When I first started teaching, I would make a little extra effort to only look at the name on an assessment after I had graded to avoid bias. Now that I’m using an SBG system where I give students a score of 1, 2, 3, or 4, based on how well I think they understand each topic, there is more of an opportunity for grading bias: “Oh I know student X knows this stuff, so I’ll let it slide.”
However, our Special Ed staff recently pointed out to the rest of us teachers that students who are special ed actually graduate with an asterisk, and we need to do everything we can to ensure that they pass their classes as long as they are trying. Because of that I should, at the very least, check whether I am grading one of these students and judge their work and understanding with their situation in mind.
But should I not look at other students and give them appropriate grades based on their circumstances? Should I give a 3 to the student who is struggling so hard, and yet I know they have reached the limit of their abilities in this topic? Or should I not give a 4 (“Mastery Level”) to a student who did much better than his/her peers on an assignment, and yet who I know could do better if they just put a little more effort into it?
I guess what I’m asking is whether teachers who also use SBG strive to simply record on a scale of “absolute” understanding, or do you make the scale relative for different students and for different situations?
This topic reminds me of an activity that I’ve never tried, but considered doing. A teacher wanted absolute control over grading and discipline practices in a classroom, so she handed out a different injury or disease to each student in the class: everything from broken bones and scratches to life-threatening cancer and serious diseases like Malaria. Then, she proceeded to pull out a box of band-aids and handed one to each student. When she asked “Is everyone okay?”, the students shouted back that they all needed different treatments. The point was then driven home that, similarly, every single student has different learning needs. So if she gives HW to some students and not to others, it’s her job to recognize who needs what just like it’s a doctor’s job to recognize how to treat each patient that enters the office.
Though I’ve never done that activity, apparently the teacher never had a complaint all year about how she treated each student differently, down to giving different assessments.
For now I’m grading the students who always seem to do well a little tougher–to give them something to reach for. I’m going a little easier on those students who seem to struggle so much more–to give them something to hold on to.
 Or should these grades remain the same and I should just edit what gets put on the report card? A challenging question, perhaps, for another time.
 Is it possible to know when someone has done that: reached their full potential in a given topic or standard?
 I just wanted to point out that I mean “treating students differently” in a professional way: being able to maintain unfair biases or prejudices are not the intention of this activity.