Thursday, January 9, 2014

A Repair Kit for Grading...My Takeaway

I’m going to talk about the fixes that stick out the most to me and how they fit into my educational philosophy.

Fix #2: Don’t reduce marks on “work” submitted late; provide support for the learner.

I have gone round and round with my colleagues about late work and the multiple policies that teachers use.  I am a firm believer in not penalizing for late work.  I am going to give them full credit for the work they do.  You get a lot of arguments about this.  Some teachers say that we have to teach them the responsibility of handing work in on time.  I agree, but my primary goal is to teach them the content.  Finishing the assignment to show their growth is my primary goal.  If I deduct points for lateness, how is that motivating the student to complete the assignment?  They don’t see the point in handing it in, only to get half credit.  They settle for the zero.  How is that helping?

This brings me to…
Fix #12: Don’t include zeros in grade determination when evidence is missing or as punishment; use alternatives, such as reassessing to determine real achievement, or use “I” for Incomplete or Insufficient Evidence.

I try not to allow my students to get zeros in my class.  Yes, this initially created a lot of work for me.  I will pull them in before or after school, during SRB, I call their coaches and parents, whatever I have to do to get the assignment done.  Eventually the students realized that they might as well do the work because I make them do it either way.  I don’t give “busy” or fluff work.  The assignments I give them are essential to measure their growth and skill level.  I need that data.  I cannot let them choose not to get it done.  I also agree that adding a zero to the grade book creates an inaccuracy in their final grades.  It is not a true reflection of their progress.  Many teachers think that chasing students down to recover missing assignments is too much of a hassle.  I think that it comes with the territory.

Fix 11: Don’t rely only on the mean; consider other measures of central tendency and use professional judgment. 
Fix 13: Don’t use information from formative assessments and practice to determine grades; use only summative evidence. 
Fix 14: Don’t summarize evidence accumulated over time when learning is developmental and will grow with time and repeated opportunities; in those instances, emphasize more recent achievement.

I’m going to address these all together.  I don’t think grades should be determined using “practice” work.  This defeats the purpose of letting them practice.  It shouldn’t matter WHEN they master the concept, as long as they eventually do.  I think sometimes teachers get stuck focusing on all the questions students get wrong, rather than looking at the ones they got right.  I never really thought about this until I taught first grade.  I noticed that I could give a spelling test on short a in week three and the student would miss 5 out of 7 words.  They just didn’t get the pattern.  By week five, their reading and writing showed that they understood the short a pattern.  Why would I give that student an F because they didn’t get it in week three?  I started tracking the major concepts in my classes and when students became proficient in them.  The next year I took this data to the principal and owner of the school.  I made my argument for standards-based grading.  We transitioned first grade to standards-based that year and grades 2-4 the following year.  It was the best thing for all involved.  Students were a lot more confident after we did this.  They were not afraid to make a mistake.  They knew it was ok.  We stressed that through mistakes is how we learn.  You shouldn’t be punished for learning.

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