Monday, February 13, 2006

Reflections on Tony's presentation

As always, I love the the conversation Tony's presentation generates. My only regret is that we began with the "O Alternatives" article we chose to start our meeting with. Although it prompted great discussion to begin with , it may have clouded Tony's message:" What are grades intended to communicate and what should they measure?". We also appeared to to get stuck on how could we make his grading system work within Infinite Campus.
Let's go back to his premise that grades should be a reflection of what, and how well, students are learning. All he is suggesting is that for the sake of communication we make a distinction between the knowledge and skills we want all students to know and learn, and those non-academic things we choose to look at as well. We should simply put those two concepts under different headings and give them a weighted value based on our best judgment. When you have a conversaton with a parent or student, you are able to change the focus to "this part is about what you have or have not learned, and this is about how well you have or have not met your non-academic responsibility. It is about changing the conversation away from "what do I have to do to get an 'A'?" to "how well have I learned something." This also leads us to explore what essential learnings all students should leave AHS with and how do we assess it? It is the journey we are about to embark on at AHS,if we haven't already begun it in some departments. These are excitng and difficult challenges for all of you/us.
I'd like to leave you with this thought:
"When we no longer know what to do, we come to our real work and when we know which way to go we have begun our real Journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings."
Wendell Berry
Thanks for all the hard thinking you've begun to do.



Blogger Cheryl S. said...

I do not give grades - but I still got a lot out of the discussions with Tony. It reinforced to me just how complicated grading can be for teachers in all areas. I agree with the teachers who spoke to the fact that it comes down to communicating what's happening in the classroom with the parents. As a parent, I appreciate the efforts teachers make to separate the grades into areas of responsibility, participation, as well as knowledge of content material. I want to know how best to support the teacher - what exactly to address with my kid and what areas require growth. It makes setting up expectations and consequences outside of school much easier with more information about performance. It is not of primary importance that my kid receive all A's - it's also important that he develop skills in communication, participation, and personal responsibility (even when it's difficult or pushes beyond the comfort zone...that's where the growth happens!). As a parent of an AHS student, I want to thank all of you for the time, effort, and caring that you put into shaping so many aspects of students' lives!!!

10:10 AM  
Blogger Sally G said...

As a teacher of some years (21+ - but who's counting?, I have a tendency to roll my eyes and sigh as I listen to presentations like Tony's. I understand where he is coming from. (..from where he is coming...?) I appreciate his motivation. But, frankly, this is reminiscent of educational philosophy that sprouted during the late 70's and early 80's. I have seen the cycle repeat itself on more than one occasion. It seems we, as educators, struggle to find a balance between holding our students accountable and encouraging them to succeed without stepping on their vulnerable self-esteem.

That being said, I do plan to give more parent-accessible titles to my assignments. For homework, how about "Work Ethic"? For Exams I will try "Knowledge Acquisition." For Class participation, let's see... "Group Involvement." No, wait. I already use that.


10:38 AM  

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