Grading Question

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12 thoughts on “Grading Question”

  1. I have always retained my right as teacher to adjust a grade so that it reflects student progress. Almost all of the time, I do this to the student’s benefit. In other words, I am willing to do this when a student who is borderline and who has demonstrated some progress in ways that the number doesn’t to bump him/her over the border (79 becomes 80, 89 becomes 90, etc). What I am not willing to do is to get entangled in an argument over grades with anyone, students, parents or administrators, so, if a student’s grade is higher than I know his/her progress to be, I look for ways to document that in class BEFORE we reach the semester’s end. Those are rare, but they do happen. I will not bump a grade down at the end. I am not willing to get into that kind of a fight. Over the years, I’ve gotten into the habit of sitting and looking over grades mid term and asking myself: hmmmm, does a 93 represent Sally’s work? Does a 67 reflect Tanya’s work? Does an 81 reflect Randy’s work? Most of the time, the number and my professional sense of their progress correspond. When they don’t, I start looking for ways to make the number and my sense of their progress to correspond.

    For the past two years, I have had a student in my class who is one of the best manipulative cheaters I’ve ever encountered. He is VERY smart, and he has a horrible sense of personal ethics (trust me–many conversations with this kid). His numeric grade at times reflected more than I knew his progress to be. When that happened, I knew he was getting away with cheating, and I had to start watching him more carefully. On the final exam (3 weeks ago) I saw him looking in another student’s paper. I made him move desks to a place where he couldn’t see anyone else’s paper (tough–room with 35 desks made for 25) and I whispered to him: if I see you look on anyone else’s paper, I WILL give you a zero and you WILL fail this course. Any questions? He finished the course with a 76. About right for his progress. The development of his personal ethics requires more work.

    There were a couple of students who had 79 who got an 80 from me. One who carried a C+/B- all year turned on the muster the last month of school and ended with an 89. I did not bump him up. The 89 was right. He was disappointed that I wouldn’t “give” him the A. I told him that next year (he’s coming back for Latin 3) that work like that last month all year long would make an easy A for him.

    Grading is part of what we do as professional educators. The math system programmed into our electronic grade books does not take that professional work away from us, nor should it hold us hostage. Given these days of modern technology, though, we have to be careful how we carry out our work. In my district now, there is parent and student portal that allows students and parents to view their grades in my grade book 24 hours after I post them. If and when I change something that is already out there, I need to be prepared to justify it. I am also a little slower to put some grades in. I am still the professional whose judgment about grades ought to reflect progress–and nothing else. I don’t want to give anyone any reason to challenge that. No one does when I say–yes, I changed his 75 to an 80 on that assessment because of what I have seen in class over the last month. If it’s the other direction, I need to mark the paper with solid reasons for the 75 or 70 and put that into my gradebook first.

    1. Huge answer. Pretty much says it all about grading.

      The problem I have gotten into with kids is the same, John, where the kids have such a close eye on their average that it actually makes me feel like all I do with them is “deliver instructional services” (Ted Sizer’s term) in my role as teacher.

      Aren’t those kids pathetic? Here we have a chance to have fun and they shun it for what THEY (have been made by parents and other teachers to) think is important.

      Those are the kids I have to watch, whether they are playing for the A or the D, since, with the kids I teach, an A is the same as a D (for them it is a credit game, since many of them have no hope of college, which is really depressing).

      So to keep ahead of these kids I have all those jGR grades. I can stay ahead of any kid just be adding in, unannounced, another jGR grade. I generally find that kids who are playing me for the grade don’t have great interpersonal skills. They haven’t yet seen a class where joyful expression can get you an A. (I hope that doesn’t offend anyone who still thinks that language acquisition is about collecting points in a gradebook.)

    2. Bob, agreed! If a kid is on the upswing and winds up on the cusp, I routinely add two points in the grading program to flip the grade; if that does not work, I will add a point to the quarter grade. I like you will not budge if it’s a kid who is gaming the system and wants to fight about a grade that has already received the benefit of the doubt. I aim always for a, b, or c.

  2. I have moved Spanish with TPRS to a whole-mark-based-on-final system.

    Yup, you read that correctly: 100% of the kids’ mark is based on their final exam. The final exam will consist of: write 2 stories (based around pictures), answer some reading comp questions, and oral (one on one discussions about pictures and the kids’ daily lives– stuff like “what did you and your family do last weekend? How old arenyou etc etc”)

    The eval rubrics for these were given out on the first day of class. I have done two “mid terms” which I graded but I didn’t use the marks.

    I give feedback along the way– jGR useful there– which is basically, “to what extent is Johnny playing the game or not”, info I share with parents and kids, but I tell the kids, “there is NO POINT in me “testing” you until you’ve had at least a hundred hours of language exposure, so, yup, it all comes down to one test.

    This avoids the “well I got 79.2386775% in term one, so I SHOULD be getting bla bla per cent now” bullshit. If the kid shits the bed cos of test anxiety, fine, they can take it again– I have a couple of sets of exams– and I can also tell them that there will be no “unit tests” (is there anything dumber than “subdividing” the intricately interlinked components of language skill?!?!?).

    I tell them, “this is like the Olympics. You’re trying for a bronze, silver or gold medal. You earn those in your EVENT, not your training, and if you show up and train properly (and I am here to train you!), I guarantee you at least a silver.”

  3. OK bad assz doesn’t even begin to describe this. It’s like you took a flashlight and shined it on a part of my unconscious teacher’s mind and said, “Look, this is the way to fricking grade kids!”

    We need an acronym! cBAG? Chrisz’ Bad Ass Grading idea. I don’t know. But we in education should, in all fields, be moving toward this. It is what happens in China. I was just speaking with Annick about this three days ago. She told me that in China it’s all on the line exactly as you describe above Chrisz.

    Hold your horses everyone. Stop riding and bring your horses into a circle here so that we can talk about this. I guess the big question is, “Who will let us do this in school buildings in America?” My projected answer is, “No one.” And when we ask why we can’t, the response will be, “Because the way we do it now is the way it’s always been done.”

    So how do you get away with this in Canada?

  4. Most teachers don’t do this. The trick is, your final has to line up with your year. I have to be able to say to kids and parents and admins: “here is what Johnny did/did not do this year.” I do take “marks” and I do report to kids and parents, but really, these “marks” are nothing more than work habits and vague indicators of what Johnny can/can not do. I have to be able to show parents and admins that the class does line up with Provincial curriculae bla bla.

    Typically a kid who is focused along the way does well. A kid who screws around doesn’t. If I document, I am all good: I can show the parents “look, Johnny did/didn’t do his dictées, translations, threetells, reading etc etc and he did/didn’t participate (jGR) bla bla.” I don’t collect marks along the way– I collect “behaviour data” and this will keep kids tuned in– more or less– to how much they are acquiring. (And again, if they blow the final, they can re-do it).

    If they want to argue “units,” there aren’t any. Yes, there are two culture projects, but whatever, those are 10% of the mark (and not difficult). At the end of the day, I can say to kids and parents: “by these clearly defined and shared criteria, Johnny gets ____% and here is his exam to prove it, and he “got here” by doing (or not doing) x, y and z in class along the way.”

  5. It still works for me. I LOVE the idea of a student not being able to say that they have such and such a grade, and then be able to work harder or let go at some point in the grading period based on that. You know what I mean. Kids game the system when a grade is “in progress”. But when their final grade depends directly on their final exam performance (great analogy with Olympic medals), then they have to bring a different attitude/mindset to our classes.

    I do have a problem with projects. I think they are total bullshit, as per:

    1. Hi Ben– I too think projects are generally BS for 2L acquisition but we are supposed to include culture stuff and I waste WAY too much time trying to do that with/in my TL, so I do a couple of “travel to ____ on $50/day and let me know what you’d do”-type things.

      This stuff btw is all “assessment for learning:” modeling, practice, criterion-referenced feedback, and numbers only for final “products.”

  6. And btw I think it’s important to be able to explain that language learning does not “break down” into units. In my English classes, we have 5 thematic units– but at the end of the year, the kids have to be able to write a creative and analytic essay, and visually represent their year’s learning. In Social Justice, we also have thematic units (homophobia, poverty, sexism, animal rights etc) but Spanish doesn’t work that wat.

    It’s the fault of old school textbooks and their staged chapter curriculae, methinks, and language teachers have to step up and say “look– knowing a language is like pregnancy. You don’t have half a baby or a baby minus a leg and one eyeball. At the beginning you have a wee micro baby…but it’s still a BABY (or foetus or whatever). With [the language], you know a bit at first, then more and more, but we don’t leave out verbs, or nouns, or numbers or whatever as we go.”

  7. Ok – this seems to fit in here. I tried to post it in the Forum, but I guess it wouldn’t take the link; at any rate, it would let me post there.

    So, my question is this: according to the Linguafolio grid (as per Concordia and ACTFL – link provided) where can we realistically set a goal for a Level 2 student to be +/- ??? I will have students who had “exploratory” in grade 6, 7 and 8, which counted as Level 1; and I will have students who took Level 1A at the high school; Levels 1A and 1B at the high school; and students who took Levels 1A, 1B, and 2A at the high school. Now, (for this year only, thank Goodness!) we have ALL of Level 2 in just one semester. Mind you: they learned traditionally before!

  8. Over the next six Saturdays, our DPS writing team is going to work with Diana to produce a TCI Scope and Sequence. We just don’t want to use the term levels but we have to, obviously, or the counselors wouldn’t know how to schedule students into language classes. We would much prefer to just use the ACTFL Proficiency terminology from Novice Low and up. I don’t know how that relates Mary Beth to what you said but I felt like sharing. Just imagine, a CI-based Scope and Sequence. What are we going to base it on? Certainly not thematic units. Can you guess? Correct! The novels.

  9. Thats great Ben. But yeah my state is pushing thematic units with performance based assessments using each of the three modes for assessment. My dept is right on bosrd with it but i’m not sure what that’s supposed to look like! We spent Friday writing up a travel unit. When i try to explain thst we shouldn’t be forcing kids to speak too early the argument i get back is: oh but it’s easy to just repeat back learned phrases then they’re novice. But what about the student who is just NOT ready to speak yet?

    I don’t think they are aware of the silent period!

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