Here’s the grading system my students expected at the beginning of the year:As Rick DuFour points out, a big part of this process was “immature people making immature decisions.” Think for a second about what a grade means in this system. Think about terms like “grade inflation” and “standards” in the context of this system.
I began the school year explaining to my students that in my class this is how tests would function this year:Very different. Students hear me use the phrase in class “I can’t allow you to keep any grade lower than an 80.” Oddly, they don’t question that statement. I was expecting arguments like, “Who made that rule?” “My Mom says a 70 is fine because math was hard for her!” or “My ____ teacher lets me keep a 75.” But, no, they just kinda shrug and come on in to intervention.
A few other big things: Any student can choose improve his/her grade, students have to go through some learning activity before the retest, and the new grade is based on the new assessment.
So here’s the thing: Based on the results of the new assessment, three things are possible:
- The student has demonstrated a better understanding of the material.
- The student’s understanding seems unchanged.
- The student shows that he or she does not understand the material as well as we previously thought.
Well, if grades reflect what a student actually knows right now, then after a retest, the grade may improve, stay the same, or go down. That’s a tough one. I’ve gotten in some heated discussions with my colleagues on that one. It doesn’t bother me because I’m not allowing kids to “keep any grade lower than an 80,” so the lower grade just means he/she is coming to another round of tutoring. Based on the new needs.
But here’s the crazy thing… not only do some teachers disagree with me, our district’s gradebook software doesn’t allow me to lower a student’s grade following a retest. There are spaces to type in multiple retest grades, but the software grabs the highest of the grades — no matter when it happened.
Of course there are workarounds, but the designers of the software were influenced by the education culture at the time it was written. That’s why it regards a missing assignment as a ZERO, for example. It’s a subtle way that these conventions get passed on. “The gradebook gives a zero for missing work, that must be the way to do it.” “The gradebook takes the highest test grade, I guess that’s what I should do.” Well, you know what? If the gradebook software jumped off a bridge, would you… oh never mind.