A couple of weeks ago, I was at an event where a teacher sought me out to introduce himself. He had seen me present at the NSTA conference six months ago and wanted to tell me how much my information had impacted his thinking. It was a good reminder for me of a couple of things. First of all, the things I share really can make a difference. I don't always know anyone sitting in the audience---let alone their backgrounds and reasons for attending---but those opportunities are powerful ones. And secondly, there continue to be people hungry to move forward with putting best practices in grading.
This was also reinforced for me when I had a merry band of teachers invite me to spend a few hours with them thinking about their implementation plans for classroom grading practices for next year. Mind you, this was a Saturday morning...they weren't being paid to work or meet...they're just enthusiastic. The discussion and ideas were refreshing. Energizing. I am looking forward to sitting in with them some more...and even more excited to hear what happens in their classrooms next year.
All that being said, when I cruise the edusphere, I see that there is still a long way to go. A sampling of things I've been looking at over the last few weeks:
- Some of you may have seen the rants over at Ms. Cornelius's place. I find these disappointing for any number of reasons, especially the "torches and pitchforks" comments made by some visitors. It's embarrassing that so many people see their gradebook as the ultimate weapon---their proud method to mete out punishment as opposed to a tool to support student learning. Even worse is the "my shit don't stink" attitude that comes along with it. Apparently, some of the teachers over there have never needed a second chance in their lives and accomplish all tasks perfectly the very first time. I'm guessing that they never drive faster than the speed limit, jaywalk, violate Fair Use regulations in their classrooms, or bend rules in any other fashion---and therefore they can be judge, jury, and executioner for the rest of us. Demi-gods in the classroom who would rather point fingers than be reflective. It's stunning to think of what life for kids in these classrooms must be like.
- Joanne Jacobs noted the age-old disparity between "inflated" high school transcripts and underprepared college students. I would really like to do away with the notion of grade inflation. It would be much simpler to just focus on what the grades represent. My hunch is that the "inflation" is caused by teachers who give grades that include the behaviors Ms. Cornelius's commenters rail against. As long as a kid gets points for "participating" and attendance, who cares what the student really knows and is able to do? No wonder these kids struggle in college---they never had to learn the basics associated with knowledge. In high school, they just had to sit still and be quiet to get an A.
- But my favourite item comes from Bill Ferriter over at The Tempered Radical. Grading is tangential to the point of his post, but it is still intriguing. He uses a fight in Ottawa over grading practices to illustrate the difference between fundamentalists and believers within school systems. He hosted an amazing Voicethread conversation with the author of these ideas. I highly recommend taking the time to peruse the comments and ideas.