06 November 2007

Messin' With Their Heads

As the regs around here know, I've gone whole hog with standards-based grading in my classes this year. The kids and I are learning how to handle things and I think we're doing pretty darned well...except for one thing.

My sophomores "get it." They are speaking the language of assessments (formative and summative)...they know that they're aiming for 3's on their work...they understand using the median...and so on. They ask me why their other teachers don't grade like me and wonder about how to start these kinds of conversations with their teachers. They appreciate and learn from feedback and like the way we determined progress at the quarter.

My juniors and seniors, however, are totally lost. It appears as if whatever happened during their sophomore year has completely brainwashed them into being point whores. They have no care about whether or not they learned something, just "Did I get credit for turning it in?" Not a single one of those students has come in for tutoring or the opportunity to reattempt a summative assessment. They don't want to engage...and just let the teacher fill their heads without actually being responsible for any learning. As you might imagine, not much seems to be happening

What happened, I wonder, as sophomores? Were they beaten into the ground with zeros? Are they so used to "read the book and answer the questions" that they have forgotten how to think (as I ask them to do as often as possible)? When did school become a competition of "What grade did you get?" for them...and why? Who's been messin' with their heads?

If nothing else this year, I'm going to make sure that my sophs don't fall into that pit.


Hugh O'Donnell said...

Are the older ones developing anxieties about impending dates with acceptance/rejection letters from admissions officers?

I tell ya, most of the resistance to SBG originates in the higher ed grading ethic that emphasizes comparison of students over the authentic evaluation of student achievement. :(

To the sophs, all that seems years away. Keep at 'em! :)

The Science Goddess said...

Most of the juniors and seniors I have are not the college bound ones. They're struggling to get credit (some are repeating the class) just to meet graduation requirements.

So, I'm not sure what the answer really is. I just think it's such an amazing contrast between the sophs and the upperclassmen.

Anonymous said...

The "point whore" attitude is what I get from my juniors and seniors at my new school. I never got that before, at least not to this degree, and certainly not in Spanish. I think the Spanish II set was brainwashed in Spanish I, at least, to get their grades and go, whereas my Spanish students back home actually cared something about learning the language somehow.

I suspect it's a class-by-class attitude, though brainwashing surely plays in. Some kiddos are just more open-minded, same as with any other group of people.

Hugh O'Donnell said...

SG, Maybe graduating is akin to getting accepted to college. Just depends on what level they're operating on. I get a whiff of desperation, or maybe impatience, as was the case with my son who beat feet midway through senior year with enough credits to graduate and get out of the play pen.

You're on the right track trying to create a love of learning. "Scientia gratis scientia."

Anonymous said...

Clarify something for me, SG. What role exactly does the median play when you calculate grades? I've been struggling to come up with a scenario in which the median is more appropriate than the trend for grades within an individual standard (GLE),and I can see using the mode when dissimilar standards at the specific level (GLE) must be combined for a grade at a less specific level (EALR). Can you provide an example of when the median would be more appropriate, and possibly direct me to some research to support it? Thanks.

The Science Goddess said...

I think that the basic difference for me is whether we're talking about a skill (something that should improve over time...and therefore more recent information would be appropriate) vs. content knowledge. Some of the GLEs (let alone EALRs) are freakishly large in terms of content. They have to be broken down into smaller chunks. The bulleted items underneath the GLEs are examples ways the GLE can be demonstrated, and certainly teachers may have more. Teachers are bound to collect summative pieces of information on each chunk. I personally believe the median is a better measure of central tendency than the mode here because not all of the assessments were focused on the same content aspect (e.g. photosynthesis). You're trying to get a "gestalt" of what the kid knows and understands about the GLE as a whole (photosynthesis, respiration, cycling of matter).

As for research, I'll see what I have in my files to dig up and send to you. :)