HUSL--Help oUr Students Learn

A place for teachers to place strategies that help our students become effective learners. * Does being an effective student mean being an effective READER? * Setting Purpose * Signals of confusion in reading

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The juggling act begins each year: a new grading program (Infinite Campus) in one hand, tossing curriculum and standards while retrieving a depth of student knowledge. How can I possible add more? Community of learners, team meetings within departments, district meetings, mentor/mentee obligations, student organizations, and coaching just to name other "hats" we pull from our teaching closet. But now to add another, districts including ours, are discussing the implication of grades. What are assessments? What do they measure? What do they indicate? Can a student who has a "D" really know more than an "A" student in the same class?

Interesting discussions many of us in the district are having regarding grades. Do they honestly reflect their knowledge of economics, English, or algebra...or are they simply a compliance grade? Students who care about their grades realize that if they turn in an organized paper, an assignment, on time, they can earn at least a "C" even if the content is weak. We have students scoring poorly on tests that demand student's ability in a subject, but still are able to pull off an "A." This was a question raised by one of LPS teachers, Tony Winger; he was rethinking his grades as he realized that many, if not most of his "A" students do not have a strong grasp of micro-economics or macro-economics...or both. He sought research to support his questioning and to see what others in the field were already doing to remedy this result. He was thrilled with the forerunners challenging educators to rethink what these iconic letters symbolize.

In the Curriculum Innovation Team, members raised many questions such as the value of teaching responsibility. Tony challenged himself, and us, to then label it a work ethic/responsibility grade... or at least a portion of it to that and then apply what is really content-focused to a separate category. The challenge is to weight these categories so they accurately show a student's work and knowledge of content, plus a teacher's value on responsibility.

I think this fits well with the HUSL's committee goal: improving students' effectiveness through teacher strategies. Tony challenged us to consider instead of offering extra-credit to increase low scores, or simply compliance--turning in assignments on time--ask students to learn more. Re-do a paper, re-learn a chapter, re-calculate an assignment--simply learn more. I was intrigued as so many other AHS colleagues were.

Add your comments (even if they are short!) and let's start the grading discussion. We don't have to jump on the unicycle donning a cheerful grin, but discourse among colleagues often creates continued professionalism.


At 8:12 AM, Blogger meh said...

When I started re-examining my grading I found 2 things. Whatever I value is what I will get from the students. If I value turning in papers on time, that is what I will get. It was not enough, so I went looking for alternate ways to grade. One thing I really liked is the portfolio idea. It is a collection only of their good work, what they are "proud" of. If that is all they have to offer and never did more, that is what they get. I think English would fit this really well. It actually fits math too. I just came up with some main groupings and then they have to collect examples that show that. For instance I have Problem Solving (obvious for math), communications (not as obvious, but we need to "talk" math), reasoning (as in logic), Cooperation (working with others, Connections (how we can apply what we learn to real life) and my last one is sort of a general "attitude/effort" I call Verve. It means excitement and interest and how they show me that.

Again, I have stolen some of this from the NCTM Standards, but I thought you might want to look at it sometime.

At 8:44 AM, Blogger Roger Hess said...

I am planning on trying Tony's ideas in all of my classes next semester. However, I don't think any of it will matter much unless I really emphasize it with the students (and parents) so that they really utilize the feedback.

At 6:07 AM, Blogger Hatak said...

I agree with what Roger said. I too am going to try some grading changes next term. I wonder if I have a full understanding of how to change. I am also wondering about some of the possible groupings for a scinece class.

The first comment on this page talks about NCTM standards. Is there a site where I can view these? Does anyone know if there are standards for science posted anywhere?

At 8:39 AM, Blogger rayh said...

Do we need to invite Tony back to help guide us with the specific questions we have in implementing? We also have people on our team and staff who have been experiencing the struggle.
And Mary, thanks for the concrete examples you provided.


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