Repair Kit chapter 1 part 2

Continuing with chapter 1 of Repair Kit for Grading today.  Starting with that big topic of fairness.

From page 7: “Fair does not mean equal; yet when it comes to grading we insist that it does.”

The first thing this statement made me think of was a book I read a few years ago and now really want to find in my boxes in storage to read again: Clearing the Way by Tom Romano.  Tom was a full time English teacher when he wrote this book.  He talks about how he grades student writing.  He sits down to conference with each student and set goals for their next writing piece.  The grade the receive is based on those goals and their individual progress not on a one size fits all grading scale or scoring guide.  While this idea intrigued me I never quite found a way to put it into practice in my classroom.  I think when I finish Repair Kit I’ll definitely be locating my copy of Clearing to read again, and maybe take notes for blog posts 😉

The quote above was followed by this statement: Fairness is much more about equity of opportunity than it is about uniformity.

You know we say to kids fair doesn’t mean everyone is treated the same and yet that is what grading is.  We talk about differentiation even do that in lesson planning with students placed in different reading or math groups based on their skill level, they get varying amounts of teacher attention based on ability and background knowledge and yet most often all students take the same post test.  Again I’m guilty of this.  I know the first year I taught I would work with students on their grammar skills using different practice for different levels but still gave all of my students the same test at the end of the unit. At the beginning of my career I was in a school where the third grade teachers pretested students on each math unit, the students were then grouped accordingly for instruction, I wish I knew if they had used different tests for each group because I really liked the way they handled the differentiation.

Children come to us at so many different levels.  If students don’t have prior knowledge can we really expect them to not only pick it up but also learn the new concepts in the same amount of time as children who do have the prior knowledge?

You know I think more than any other time I hear students saying “It’s not fair” when they don’t get to leave the room to work with someone “special” while conversely the students who do leave the room spout “it’s not fair” because they don’t get to stay in the room to work.  Of course as teachers we know that this is fair because each child is getting the help that they need to be their most successful.

Page 11 – “Every teacher sees himself or herself as an independent contractor and they shouldn’t be.”

I’d love some context on this statement.  I think they are referring to grading but grading what?  Some items are that way as they were created by the teacher.  This falls I guess under the push for more common assessments.  I do think that common assessments are necessary not only so I know that my students are learning what other students are learning, knowing we’re teaching to the same objectives, but common assessments are also another measure by which I can assess my teaching.  If my students do poorly on an assessment  while students in other classes do well I need to evaluate my teaching methods.  I need to sit down with my colleagues to collaborate, ask questions, and get assistance as I need.

This is easier done in a large school/district than in a small one as you are more likely to have colleagues.  In a small school/district it is much more difficult to plan common assessments because there are simply fewer teachers.  In my last position there was only one teacher for most of the subjects at the middle school, my subject being the exception.  During my seven years in that school I was one of two communication arts teachers for 6 years, the first two years however I taught reading and the other teacher taught writing.  What was needed and we discussed is the opportunity to collaborate with teachers in nearby similar districts, scheduling this time though can be a major obstacle.

More from page 11 – “What is needed is a set of guidelines such as the 15 fixes provided in this book.”

You know other  than scoring guides and teacher’s guides I don’t know that in all my years in education I have ever been given a set of common guidelines on grading, with the exception of how to handle academic dishonesty.  Most schools and districts have common, distinct, well-spelled out behavior plans/guidelines.  My current building those guidelines  are given not only to teachers but also to classroom assistants, all staff members are aware of how children are to behave.  Guidelines for behavior are reviewed over the announcements regularly especially on days we have indoor recess, field trips, etc.

So why not common grading guidelines?  This certainly would be helpful to new teachers or even to veteran teachers that are new to a building/district.

One more quote caught my attention on a similar topic. p 12 – “Grading must not be a private practice it must be a shared practice.”  See this goes back to my thoughts above it’s easier to do this when you are in a large school/district and much more difficult in a small school/district.  To me this means that in a small school/district it is even more important to have common language, and common grading practices.

I’m going to stop here for today there are just too many notes left to make this two posts, so one more and I’ll be done with chapter 1.

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