The Real World

We are always for the best ways we can serve our kids. This week we had our first Parent/Teacher conference night of the year and it generated a lot of conversation about best practices, particularly teaching and grading policies. These conversations came from a variety of sources and were generated by both sides, educators and parents. 
The need for an effective grading policy is critical. Developing a system that is objective, fair and reflects mastery learning takes time and collaboration. We are planning for some upcoming talks about what grading should entail here at West Middle.
Our discussions reminded me of a conversation I had months ago with a teacher who had a pretty rigid, inflexible grading policy. It was pretty cut and dry and reflected meeting deadlines and accuracy on assignments. As educators, we have to have a greater scope and understanding. We got into education because we want to make a difference in students’ lives – learning, social and emotional. I think we often overlook this piece when there is an assignment due or something is to be turned in. There is a tendency to fall back on how WE were graded or treated. It’s along these lines that the teacher’s sentiment of ‘In the real world, if students miss a deadline they won’t get a second chance’ or ‘There is no make up in the real world’ came out. Needless to say, it generated a lot of discussion.
We have to remind our colleagues that for our K-12 students, we are their real world. Whatever common goals we set or agreements the school makes as far as grading policy is the real world for our students. Specific to this case, I reminded this teacher we are talking about 11 – 13 year olds. If anyone is deserving of another day to turn in an assignment, they are. If anyone is deserving of being given a 3rd or 4th chance at completing an assignment until we are sure they’ve mastered what we consider important, they are.
If the deadline is the most important thing, that should be communicated and upheld. If concept mastery is the most important thing, we should plan for that. This is part of the process and planning that has to be developed and constantly re-examined in our process.
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7 thoughts on “The Real World

  1. Hi Mr. McCoy,I completely agree with you. Educators should not be happy until all students in their classroom are performing above standard. Grades are for parents and should be used as motivation for students. For to long, grades have been used as punishment. Punishment for failing to turn in assignments, failure to study for a test that is given on one certain day, or failure to pay attention. As a whole we have to move away from the practice of grades reflecting anything but mastery. If we have a student who is not mastering the material, we have to figure out how to reach that student. I know some critics will say that you have to have due dates and penalties for not meeting these deadlines or penalties for not paying attention. These "grading" penalties only work if a student is motivated by grades. Most at risk students lack this motivation. Believe it or not students who know they can be successful will meet all due dates. Students who know they will be provided whatever it takes for them to learn will do anything to succeed.April

  2. Derek,Quality post, we agree on so many things. Grades should not be about compliance, rather, they should indicate a measurement of student growth. We're in need of high quality data in education, I recently wrote about that on my blog: http://mrbernia.wordpress.com/2011/11/07/1-thing-we-can-do/. More effective grading will help us "get there."I love the point you made about the age of our students. Too often, adults take the decisions kids make personally, which is misguided. Academics will generally lose when a 12 year old is given the choice of playing outside or doing homework. Sometimes, we need to remember that.Posts like this are a big reason you're such a valued member of my PLN. Many thanks Derek!John

  3. Grades should reflect learning and assignments should be graded as practice. If you must grade assignments then when a student fails an learning objective on an assignment, or receives a zero, that grade should be dropped if mastery of the objective is achieved later. For example, if a student scores low on an assignment, quiz, or some other type of graded project and at a later date demonstrates mastery of the objective/standard, on a test for instance, then the earlier grades should be dropped. By doing this the final grade given truly reflects what has been learned and it also teaches students that the goal is to learn.

  4. Is our purpose to select talent or to develop it? I think we would all agree that we need to develop our students just like we would our athletes in sports. That should be our mentality. I met with my staff last week, we are also in the middle of taking a tough look at our grading practices. I think most educators agree that we need to change our practices. However, that is easier said than done. I believe the only way we can fix grading is through standard-based grading. At least you are having the talk and that is the important part!

  5. Hi Derek:Been there, done that. (Worry, fret, plan etc. Over grades I mean.)I realize that this is probably unhelpful but it may be time to take this notion on board: There IS no effective grading system. It's an oxymoron. And to seek one is a dead-end exercise and misuse of time that might be better spent focusing on student learning, creating alternative data points, making a pot of tea.I wrote about this yesterday:http://www.pdscompasspoint.com/more-failing-fewer-failures-greater-successBut I also know that once grades are in the system it takes an extraordinary effort to eradicate them completely.Best of luck.- Josiehttp://www.pdscompasspoint.com/

  6. When teachers adhere to such rigid rules: no late assignments, etc, we don't get a clear picture of the student's achievement. If we really want to know if students understand and can apply our content, we have to give them every opportunity to show it. I also think it is crucial to consider what supports each student has or lacks at home to get homework done. All homes are not created equal, maybe all homework shouldn't be either.

  7. I agree, measuring concept mastery is ultimately our goal in grading. Timelines and due dates are important, but should reflect in a "responsibility" grade or standard. Having a conversation on grading policy with your staff and parents is an excellent objective, one I give you huge credit for. Don't forget to get the kids input 🙂 Good luck, would be interested in the outcome.

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