Grading Grades that Degrade | A Blog for Principals and Teachers – School Matters

 
 

Grading Grades that Degrade

 
 

 

 

Grading Grades that Degrade

iStock 000012020160XSmall1 150x150 Grading Grades that DegradeA conversation overheard a million times in classrooms across America. “Why”, complains 4th grade student Timmy, “Did I get a C on my report card”? “Oh no, Timmy”, replies his teacher, “You didn’t get a C, you earned a C!” (In the age of massive grade inflation – a discussion for another time – I guess this conversation would include a B, or even an A-.) Timmy walks away unconvinced. Actually, he thinks, I didn’t earn it, you gave it to me.

At the heart of the issue is the fact that we have never clarified exactly what we are grading. It seems to me that grades should be a communicative tool that we use to relay achievement levels to parents (and others who might be interested in the child’s progress) and to the child. Put simplest, they should reflect the proficiency of the student in the particular discipline being graded. In short, you earn your grade. Pretty simple, right? Wrong. Let me show you where this almost never happens:

Timmy forgot to study for his math test and did not do well. He received an F. He asks the teacher for a retake. The teacher, after scolding Timmy for not studying when he was supposed to, allows Timmy another chance. Timmy studies and aces the test. What grade does Timmy get? Well, we would almost all say that either the teacher should average the two together, or, at the very least, take substantial points off his second score.

Now, we must ask ourselves, “What does Timmy’s first failure tell us about his proficiency in the subject being graded”? Answer: nothing. Timmy knows the stuff cold. Why the low grade? Answer: the teacher uses the grade to punish Timmy. It no longer accurately reflects his achievement in the given discipline, but factors in his performance as well. (This example is even more compelling if Timmy’s first failure was not the result of not studying, but rather his inability to understand the material the first time.) Would you now say he earned the C or got the C? Timmy correctly assumes he earned an A, but got the C. In this instance Timmy gets it right, not his teacher.

Grades no longer seem to grade. In Timmy’s case they seem to degrade. They no longer do what they were designed to do. And, instead of trying to reach proficiency, students learn to play the game. One of my favorites is, “What do I have to do to get an A”? Notice they never say to earn an A. It’s obvious to them they can no longer earn the A by proving they have achieved mastery, so now it’s a game of improving performance.

While I certainly agree that it is important to find a way to report student performance, it is equally crucial for schools to clarify to their constituencies what their grades grade. Until this is clarified Timmy and his teacher will continue to argue and the benefits of the grades we give will be lost.

Share and Enjoy:
  • twitter Grading Grades that Degrade
  • linkedin Grading Grades that Degrade
  • facebook Grading Grades that Degrade
  • googlebookmark Grading Grades that Degrade
 

No comments

Be the first one to leave a comment.

Post a Comment


 

Educators Calendar Events

Featured Posts

Is Social Media in the Classroom a Necessity or Distraction?

Is Social Media in the Classroom a Necessity or Distraction?

I recently had a telling experience while sitting at a friend’s dinner table. The mother asked her son how his class was today. He answered, “It got deleted”....

 
Video: The Myths of Chartering

Video: The Myths of Chartering

Guest Post by Ember Reichgott Junge   What a fun interview with Bob Bowdon of Choice Media TV, in New York City! We talked chartering and education issues from...

 
Are Single Gender Classrooms Better?

Are Single Gender Classrooms Better?

From time immemorial, private religious schools have had single gender classrooms. For the past 15 some odd years, a few public schools have begun to experiment...

 
New Literacy Law-Too Much and Too Late?

New Literacy Law-Too Much and Too Late?

In the continuing effort to get our children reading, fourteen states have enacted a policy requiring third-graders who do not meet a reading standard to attend...

 
Obama’s Nutritional Standards Strike Again

Obama’s Nutritional Standards Strike Again

  I read a rather heartbreaking story about the loss of a home-town treat to the Obama administration’s nutritional guidelines. Apparently, Michelle Obama’s...

 
Video: Play Based Learning

Video: Play Based Learning

      Video blogger Mor Rossler discusses play based learning. Learning through play has become the goal of many early childhood centers.  The idea is that...

 
Charter Schools and Unions – Help or Hindrance?

Charter Schools and Unions – Help or Hindrance?

A reader of my recent blog, Charter Schools-Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained?, commented that perhaps one of the disadvantages of charter schools is that teachers...

 
Infographic: What Makes An Effective Teacher? Part III

Infographic: What Makes An Effective Teacher? Part III

  Hertz Furniture is proud to present the What Makes An Effective Teacher? infographic series!  Student influences such as attention span, cultural background...

 
Facing Gender Differences in Education

Facing Gender Differences in Education

Published in 1992 and having sold over 50 million copies! (not including the sharing of the book between readers), Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus by John...

 
New Study: Charter School Graduates More Likely to Go to College

New Study: Charter School Graduates More Likely to Go to College

Guest Post by Ember Reichgott Junge   The National Charter Schools Conference opened this morning with a standing-room-only crowd for the first general session—due...