacademic factors, such as effort, homework completion, and behaviors continue to factor into grades. This combination can lead to inaccurate representation of true academic ability, rendering a grade useless. While assessment and grading practices continue to be a conversation in most education circles, the implementation of standards-based grading practices in high school English/Language Arts classrooms varies widely. Past studies have shown that grades have provided feedback and been used to motivate and rank students. Future research was needed to address the following research question: How and to what degree are rural 7th-12th grade English/language arts teachers in Nebraska using standards-based grading practices in their classrooms? Four sub-questions focused on teachers’ use of learning standards, assessment practices, markers of academic achievement and learner engagement in grading. The study sample of 636 people included 7th-12th grade English/language arts teachers from Nebraska’s Class III rural schools. A quantitative survey using a five-point Likert scale was designed to capture demographic data and the perceptions and assessment and grading practices of rural 7th-12th grade English/language arts teachers in Nebraska. It appears some components of standards-based grading are being utilized more than others. Rural 7th-12th grade English/language arts teachers in Nebraska indicated frequent use of standards for their course objectives, although they reported less frequent use of standards when reporting student grades. In addition, a number of participants reported including both formative and summative assessment results in student grades, while responses indicated fewer teachers used zeros and averaging student scores to achieve a final mark. Teachers with various levels of assessment training and educational backgrounds reported using effort as a grading criterion, but gave attendance and behavior less weight when calculating student grades. Finally, the inclusion of students in assessment and grading practices was focused heavily on sharing exemplars with students and not on students actually monitoring their own progress. Adviser: Jody Isernhagen