Today's post is by guest blogger Jonathan Cornue.
So friend Anthony says to me, “Congratulations on your new book! Would you write something for my blog?”
“Sure!” says I, because I am a twit who struggles to recognize his limitations.
Two days later I think to myself, “How do I write a piece about my education-focused, non-fiction book in a manner that will be interesting to Anthony’s typical audience, which is primarily fiction focused?”
Four weeks after that, I think I have an answer.
Let me tell you some very short stories that most people, having at least attended school, can relate to.
A high school English teacher looks at an on-demand essay and gives it a 94. Her colleague across the hall looks at the same essay and gives it an 86. Another teacher in a neighboring district gives the same essay a 72.
A middle school mathematics teacher is told that he must assign homework, as district policy states that homework will account for 20% of a student’s grade.
A third grade teacher sees that a student with an IEP has placed significant effort into a project, and even though the student does not have a full grasp of the materials, she bumps his grade up to reward him for his hard work.
A difficult student does little work over the course of a marking period. She earns a 32, but district policy states that the teacher must give her a 50. Some teachers complain about this policy.
An elementary teacher assigns a project to be completed at home. The grades on the project clearly delineate student income.
A middle school teacher assigns a project in class. Students are then graded not only on the project, but on how well they present their material to the rest of the class. They have never been taught presentation skills.
A wonderful, driven, and kind young lady is placed in remediation courses during her first year of college due in large part to her application essay, which is disjointed and poorly written. Her high school report card shows that she received straight A’s in English.
A teacher is surprised by a student’s low unit assessment grade, as he aced all of his homework assignments. What she doesn’t know is that he copied the assignments during “homework club” at the lunch table.
A parent requests a different fifth grade teacher for her child because he is an “easier grader,” and she feels that her child needs his confidence boosted.
A district moves to a four-point standards based grading system over the summer. Teachers are not given time during the school year to ensure that everyone sees a “3” the same way.
A high school student does his homework in an abandoned car at the edge of his parents’ property because his father thinks that he has had enough of an education and should go get a job. He will not allow school books into the house.
An elementary student’s report card indicates that he needs to place “more effort” into his work in art class.
These are stories found in the reality of the American education system, and every one of them is true. I have seen them.
Here are a few things everyone should know about grading:
· A grading system should not be based on 100 point scale that gives students 64 chances to fail and 36 chances to succeed.
· A grading system should not average a learning process, but identify what was learned.
· A grading system should be based on the standards, and those should be evaluated separately, because “Social Studies – 72” does not tell a student how she can improve.
You should also know that change is hard, and systemic change is even harder, so be patient with your school districts if they haven’t gotten there yet. At the same time, feel free to ask them about standards-based grading and their grading policies in general!
There is more of course. Homework and assignments and how we evaluate group work and the like, but for that you should probably read the book. (Oh yeah, it’s called Changing the Grade: A Step-by-Step Guide to Grading for Student Growth.) Or you can send me an email – firstname.lastname@example.org – I am always happy to discuss this further!
Jonathan Cornue is a staff and curriculum development specialist for the Madison-Oneida Board of Cooperative Educational Services (MO BOCES). He creates and presents workshops on, among other topics, brain-based learning and rubric development. Jonathan has served on the board of the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum and as a member of the New York State Amistad Commission and the New York Statewide Professional Development Group. He presented his thoughts on grading changes at the 2015 ASCD conference in Houston.