Earlier this week, I engaged in two conversations around grading practices. It’s astonishing to think that something that has been discussed probably since the beginning of schooling continues to be a topic today.
I truly believe that we took a step backwards when grades went online. Prior to that, I want to believe teachers were having more thoughtful reflection when penciling in grades into the vinyl-covered gradebook. I loved getting that green book in August – my best handwriting came out in that book!
I took great care to write in those small boxes with the sharpest pencil, allowing time for reflection and thought about each student. When grades went online, I could input grades down a column on a spreadsheet with no effort. Even worse, the computer is even capable to self grade an assignment. Then, Dr. Douglass Reeves us that in an attempt to be helpful, the computer software designers added a feature to average the final grade for a grading period.
Here’s the problem – averaging grades does NOT allow or inspire the notion of new learning to replace previous learning. Replacing the grade to denote new learning means that it erases previous knowledge.
Averaging things like temperature over the course of a week or the age of a group of students makes sense in some situations. Blindly averaging grades over the course of a grading period sweeping up homework assignments, quizzes, projects, tests, and presentations into one grade does not.
As educators, we need to purposefully and thoughtfully reflect when it comes to assigning a grade on what a student knows or is able to do at the end of a grading period. It could be true that a student wasn’t at a high degree of understanding at the beginning of the grading period but has since progressed and mastered key concepts.
When I shared this sentiment to a group of teachers, I could see the look in their eyes mouthing the following response: but that’s not fair.
Sure it is.
As educators, we always have the ability to make decisions. And, in this situation, I cannot imagine any students or parents calling the school angry that the finally grade was higher than the average.
Here’s what I found out about sharing the above statement and my response to that group of students – they needed me to say it out loud.
For some reason, I think educators have somehow mistakenly believed the concept of replacing grades is unfair, and I think they needed to actually hear it out loud as permission use their judgement to replace grades with a higher one by observing demonstrations later.
Whether it’s this concept or others, our work with grading practices does need to continue to be the topic of conversations with your departments, building leadership teams, PLCs, and at staff meetings.