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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Questions to Consider about the Value of Grades:

Is student/family satisfaction your first concern? 

Are students/families the customers at your school, whose happiness is your top priority? 

Do high grades to motivate them and build self esteem? 

Do grades allow for growth? 

Should grades start low and grow higher to convince them that they are earning their final high marks.

Is public assessment your first concern? 

Are you trying to give grades thatl tell future teachers exactly how well the students perform? 

Are you teaching a course for future public servants, safety engineers, or doctors, a filtering course to guarantee a qualified workforce? 

Should your grades clearly separate those who are qualified from those who are not?

Perhaps you should not give "middle-of-the-road" grades, if it might confuse the potential employer.

What is the real difference between B, B+ and A-?

Are you giving multiple grades, or a single one?

What sources of info do you use to assign grades?

Is anecdotal info allowed?

Are grades earned or deserved? 

Are the best grades "calculated" coldly or compassionately conceived?

If there is such a thing as "differentiated instruction", is there also "differentiated grading"?

Do chronically "failing" students ever get out of the "bad grade rut"? What precipitates that?

Do consistently strong students ever get graded down? Is their work examined closely enough?



Melissa Techman (@mtechman on Twitter) said...

I started to post a comment from the point of view of a parent of an honors student who is drowning in homework, driven to get grades and suffering. Then I realized that my views as a teacher are identical to my views as a parent.
1. Differentiation is thin on the ground in secondary school, especially in the honors/AP track. But hey, all bright kids are the same, right?
2. I would much rather see my child retain creativity,sense of wonder and openness to possibilities and get mediocre grades (if grades are a must) than have top grades and no love of learning.
3. Comments and descriptors are so much more helpful than grades, but parents, factories, woops I mean institutions of higher learning, and other parts of our culture require something standardized, something easily scanned and sorted....
4. Even though most systems require grading (and some grading protocols make very little sense), teachers who offer choice can make the whole experience so much better for their students.
I think these questions you have posed are excellent and delineate how complicated the issue is....
thanks as always for letting us see your thinking,

ERKO said...

Melissa; thanks for the comment:

The idea of "drowning in homework" is poignant. I am disturbed that school is so associated with work. Heck, if any adult were having to do so much work at home after a full day, they would either feel trapped or abused (I hear it from teachers all the time during report card season)

Comments and descriptors are more useful. I went to an University that used them exclusively. I came out ok.

Bottom line, grades are simple communicators, but nearly everyone believes them to have some scientific validity, as if they were actually translatable from one area to another, or even from one teacher to another. They are not!!!

I am currently thinking about these questions to determine where I stand on it all. I do know, for me, that I am not grading simply to categorize my students. I am not trying to let know future teachers what my students are capable (or not) of doing. I am trying to let parents know where their child stands and I am also trying to cue the student into how their learning is progressing. And I hate + or - grades, but I use them, mostly, to give a sense of growth: B+ is pracically an A with a little more studying or outside help or question asking in class.