Why Minimum Grades are Lies

F Minus GradeAs grading reform has spread across the land, some fervent “reformers” have taken steps that–while driven by a commendable desire to give students every opportunity to succeed–fall short of that goal.  They don’t make any sense.  And that hurts the movement toward more fair and effective grading practices.

What nefarious change am I warning you about?  It’s the newly popular practice of automatically bumping zeroes to higher scores.

Now, let’s be clear.  There are LOTS of reasons to change the current letter grade system used in most American secondary schools.  Most of these stem from the primary goal of grades: communicating mastery to parents/students/educators.  When grades fail to do this clearly, they need some work. Continue reading

A Quote and a Winner

First, I want to congratulate Kristina Watts who won the comment contest last month and will receive a copy of “The Braided Path” by Donna Glee Williams which I reviewed a few weeks ago.  The interest in the contest was strong and I plan to have another soon, so stay tuned.

Second, since it’s Thursday, it’s time for another item from my news feed.  This week, I’d like to point you to the fantastic Shanker Blog.  The smart minds there blog about ed policy issues and research in a way that puts these topics within the grasp of educators everywhere.

In a recent post, Matt Di Carlo wrote,

“I can fully understand the need to avoid complacency, but acknowledging that even the most effective educational interventions require patience and realism is not tantamount to maintaining low expectations, or admitting students can’t learn.”

Here Di Carlo has expressed perfectly the push-and-pull of those who want tangible change now and those who recognize the multi-generational nature of the achievement gap.  But, how do we (and by “we”, I really mean “policy makers”) maintain the sort of intensity and drive over decades that are needed to effect real change?

Teamwork beats Competition among Teachers

Two of my favorite education folks both wrote this week about the perils of teacher competing with one another, and the benefits of collaboration.

John Merrow attended the NBPTS’ Teaching and Learning in 2014 conference and wrote about the experience.  He picked up on the theme that teaching should be a team sport, saying

“In teaching that means sharing ideas and curriculum; it means having the time to watch each other teach; it means setting aside time for the educational equivalent of medicine’s ‘grand rounds,’ a time when teachers who teach the same students share their observations about those kids.”

Simultaneously, Brett Clark (my guru for leadership and large-scale edtech rollouts) wrote about his tendency to be cause-driven rather than pursuing his own success.  He writes,

“I am only in competition with one person, myself. The only person I want to be better than is the person I was yesterday.”

Both Merrow and Clark illuminate the benefits that come from working together and that message resonates with me.  It seems obvious that our profession can only be at its best when those “in the trenches” coordinate their efforts.

Common sense as it might be, however, policy makers continue to enact schemes that pit teachers against each other in a fight for raises and other rewards.  Isn’t it time that teaching became a true team sport?