A study posted on preprint archive by Kramer and colleagues examined whether 9th grade students’ academic performance and motivation in mathematics improved by using a formative grading system called PARLO (Proficiency-based Assessment and Re-assessment of Learning Outcomes), and compared it to the traditional summative-grading system.
The PARLO system aims to increase academic engagement and achievement by centering instruction, formative feedback, and grading around 10-15 Learning Outcomes per semester and employing a grading system that encourages reassessment and full credit for mastery of content at each learning outcome. A student’s final grade is calculated from the number of “proficient” or “high performance” scores taken from their best assessment at each learning outcome. This differs from traditional grading, which is often based on one-time assessments and summary judgments of student performance.
The mixed-methods, cluster randomized study assigned a diverse set of schools to implement PARLO for two years in their 9th grade algebra and geometry classes or to the control condition, where algebra and geometry teachers attended introductory PD sessions covering formative assessment instruction with no obligation to incorporate new strategies. The analytic sample consisted of 2,736 students (1649E, 1087C), in 65 classrooms (38E, 27C) from 19 schools (14E, 15C).
Quantitative measures (including adapted versions of the Virginia Standards of Learning Multiple Choice Algebra and Geometry Tests) and qualitative interview/survey measures showed that the PARLO system had a positive impact on 9th graders’ learning of mathematics, with an estimated effect size of +0.33 SD on the end-of-course algebra and geometry tests. The program showed similar results across race, gender, and prior achievement. Qualitative data suggest that the PARLO system increased students’ engagement, provided effective strategies to strengthen understanding of mathematics content (e.g., by asking better questions), and encouraged peer-to-peer support. The formative feedback coupled with opportunities to retake assessments led to more chances to review topics over time, which supported deeper connections across mathematical topics. Finally, results suggested that the PARLO system is especially effective for students already engaged and motivated to learn.
Note: A preprint (or e-print) is a completed manuscript that is made publicly accessible prior to formal journal peer review.
Source (Open Access): Kramer, S., Posner, M. A., Lawrence, N., Browman, A. S., Krier, K., & Roemer, J. (2021). The impacts of a standards-based grading system emphasizing formative assessment, feedback, and re-assessment: A mixed methods, cluster randomized control trial in ninth grade mathematics classrooms. EdArXiv (Preprint archive). https://doi.org/10.35542/osf.io/pzc3f