Sunday, May 13, 2018

Grading Policies Evolved

Hello, colleagues! Are you guys tired? I know I am - it's the end of the year, and I just spent eight hours at our last track meet of the season yesterday. I'm also frustrated... we had students that couldn't compete in the competition because they were ineligible. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm a teacher more than I'm a coach, so I've seen it all through my own classes. Students do fail assignments which cause them to fail classes. I've also had students fail my class and be ineligible. However, one thing I noticed this year is students failing a class due to strange grading practices.

Instead of blogging about what I think my colleagues are doing "wrong," I'm going to post about grading practices that I've changed over the years due to reflection and research.

1. No zeroes. A zero in the grade book implies that a student has LITERALLY DONE NOTHING. Nada. Zero. Zilch. Is that ever the case? Sometimes, sure. I've given kids zeroes on flipped learning because they never started it. Other than flipped learning, I did not give students a zero. If you look at a standard grading scale, an F is between a 0 - 59%. That is an enormous gap. If a student does not turn in an assignment, they still did work in class. Did they do 59% of the work? Usually, they did more, but just didn't turn in the assignment! A student should not fail a class because of one task. Give students a chance to be successful even if they didn't complete one project.

2. No late grades. Students have all sorts of reasons for turning in work late, stemming from them not wanting to do the task, to having a sibling get sick, or due to a family celebration. Should a student be penalized an arbitrary 10% because they turned an assignment in one day late? I don't think so! If students can prove that they know the information, and they meet the criteria of the rubric, then they deserve a better grade, even if it's overdue.

3. More formative assessments. Does this mean I should get rid of summative assessments? Absolutely not; they have a time and a place. Should a kid's grade suffer because of one test for an entire quarter? That's a tough one, but I would argue that it's also crucial that a teacher checks for understanding throughout the unit. Those checks should also be considered assessments, even if they are formative assessments. I would always know if a student would fail ahead of time because of all of the checkpoints that were done along the way. Also, if a student demonstrates quality understanding on a past formative assessment, then the grade should be changed. The student may have achieved proficiency at a later date, but they still exhibited mastery of the content.

4. No more "fluffy" grades. Students do not receive participation points. All students have to participate in my class whether it's by raising their hand or collaborating with a colleague. I also stopped grading assignments based on how they looked. My rubrics would have one category for "basic requirements" (like a specific minimum time or that it had the 10 pieces of criteria), but all of the other categories were based on research and content presented. Do I want a pretty project turned in? Sure, but I also want the students to show me and tell me what they know and what they learned.

5. Behavior does not equal achievement. Every day is a new day. Students act out for various reasons. There is no reason to "punish" a student by giving them a low grade. Grades should be reflective of student achievement, not student behavior. Yes, we want our students to be able to communicate, collaborate, be creative, and think critically. Human beings learn through practice, so if you want your students to learn to communicate, give them time to talk. Students don't need a grade to know if they can talk to other people.

The problem with sharing this information is that I definitely sound like an insufferable know-it-all. Do I have all of the answers? NO! I've evolved as an educator over the last twelve years (and will continue to grow as I teach). I just feel like these changes made a difference in my classroom. I want all students to have the capacity for success to have a promising future.

Thanks for reading! I'll see you next week :)

- Rachel
My Teacherspayteachers website