Judging from the response to my post about the new grading system that I am employing this semester, there are a lot of teachers currently trying (or considering trying) big leaps of faith in grading practices. As a sort of testimonial, here is a snapshot of where my adventure stands as of the end of the Third Quarter. For more information about what these changes are, please check out the link above.
The student response to my introduction of the system in early January was positive. That’s not a surprise. Students that normally excel had a chance to improve their low A’s to high A’s. Students who routinely bomb tests and quizzes saw an opportunity to do an autopsy and correct the grade. Most surprising, however, is that parents have not complained. I worried expected that some parents would be confused or concerned about how the new system would work and that my inbox would be overwhelmed. Instead, I have not received a single piece of email from a single parent about the new system. The main reason is probably my proactive approach: I put up a clear webpage that explained the system and I added a message to the website where my grades are available for parents and students to view online.
My teammates have engaged me in some spirited and exciting discussions about the philosophy and practicality of my system. As my colleague Bill Ferriter is fond to say, the conversation has really expanded my own thinking on the subject. Their Devil’s Advocate has helped me to crystallize my own ideas and clarify the “why” and the “how” of this dramatic change to my grading practices. One teacher in particular, has been a sounding board for my quotes from Ken O’Connor and has pushed back with real and necessary criticism of what I am doing. I haven’t wavered in my resolve to make this change, in fact, I feel stronger knowing that she has helped me to consider the issues in play.
In the midst of all of this, I was asked to present (along with several others) to a large group of teacher leaders (~180) from all over my district last week. They gave me fifteen minutes to sum up all of the changes that I made. My presentation met with an unbelievably positive reaction and I am currently working with over a dozen teachers who want to do something similar in their schools and classrooms. You can check out my slides below (to see notes from the presentation, click on the slideshow to go to SlideShare):
Where does that leave me now? Well, on a scale of 1 to 10, I’d say that the experiment is currently rating a 7. I have had some success, but I also haven’t faced many challenges yet. Third Quarter report cards will be distributed just before our year-round three-week break, and I’m likely to have some questions to answer when I return. Fourth quarter may prove to be the true test of my ability to communicate the advantages of improved grading practices.
Right now, I have to decide how to remediate those that aren’t getting it, and what to do with those who refuse to retake an Incomplete (earned for an assessment that scores below a C). Still discovering new questions, while searching for some answers. Stay tuned for more updates.
P.S. According to this recent article in the New York Times, even college students confuse the purpose of a grade, expecting their effort to result in a good grade regardless of their mastery of the content. It’s going to be a long road…