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Fair Isn't Always Equal: Assessing Grading in the Differentiated Classroom

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  634 ratings  ·  65 reviews
Differentiated instruction is a nice idea, but what happens when it comes to assessing and grading students? What's both fair and leads to real student learning?

Fair Isn't Always Equal answers that question and much more. Rick Wormeli offers the latest research and common sense thinking that teachers and administrators seek when it comes to assessment and grading in differ
Paperback, 224 pages
Published January 1st 2006 by Stenhouse Publishers
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Average rating 4.01  · 
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Jennifer Mangler
Jan 23, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: profdev
This book contained some really great discussions that go me thinking. Most notably, Wormeli's book got me thinking about these things:
1. What is mastery? How is mastery best measured?
2. The importance of feedback (more important than a grade, which is too often our focus).
3. Creating opportunities for students to reflect on their work - and to fix their work based on their reflection and our feedback.
4. Is the juice worth the squeeze? Although Wormeli doesn't use this phrase it kept popping i
Jan 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: teaching
Wormeli wades into some hot-button topics like grading (he calls it the "elephant in the room") we don't want to discuss. In addition to issues of assessment, fairness, and mastery teaching, Wormeli brings up whether or not we should grade participation, effort, behavior, and attendance. My school has been debating this very topic of late, and Wormeli not only provides both points of view, he dives into the debate fearlessly by taking a stand and giving a well-reasoned defense of his view.

The f
Aug 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
p.2 How to get our modern classroom to reflect what has been distilled from the research.
p.8 In fact, what we teach is irrelevant. It's what our students learn after their time with us that matters.

The guru of differentiation lays out a thorough description of his ideas and methods. To certain circles, I will describe the work as Saint Wormeli at his best. There are many different aspects of the classroom covered within the text. Most importantly for this reader, ideas which can be implemented d
Aug 30, 2009 rated it did not like it
The staff at my school was told to read this book, and I got absolutely nothing out of it. Perhaps he is a great public speaker that would have made the book make more sense, but for me he just seems to go around the point with education jargon and incomprehensible analogies. Even if your in education, I wouldn't recommend it. ...more
Apr 06, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: education
I found Wormeli's over all tone to be way too preachy. That compounded with the fact that I didn't find anything his arguments to be well-developed or terribly original, and I give this book a resounding "meh." ...more
Jun 25, 2017 rated it liked it
The upside of this book is that it has challenged my thinking and given me so many great ideas. The downside of this book is that it has challenged my thinking and given me so many great ideas, but not necessarily the time to implement all of them RIGHT NOW. Much to consider...
Eco Imp
Oct 19, 2016 rated it liked it
Just a book for class
Brittany Mazzola Leath
Not loving his theory and I'd like more real-world examples ...more
Joseph Montuori
Dec 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
As a 25+ year classroom teacher, I had come to embrace many of the values and practices Wormeli advocates before reading Fair Isn't Always Equal. So I was already "part of the choir." For those who aren't, Wormeli's book may not be so persuasive. (I think his Stenhouse Publishing videos are much more concrete and persuasive. They're worth checking out here: )

Nevertheless, Wormeli makes a good case for providing students with grading and assessment that is
Mark Valentine
Jul 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
It's now called Wormeli's Standard and it requires reader's to read his book without preconceived ideas, to shed outdated practices, to encounter his book that has practical, real-time solutions inside the covers, a genuine go-to book, and know this book as one that preaches fairness, honor, and high standards.

I am still striving to migrate away from percentage marking to standards-based scoring so I have placed Wormeli's book nearby me for quick access.
Jul 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For a teacher who has some understanding of differentiation and wants to dig deeper into what that means for assessment and grading. My favorite chapters, right now, were on feedback, tiering, and rubrics--lots of good data, explanation, and examples. I'm sure other chapters will be significant as my own readiness changes. For more, see my blog ...more
Apr 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a valuable resource. I learned a lot about assessment, grading, projects, scales. There were many practical ideas and examples that I can implement in my classroom tomorrow. Teacher's read this book! ...more
Jul 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Mostly geared towards standards-based classroom practices, but introduces practical guidance and for more equitable practices within those parameters.
Michael Romick
Jul 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
Some really good thinking and well-supported new ideas. I am reading this with a group of high school teachers and we meet online to discuss it.
Tracey Arnone
Dec 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book for opening educators' minds to different ways of assessing and grading students. ...more
Apr 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Rick Wormeli presents his ideas and beliefs about grading and reporting in such a sensible and reasonable way. This book focuses on identifying and defining assessment, grading, rating, and reporting--how they are similar, and yet how they serve very different purposes. It makes the reader consider what grades really mean and what they should reflect. The book makes perfect sense to me and to many of my elementary level colleagues. I find, however, that many middle and high school teachers argue ...more
Dec 04, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015, ed-assess
2009: I signed up to read this with my school for a book club. The trouble was that the last meeting was the last week of school. I, of course, am too busy with grading to read the second half of the book, even though I'd very much like to. I'll have to come back to it some time. If figures, too, because I am far more interested in the second half on grading than I was on the first half.

2015: Stated again front the beginning. I find that the whole thing fit well with my current thinking on teach
Jenny O
Mar 26, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: school-stuff
This book affected a lot of my ideas about how to grade, particularly how I handle late assignments. I appreciate it because it made a lot of vague thoughts I had more concrete. The theory part of it was amazing--it really changed the way I think about grading to a more student-centered philosophy. I only gave it 3 stars, however, because I find it challenging to apply a lot of it. With 100 students to keep track of and administration who expect things to be done a certain way, it's difficult to ...more
Oct 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: professional
I read this book during silent reading for my "professional" book club. It was a little like reading a textbook & I'm glad I'm done :) Worthwhile book for teachers who do more grading & assessment then I have to as a library teacher - especially if you have a Standards Based Report Card in your future! ...more
I'm not sure how much of this will be entirely useful and valid in my future classroom- in theory it all sounds great (though like a lot of work on the part of the teacher). Valid work, sure, but I think I need classroom experience to make it feel more explicitly relevant.

Very interesting thoughts on how to structure and do assessments, and some great assignment tips as well.
Nov 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: teaching
Although it is dorky to read books on how to teach I really like this book and I don't deny the dorkiness. Good valid ideas that I philosophically agree with and I would like to see implimented at AHS. ...more
Jul 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
What I learned from this book:
*An operational definition for what a grade represents.
*Six reasons for grading cited by most teachers (3 of them "cross the line" by diluting the grade's accuracy)
*Late work
*10 approaches to avoid when grading & assessing
*Homework definition/purpose
Jul 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book addresses alot of the questions that I've been asking myself regarding assessments. I have a list of key points that I took away from it and still have lots of questions about what my peers feel are some good responses to those key issues. ...more
Leanna Aker
Jul 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A great book if you are interested in reevaluating the equity, fairness, and differentiation of your grading system. Prepare to have your paradigms rocked! This is my bible in changing to standards-based grading next year.
Joy Kirr
Oct 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: professional, own
Finished this one a year or two ago... GREAT book for explaining WHY I'm trying to do what I'm trying to do. Sad that even though our entire staff (supposedly) read it, only a few buy in. Turning the big ship, I suppose... ...more
Jan 28, 2013 added it
Having taken a class in DI and a good friend who lives and breathes these philosophies, I feel like large sections were reviews rather than new ideas. Great reference. I wish there was more cited research to support the ideas.
Natalie Cardon
Oct 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is a fantastic book for teachers of all kinds on differentiation, especially how to differentiate grading and assessments, and why it's fair to do so. Very realistic and practical, while at the same time, suggesting a huge leap forward in our educational system. ...more
May 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
Rick Wormeli's Fair Isn't Always Equal: Assessing & Grading in the Differentiated Classroom was read for EDU 221 Secondary/Middle Block: Curriculum, Instruction, Classroom Management, Instructional Media, and Practicum. ...more
Jun 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
I have heard Rick speak quite a few times, so reading this was like listening in on one of his classes. Lots of ideas to think about and challenge current assessment and grading practices. I will be curious to hear reactions to this content when he speaks on Thursday. I would recommend this book.
Jun 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
I read this book in graduate school as part of my teacher preparation program and my master's degree in curriculum and instruction. Fantastic book and one that I keep on my bookshelf to revisit in the future. ...more
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