Monday, January 13, 2014

Day 81 (Again): TEST DAY!

A terrible question for my students, but a great drawing!

Apparently, I was amiss in my day numbering.  Apparently, we don't count days that were canceled so today is really only 81.

Knowing that today was going to be Test day in all of my classes, I made a huge mistake over the weekend.  I had a great time and didn't think about school at all.

That's not exactly true.  I thought math and such, and how to demonstrate real world math to my classes, but I didn't think about "lessons" or "grading."

After doing some estimation, I had the students watch a few videos about exponential growth, including my own video in which I make pasta!

I haven't put in grades in my classes in over a month and it's making me insanely conflicted.

The old-school Justin is FREAKING OUT because he used to put in grades every week and we have a district policy that says grades have to be updated weekly.

The new-school Justin has really been enjoying the learning environment in which his students have been exploring math without the pressure of grades.  They have been completing assignment very well, participating in discussions and becoming better at their chosen skills.  They just haven't been graded on them.

This morning, several geometry kids asked me the same question: "Are you going to update grades?"

The follow-up is really what bothered me: "My dad is really unhappy with my grade."

We are never going to get away from the destructive A-F grading system until parents stop pushing for it.  I've been trying to move towards Standards Based Grading, but I haven't given it the fair amount of time that it requires.  On top of that, I'll still have to translate it back to an A-F system at the end of the grading period.

At the same time, there is something in the back of my mind that's nagging at me, making me wonder if the real reason I've become so anti-grading is out of sheer laziness.  I don't wanna do grades. I just wanna teach!  I want to explore mathematics with my students and not worry about developing a numerical system for evaluating their knowledge.

No matter how many times I tell them otherwise, students can't seem to stop using grades as a measure of self-worth.

Maybe I should start telling myself the same thing about student engagement not being a measure of my value as a teacher.

I think I'm starting to psych myself out.  I think I was expecting, with such a drastic change in me, there would be a drastic change in the students.  There may be over time, but not as instantly as I would want.

I need to keep reminding myself of that.

Do the best you can and don't stress about the rest.

But am I doing the best I can?

I doubt it.

Upon further inspection, 3 geometry students have C's while the rest have B's and A's.  In the pre-algebra classes, however, there are 5 C's, 7 D's and everyone else has an F...

This is similar to the grade books for the science, social studies and English teachers for the same children.


  1. I think that one of the conflicts inherent in the grading system (for teachers, students, and parents) is the idea that a grade represents some evaluation of the students as a person. Are you a C person? Are you an A person? Does a D in class mean I am a D human being? If my son gets a C (notice he did not earn a C, he got a C - An A? He EARNED IT!) does that mean he is an average person? I try to remind my students (and to remind myself) that these are evaluations of their knowledge. As you move toward SBG that'll take even more training for students and parents that their current grade is a snapshot of their current level of displayed understanding. I think that you are swimming upstream and I'm rooting for you as you do so.

    1. I hate how little progress I've made towards SBG and I could make a ton of excuses about time, energy, (local) support, etc. but the reality is that I'm lazy and I haven't made it a priority.

      It's good to know that there are people out there who are watching and willing to help. I truly appreciate it!

  2. So what happens to the kids who fail pre-algebra? Retake or move on?
    Do the grades for geometry affect their placement next year in honors? As much as grades get in the way of unbridled joyful learning, they do have real consequences.
    In physics this 9wks, I gave a large grade for a project they all did, to take the pressure of grades off. I think it failed.

    1. 1) If they fail another one of the "core" subjects, they will be held back since pre-algebra isn't offered at the high school, or they can take summer school. If they ONLY fail pre-algebra, they will move on.
      2) We no longer have honors courses in our district. The grades CAN affect placement in the next course, but teacher rec can always override.

      Why do you think it failed?


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