Saturday, April 20, 2013

I Wrestle With Grades


This week was the end of the 3rd marking period for my school. Time to put the finishing touches on comments for the report cards. This takes A LOT less time now that we have electronic gradebooks. What always make the process longer for me is the agonizing over the required PARTICIPATION GRADE! How is this suppose to factor into the equation? How much value does this variable require? How is this suppose to all add up to a mark? Can you tell I am a math teacher...

In all honesty, these questions are what wake me up in the very early morning feeling guilty. How can this group of students receive a low grade because they did not "participate"? How can they have a low grade 12-14 year olds do not do homework? To me, these are behaviors/skills for kids to acquire over what if they need work on that at their age? Isn't that the point of school?

There is another group of students that generate an educational headache for me as well: the ones that "play school" well. Who are these? The kids that are getting Bs or Cs because they participate, but do not really know the concepts. Actually, these kids create greater anxiety because they do not know what the grade says they should!  That is not their fault, but mine alone! They just happen to reap the rewards of the system in place.

This is the point where I thank @PrincipalJ and my PLN at #SBGchat for pushing me towards making some changes. PrincipalJ's influence was due to her discussion of change being hard at first, but over time (and a lot of hard work) it becomes easier. Honestly, she gets a tip of the hat from me for giving up coffee...I may have just dealt with the pain. I am a coffee addict, know doubt.

The great members at #SBGchat have provided me with a lot of information about Standards Based Grading. I have been moving SLOWLY in this direction over the last couple of years by paying more attention to grading on understanding the concepts than if it was done for homework. I allow kids to come to my room at lunch or during a free period to complete problems for a grade on that standard. I am completely confident of that student's ability to do the work when it is done in front of me. When the work is done somewhere else, I always wonder if they received any "help" from an outside source. There is no doubt of their ability to cover the standard when they complete the activity under my supervision.

I have a ways to go before I am completely using SBG in my classroom, but I believe I am on the right path. Change is hard. Change is difficult. But, when it is part of what we want for our students, I am willing to fight the fight. My alterior motive is to not wake up in a panic 8 times a year when grades are due...but, I am sure there will be something else to take its place! Oh, to the always-thinking-mind of an educator!!

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