Category Archives: Grading

Standards-Based Grading or Other?

While  a few of my colleagues have moved to standards-based grading, I have refrained from fully moving in that direction. For one, I am not convinced we have decided on our final grade-level standards, and, for two, I am not convinced it’s the best way to go. Yes, I am not on the cusp of educational research, but no one has shown me our chosen Power Standards are all-encompassing and fully implemented.

Right now, I use GPA scoring where a 4.0 is a perfect score, a 3.0 is a B, a 2.0 is a C, and so on.

I like it.

All scores in a category are equal and all of the assignments lend equal weight. Plus, an initial poor score does not doom a student. For example, in a typical system a 100% and a 0% (a missing assignment) equals s 50% (F).  In my system, the same 100% and a 0% is a 2.0 (C). After 10 assignments, both systems equal the same grade, but in the short term my system is less disastrous for a student.

I use a system very similar to Princeton’s GPA system. Let me know what you think.

The Identification Test

I tend to give my students identification tests where the students must do three things with each person, item, or idea:

  • (1) identify the person, item, or idea and its place in the story;
  • (2) explain the importance of the person, item, or idea; and
  • (3) connect the person, item, or idea to a major theme in the story or to a literary device.

An excellent student example for The Bastille would be:

(1) The Bastille was a famous French prison known for its harsh conditions and for the number of prisoners unjustly sent there. (2) Dr. Manette was unjustly imprisoned in the Bastille for 18 years, and when the prison was destroyed Monsieur Defarge ran to 105 N. Tower looking for a buried paper. (3) The Bastille became a symbol of the nobles’ power and cruelty before and during the French Revolution; when it was destroyed, it became celebrated like our Independence Day.

Generally, the students do an excellent job of this, and this type of test hits on all sorts of state and local standards.

However, I gave four classes a test of identifications and three classes had an average of a B+ or better, but the fourth had a C average. This fourth class was one of feast or famine with A grades or F grades up and down the roster. The reason for their low scores is obvious; namely, most of the students in this class refused to study and did little to nothing to prepare.

Now comes the hard part: what do I do about this? Do I force them to keep their scores knowing that they did little to study? Do I provide an opportunity for the students to earn back some of the points by retaking the test?

I tend to vote for a chance to retake the test, but I need the students to prove they have prepared prior to taking the second exam.

What would you do?

Busy Sunday

Weekends are rarely open for straight relaxation, but I did manage to take yesterday off. I’ve been fighting off a sore throat and a minor cold, so I decided to enjoy some quiet time with the DVR and caught up on a couple shows I enjoy.

However, Sunday is another day.

I have already set up my calendar for the week, and now I need to head to the school and get some work done. I’m guessing I have about 4-5 hours of work to do, but I will listen to music and force myself to take a break every hour (when I normally check on my fantasy football team).

The only thing I really dread about today is getting through the 120 assessments my Sophomores completed. I do not enjoy assessing them, but I need to have them ready so I can share my results with the other Sophomore English teachers.

We look at our own classes and then look at the 10th graders as an entire group, which then allows us to discuss what we each do and what else we can do to help the students improve. This part I love! I enjoy the back and forth discussion about approaches, strategies, and working with groups of kids.

Grade Books and Younger vs. Older Teachers

Today was an exploration of the new grade book system we are using. I spent a couple hours identifying the basic functions, but the bulk of that time was used trying to figure out how to make it let me grade the way I want to enter scores.

I’ve decided that I am going to use GPA scoring on every assignment (4.0 for and A, 3.0 for a B, etc.) while still using my categories (i.e. tests, writings, final, etc.). This will make every assignment within each category weighted the same. Each unit test over the novels will have the same effect within its category as will each paper, each presentation, each speech, and so on. It won’t be a standards-based system, but I have not found the standards adopted to include all that they should. That’s my bias and the reason I do not have a full standards-based system. Regardless, I am going to have to manipulate the grade book percentages to allow for GPA scoring, and it took the better part of 90 minutes to determine how to make it work.

I also read a few articles on education issues today for about an hour. As any teacher knows, the measurements or assessments used have a drastic effect on student motivation and success just like the way schools are graded have a tremendous impact on funding and more, which is what this article notes on Alabama schools. Another interesting article noted that the Seattle School District wants to raise class sizes despite a Washington State Supreme Court ruling demanding smaller class sizes.

Today I received a call from a younger teacher, one who would be considered part of the online generation (an age group never really knowing a world without the internet). Truth be told, I straddle the line between the online and pre-online generations, but the teacher who called me is definitely an onliner. She wanted to know if we had a specific resource, and my first thought was “have you looked?” I would guess the answer to be “no,” but I have no real evidence to suggest this to be true except past experience.

What I’ve noticed is that the younger teachers don’t always tend to look first before asking others to come to their aid; whereas, the elder teachers look first and try to figure things out on their own before including others. This may not necessarily be a negative, but I have observed that the younger generation, including my students, want a immediate answer rather than putting in an extra minute or two discovering the answer on their own. They seem to think it’s ok for them to inconvenience others to speed up their activities. Maybe that ‘s a bit harsh, but I see it frequently.

Truly, providing the answer required less than a minute of my time, but in the time it took the teacher to call and chat with me, she could have located the resource on her own without interrupting me. I wasn’t even really bothered by the call and was happy to help (and very happy this teacher was starting her planning three before school starts), but the call did generate the thought about how the generations differ.

I know, I know. I sound like an old fuddy-duddy, including my use of that antiquated term, but the Google Generation does seem to want everything right now and don’t always have the patience of their elder peers. Is this simply a product of age or the effect of the online age? I’m not sure, but the trend seems to be increasingly true and today was a prime example.

Oh, sheesh. Maybe I’m becoming a curmudgeon. 🙂

Update: Maybe I should post my feelings about how the older teachers often fret over technology while the younger teachers rush to embrace it. And, when will I go from embracing the technology to fretting about it?

Lighten Your Grading Load

I assign one major project, paper, or speech per month per class, and I’m often asked how I keep up with the grading load. While there are many ways to keep up with the paper load, I tend to rely most on allowing students to choose their due dates.

I print out a sheet with due dates spread throughout the month and draw names from a hat to determine who gets to choose their due dates first. Within five minutes everyone has chosen a due date, and I have a schedule for keeping track of student work without being overloaded.

However, this system requires discipline.

I am often praised for my organization and diligence, but my real secret is portioning out my workload. Since the students choose their own due dates, I only have to assess 4-5 papers, projects or speeches per day.

Why would I assign everyone the same due date when I can’t score 30 papers in a day (or 60 or 90 if multiple classes have the same due date)? I can’t. The papers sit there, I feel stressed with an overflowing in-box, and the kids wait for feedback for days on end.

Instead, I score 4-5 major items per day, provide immediate feedback, and don’t feel the same level of stress i once did. Plus, the students like choosing their due dates because they can look at their schedules and determine how their activities, sports, and other classes impact their workloads as well.

I feel like this system allows me to feel less stress and students to feel empowered to determine in making their deadlines. For me this works. But, it does require consistent discipline and a steady workload each day.

Does anyone do anything similar?