Up first, a brief article from Teacher Magazine about grade changes:
A new survey finds one in five Chicago public high school teachers say they have changed student grades in the past school year.Not a large response rate, but I think the timing probably had a lot to do with that. In any case, the results are still interesting. As for me, I don't know that I ever felt pressure while in the classroom---but I do remember other teachers either being squeezed (especially at graduation time) or worse, returning in the fall to discover that a counselor had changed a student's grade over the summer. Yes, I've had pleading calls from parents and emails from students. If that counts as pressure, so be it. Looking back, there have been times when I should have been more considerate and entertained a change...but that certainly doesn't mean that hounding teachers or bullying them into changing grades is okay. I hope readers will jump in with their own experiences. What does pressure look like to you?
The survey of teachers was conducted in June and July by the Chicago Teachers Union and the Chicago Sun-Times. The results were released Sunday in the newspaper.
Thirty-one percent of high school teachers also say in the survey they felt pressured to alter grades. Teachers say the pressure comes from principals, parents and school employees.
Chicago Public Schools CEO Ron Huberman says prevention will come from new annual grade audits. Huberman told the newspaper he takes the survey "very seriously" and changing grades is unacceptable.
Survey questions were distributed to 7,938 teachers with an 18 percent response.
Over at the WaPo, there's some discussion about the rampant subjectivity of grading. Um...duh. (and perhaps one of the reasons for the pressure noted above) Oddly enough, the "fixes" they report as being suggested by Douglas Reeves are standards-based grading practices. As much as a proponent as I am of standards-based grading practices, I will be the first to say that they do not eliminate subjectivity. I actually think that they increase subjectivity because a teacher is concentrating on evaluating every student fairly...not equally. What these practices will do (as outlined in the article), is exorcise the mishmash of learning and non-academic behaviors.
John Spencer has noted that the standards-based grading at his school sucks. The full post is below:
Our school is shifting from traditional grades to standards-based grading. With this comes a major paradigm shift. We no longer assess a student's work ethic (it's impossible to lose points by not turning work in) but only pure academic achievement.I think it's important here to note that assessment and evaluation (grading) are not the same thing. I find this to be a common misconception among teachers when I'm out and about giving presentations. Multiple-choice assessments are not inherently evil and can give excellent information for teachers to evaluate in a standards-based grading system. Grading isn't about the tool, it's about what you do with it. However, I can understand why he is unhappy with the tools. Perhaps he can use his new grading scale to develop more meaningful scores for students.
At first glance, the standards-based grading represents a new philosophy of grading. Shouldn't we assess whether students master a standard? Should we check for growth? How could we possibly be against this process? When I first heard about this, I envisioned student-created reflective portfolios combining their qualitative and quantitative feedback. I imagined projects connected to strands and performance objectives. To me, it seemed like a step in the right direction. All too often students work for the sake of extrinsic motivation. Finally, we were stepping away from arbitrary grades and packets with check marks.
Instead, we use only multiple choice exams. One exam accounts for sixty percent of the final grade. I find this odd, because on our lesson plan format they want to see: connects to prior knowledge, differentiated instruction, metacognition, cooperative learning, higher-order thinking and a host of other "best practices."
While I agree with the list of best practices, it seems strange that ultimately we assess students with none of the best practices: one modality, individually, non-differentiated (entirely standardized), isolated, based upon rote memorization.
Finally, Lana stopped by nearly a month ago and left a comment for me on an old post. I've decided to put it here as opposed to post it where she left it. "I can't stand standards based grading. I spend over 30 hours a week trying to complete my gradebook. Trying to figure out how each assigments [sic] fits each standard is impossible. I'm quitting teaching because of this system after 19 years." I'm not completely sure what to do with this...and Lana never returned here, so I think she was looking for place to vent as opposed to get help. It's difficult to say whether this is happening in a district where some sort of change was mandated and no professional development or support was provided...or perhaps Lana has no understanding of how to meaningfully connect standards with her lessons. I find the "30 hour" remark on the hyperbolic side. The teachers I've talked to who have implemented this system spend 1/3 - 1/2 the time grading that they used to with no changes to the amount of time inputting information into a gradebook. I'm going to guess there's some really bad implementation going on here and hope Lana gets some help for whatever is really holding her back.
Be careful out there.