Grades and assessment

My school site has been talking about grades a lot recently. We have a high number of F’s and D’s. Our population is over 60% English learners. Part of the discussion has been about:

  • Grades as punishment
  • Students having 6 different grading policies in each of their classes
  • In one department an A in one class is a B or a C in another (85% or higher = an A)
  • Make-up work and giving full or partial credit.
  • how many points you take off for failing to put the correct header

I really think that in order to give our students a fighting chance at success we need to make the school systems as easy as possible. Expecting a  11,  12, or 13 year old to sift through 5 or 6 different grading policies is too much. I think that our staff needs to come together and agree on certain standards so our students can worry about content and the important things.

During our discussions we had the chance to share our philosophies about late work. Another teacher at my site, who I respect, explained his philosophy of giving full credit for late work under certain parameters. I didn’t think it was fair to the student who was able to get the work done on time, but I have come to change my mind. He has a system in his class where the students can make-up their missing work from the previous day. He believes that if they are making the effort to do the work and get it done, even if it is late, they deserve full credit.

At the same time that these discussions were going on at my school site, I was taking a class through the Southern Area International Languages Network (SALIN) which is a part of California Foreign Language Project out of Stanford Univ.  It is a three tier professional development. Tier 1 focuses on therory of communication based learning and the three froms of communicaiton: interpersonal, interpretive and presentational.  In this class, we read an article that realated to the grade discussion. “How Classroom Assessments Can Improve Learning” from Educational Leadership Vol. 60, No. 5, February 2003 by Thomas R. Guskey.

This article is about assessment, but for me it had a lot of parallels to our discussion about grades and late work. He that the goal is student learning. And if they are able to show you that they learned, even if it was not at the same speed as others in the class, haven’t they met the goal?

I still have a lot to think about and I need to work on changing my policies to give students an increased ability to be successful and allow for them to make mistakes.