Monday, February 13, 2006


The induction meeting that was held last Tuesday really made my thinking change a bit concerning grades. I love how he has grades in the academic focus as well as the non-academin focus, however I am having a difficult time with understanding how the way I grade is different from his (to some degree). Right now I grade with the regular categories: test, warm-ups (daily quizzes), homework, and participation. I think that kids would get a different perspective if I changed those names to: content knowledge and responsibility grades, however how are they different other than the titles? If a student demonstrates content knowledge they should be doing well on the assessments given. If a student doesn was on the responsibility grade they should be turning in all their homework. So I am a little foggy in that aspect of changing the names of grades.
Another issue I have questions about is the issue focused on no zeros until the student really gets the content. I have had no problems with letting student redo an assessment if they earned a D or lower to be able to bring that grade up to a C at best, however if I let any and all students retake their test or assessments to prove to me that they learned that material how are the students that study for the assessments the first time and do well going to feel about that?? Also, regarding teacher time, where are we going to find the time to reassess students to determine if they get it now. Don't get me wrong I would love for all my students to walk out my classroom door with all my content knowledge by the end of the year, however I feel there needs to be some time accountability as well. What are your thoughts??


Blogger melissa m.o. said...

Just a quick comment note regarding this. What about the Math lab that your dept. already has in place? Couldn't that be an opportunitiy for the students to go in and try to grasp a concept that they might be lacking?

Also, remember that students still have a choice in all of this. Truly, there will still be students that won't try or don't care. But, are they, or have they ever been given the opportunity to learn if they don't "get it"? Maybe they have given up because they can't play the game so why even try?.

9:25 AM  
Blogger Melissa Mindell said...

I agree! I would love to work something out for our students to come in, regardless when, to learn the missed material. The math lab would work wonders for this. Something to discuss with my department :) Thanks!!

10:29 AM  
Blogger lgaffney said...

Great question, Missy! I have been asking myself the same question this past week. For me, the answer is not necessarily that I grade differently, but that when I do grade and give feedback to my kids, I am trying to focus it in a different way. So far, what that has looked like is me writing a lot more feedback, and making sure that feedback is specific to the objective I am concerned with. For example, rather than writing, " 'A' great job, Steve!" The comment becomes, " 'A', this paper demonstrates a strong understanding of the concept of imagery and of passive voice". I don't know if that's helpful at all, but re-focusing in that way has helped me in my grading, I feel.

10:55 AM  
Blogger Karl Fisch said...

Based on our discussions with Tony, I think he would ask you to consider changing your categories to provide feedback to students on the essential learnings in your classroom. A category of "tests" or "warm-ups" doesn't really provide much feedback to the student about what she knows and is able to do. If you get to the end of the semester and a student knows they got a 78% in the test category, what does that tell them? Not a whole lot.

I think Tony would suggest looking at each of your courses and identifying the key essential strands that you want students to master, and then setting up categories to reflect that. So, in Geometry and Advanced Algebra, what are the essentials they need to master? Once you figure that out, then setup your categories and each category reflects how well a student knows that strand. Then if a student gets a 78% in linear programming (as an example), that gives them some useful information to work with.

2:01 PM  
Blogger jaredr said...

I agree Karl, eventhough a title of chapter 4 test may give a more specific/less general idea of what they were tested on as compared to just "test". Still, I feel an overall letter grade in the end is ambiguous. What does it say? If we could as educators give more meaning to final grades, such as the essential learnings in a course and the students ability to demontrate their understanding on each. This would be a lot of information. Would it be too much for anyone to look at? Maybe one letter grade is better.

7:27 AM  
Blogger MickiL said...

I have been thinking about Tony's presentation as well. In the science department there are three teachers who have changed their categories from tests, homework and labs to categories such as reading, responsibility and content knowledge. I am looking forward to parent teacher conferences to hear what kind of feedback they get from parents. I am guessing that the category names will create converstations between teachers and parents. If a student is earning a low grade in reading that will tell the parent a lot. I didn't feel that I could change my categories in the middle of the semester, even though, as Missy said, it is really not that different from what I currently do. However, I am going to listen to what others in my department say about how changing the categories has effected their classes. I will make the change next Fall.

9:19 AM  
Blogger Ms. Fine said...

I think there are many great issues and conversations taking place about grades. Coming from a background where I didn't receive grades has challenged me as a teacher and the way in which I assess. Listening to Tony's presentation I believe there is an invested interest to change the focus of getting grades to learning; however, does changing the name of categories really help to show growth? Isn't this just another way to "grade?" Won't students catch on and play the game of earning points to raise the grade in responsibility? Like Micky, I didn't want to change my grade book 6 weeks in; but, anxious to see the results of the change. I think the concept of the grade, the game playing is still going to stay the same.
With that, like I mentioned during his presentation, I'm not sure what the answer is....maybe this will help... I'm not trying to be pessimistic I just think it is re-naming to have the same results.
I have no idea the answer to moving forward and learning to learn not for the grade. One thing I can honestly say is that I learned in high school because I wanted to. I was not driven by grades and that is my goal as a teacher, to invest the time and energy to help students find the passion to learn and not for the grade.

11:36 AM  
Blogger K Schneider said...

I found the whole presentation interesting on several different levels. As a Special Education teacher I find that many of my students work on a different level concerning grades. Their questions around grades stem from whether or not they are going to pass and receive credit. I'm trying not to stereotype, but many of them don't play into the "grade game" that general education students do. I have had several students this year ask me questions like "when would I use this information" or "can I really use this in real life". Since I teach math it has been a simple question to answer. They want real, applicable knowledge for future use!

I am looking at my grade sections and wondering whether giving them different feedback would be beneficial or would simply giving it a different name make a real difference. Are they still going to be concerned with whether or not they are going to pass or are they going to be concerned about whether or not they are truly learning information that will help them to be more productive adults?

8:01 AM  
Blogger Michael S. said...

In an attempt to answer the question regarding the impact of changing the method of communicating student progress, I say yes, it does matter. It may not directly impact current students, but I do believe that this equates to a grass roots level of change.

We often complain about playing the grade game. Or we complain about the glacier-like timeline for reform in the public school system. This is an opportunity to alter the game and create quicker local change. Understand, that as long as colleges and universities place great emphasis on grades and class ranks, there will always be some sort of grade game. Personally, I look at the potential power in a more precise communication tool. We can change the discussions between students and parents, students and teachers and teachers and parents.

Think about it like this: You apply for a job. You are not hired. You ask for feedback on the process looking for a way to improve. The answer: You are not what we are looking for. Nice feedback - real helpful. Wouldn't you want more specific feedback?

3:15 PM  
Blogger Jared Robinson said...

On reassessment: I gained a new perspective on this subject after the Defur presentation on professional learning communities. This year, I have struggled with students who don't do as well as they want to on an assignment and want to make up the credit. Like Melissa, I found myself asking, "How would that be fair to students who spent the time and effort the first time?"

The Defur conference, however, really helped me to refocus on trying to help each student learn as much as possible. If my objective is to help students understand the literary elements of Shakespeare's plays and a student comes after the test concerned about how the evaluation went, why not use the moment as an opportunity to let the student engage more fully in Shakespeare. If the student realizes after the evaluation that they didn't invest in the experience like they wish they would have, I will try to provide the opportunity to engage in Shakespeare, even if it comes a week later than the rest of the class. Of course, the logistical issues that Melissa brings up are still somewhat problematic. I also am still not sure about students who don't want to learn better and who are just playing the points game.

7:25 AM  

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