Date of Graduation

2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

Program

Catholic Educational Leadership EdD

First Advisor

Mathew Mitchell

Second Advisor

Gini Shimabukuro

Third Advisor

Thomas Christopher

Abstract

Few aspects of school are as controversial as the practice of grading, for grades affect students' educational opportunities. The purpose of this study was to identify the practices Catholic high-school teachers employed in determining students' grades. The study investigated the extent to which academic achievement comprised the grades teachers reported, and the extent to which teachers' practices are consistent with their expressed purposes for grading. The study also explored the extent to which Catholic teachers' grading practices are consistent with their schools' purpose for grading. Using random sampling, 486 Catholic secondary school teachers and 50 administrators from 33 high schools in California, Nevada, and Hawai'i were surveyed to determine the purposes for which teachers grade, the practices they employ in determining those grades, and the purposes for which their schools grade. A thematic analysis of school grading documents was completed to examine schools' purposes for grading and school-wide grading policies. Results revealed that Catholic teachers' employ a wide variety of grading practices in determining students' grades. Teachers reported that academic achievement is the primary purpose for which they report grades. While the grades that teachers reported for their students emphasized achievement, nearly half reported that they communicate grades to report more than achievement alone and include sources of evidence that are not indicative of achievement, even those teachers who claimed to grade solely to report academic achievement. Teachers of different subject areas emphasized academic achievement variously. A majority of Catholic high schools did not have a statement of purpose for grading, and samples of schools that did publish a grading purpose revealed ambiguity about the purpose. Finally, an examination of the data revealed little variation in purpose and practice even among educators who had higher degrees in education or who had received additional training in the practice of grading. These prevalent practices diminish the reliability of grades as communications of student learning and as data to guide adjustments in instruction that can address students' learning needs. Moreover, they hinder Catholic secondary schools' mission of meeting the needs of its students, especially those who struggle and are socially or educationally disadvantaged.