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Changes from Cycle to Semester Grading

Posted By: David Miles on October 31, 2003
At the school I work in, we evaluate on a 4 cycle per year system, with the school year beginning Mid-August, and the cycles ending Mid-October, December, early-April, and June. This results in very short evaluation periods, namely 8, 9, 10, 11 weeks respectively. If you take into account the amount of time it takes to get started at the beginning of a year, other school activities, etc, the actual time available for evaluations is reduced even further.

On top of that, all formal reports of a student's grade are supposed to be based upon several different evaluations. We operate a standards-based evaluation system (by Colombian law) which means that if in 1 cycle I teach 3 different topics, I must have more than 1 evaluation per topic by the end of the grading period.

The short grading periods also mean students have little time to adjust at the beginning of the year, and many students have a lot of difficulty at the beginning of the year (after a 2-month break) and after Christmas (a 1-month break).

Each grading period is formal, i.e., it is recorded on the student's file and used at the end of the year to calculate their final grade for the year.

By Colombian law, we must report 4 times a year, but the law doesn't specify whether those reports be formal or not.

Myself and several other colleagues have visualized a shift from a 4-cycle grading system to a 2-semester system. Parents would still receive the 4 reports, but only the Christmas and June ones would effect the grade. In other words, the Mid-October and early-April reports would be progress reports saying "Your child is doing really well," or "Your child is not doing well, look out, Christmas is coming, get it together and help them, please."

I wonder if anyone could direct me to research concerning the pros and cons of the 2 systems, evaluation by short cycles and evaluation by semesters. For the school to make such a major cultural change, our arguments need to be backed up by strong research. I've had a look around in a few places (Google, Ebsco, Eric, TCR), but haven't found anything yet.

Sincerely hoping you can help me,

David Miles
Head of Mathematics and IT Department
Colegio Albania
La Guajira
Colombia, S.A.
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 Changes from Cycle to Semester Grading by David Miles on October 31, 2003
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