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Equitable Grading Practices in Secondary Mathematics Classrooms: A Youth Participatory Action Research Study

Katie Soto, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This study examines equitable grading practices in secondary mathematics from the student perspective. Youth participatory action research (YPAR) provided a vehicle for high school students to investigate equitable grading, research impacts grading had on their collective, and develop solutions to inequitable grading. It provided opportunities for secondary math students to develop deeper understanding of mathematical concepts and own their learning. YPAR allowed high school students to share their findings with key stakeholders to impact district policy decisions around equitable grading and systematically provide better opportunities for students in their high school. My experiences as an instructional coach, academic coach, and grading and reporting committee member inspired me to pursue this problem of practice. As an instructional coach, I facilitated professional learning to improve teachers' ability to effectively and consistently support instruction. I had daily conversations with teachers around grading and reporting. The math teachers I worked with had strong beliefs about best practices for grading. However, the beliefs held by teachers were inconsistent with one another, the district policy, and educational research recommendations. In my role as an academic coach, I provided direct math support to students to increase academic performance and prepare for postsecondary education. In this role, I observed the impact that inequitable and inconsistent grading practices had on our students. I routinely looked at students’ grades to design action plans to help the students achieve higher levels of success. I saw inconsistencies in gradebooks daily, and unfortunately, the negative impact these inconsistencies had on our students’ achievement and confidence. The district’s grading and reporting committee’s attempts at creating grading policies that were more closely aligned to educational research on equitable grading were met with teacher and community pushback. Revisions to grading policies to allow late work and opportunities to demonstrate academic growth, for example, were described on social media as “mediocrity” and having a “lack of accountability”. Clearly there was an issue with equitable grading practices that needed to be investigated.

Subject Area

Education|Mathematics education|Curriculum development

Recommended Citation

Soto, Katie, "Equitable Grading Practices in Secondary Mathematics Classrooms: A Youth Participatory Action Research Study" (2023). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI30489738.