Thursday, May 28, 2015

on your mark book study, session 3

Hi again, and welcome to the last post for the book study!

So I'm kinda really embarrassed. Because I did a lot of the bad stuff mentioned in regards to grading from Chapter 8. The stuff that created compliance with kids? Yep, totally did that when I taught middle school. I'm going to tell you all about it, but it's because I read this book about being vulnerable (I'm actually holding a book study for it in July if you want to read!) and I realized that it's okay to make mistakes as long as:

So here I am to tell you how I screwed up and share new ways of doing things, based on Guskey's book, On Your Mark.

Guskey keeps reminding us to ask ourselves, "What is the purpose of grading?" The answer is that it is to reflect student learning.

Say it with me: The purpose of grading is to reflect student learning.

So, if you have a kid turn work in late and so you give him or her half credit (because it's late) then does the grade really reflect learning? No.

That's my story.

It started because during my 7th year of teaching, I had this student. We'll call him Steve. Steve came to my Language Arts class for a whole quarter. He turned in no work....until the last week of the quarter. Then, he ended up with a B in my class and it really got me so so mad. At the time, I was thinking, "Other kids worked so hard all quarter; they were here on time, they participated, they did every assignment on time, and they got B's. Why does Steve deserve a B?"

Well, he did get a B, but then I changed my policy. All late work - if it was one day late or three months late - could earn only half credit. With the new information I know now, I realize I did this so kids would comply with my policies. This policy definitely did not create a reflection of student learning when I passed out report cards at the end of the next quarter.

Remember, I tell you this bad, bad story because I'm not perfect and I'm learning. So go easy and #dontjudgeme :-) Or judge me in a good way because I'm telling you the truth and not pretending I am this perfect teacher, right?

There are other ways that teachers use grading to get kids to comply:

1. Turn in your syllabus, signed, for 10 points tomorrow.
2. Bring ____ (supplies) for extra credit.
3. Be on time/attend all classes for full attendance credit.
4. Bring a toy/canned food item/___ for extra credit.
5. Turn in your extra hall passes at the end of the quarter for extra credit.

Now, I didn't do all of those, but I'm guilty of a few more.

Guskey's solution? Mark the assignment as incomplete and then require the child to attend some extra class (lunchtime, after school, on Saturday) to make up the work. This sends the messages that:

1. The work we assign you is important.
2. You can't just get off the hook so easy by not doing it.

Guskey notes that in order to staff these lunchtime / after school / Saturday work sessions requires extra support and funding. In the short term, it will take some time to teach the kids that you mean business, but in the long term, the benefits are so much better and kids are more inclined to get their work done on time.

Here's the thing though: schools are underfunded everywhere (that's a rant for another day) so many administrators tell their staff, "Sure, you can hold those after school hours for kids to make up work." (Implying that teachers will work extra hours outside of contract time for no additional compensation.) Then, some teachers do it and others don't. Which is fine, but it makes the teachers who don't staff those homework rooms look like they care less, when that's not the case at all. Teachers should be compensated for their time outside of contract hours. Like Guskey says, 
"Such a policy typically requires additional funding for the necessary support mechanisms, of course. It requires facilities and staffing, and may even mean additional student transportation if sessions are held after school. But in the long run, the investment can save money. Because this regular and ongoing support helps students remedy their learning difficulties before they become major problems, schools tend to spend less time and fewer resources in major remediation efforts later on." (p. 99)
So this is my big take-away from this book. Overall, thought it was a great read, and I'm really glad our district is moving towards this kind of grading. I think reporting student learning separate from learner traits (responsibility, punctuality, etc) is a really important piece.

What do you think?


  1. I think I am most guilty of the zeros. But not this year!

  2. I'm definitely guilty of compliance scores and completion grades... because I do think accountability is important at the middle school level. Now, that being said, my policy is to always accept late work until the unit test.

    Once upon a time, we did this Second Chance homework policy, which I LOVED... but I can't take this on by myself.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...