Repair Kit Fix 1: Student behavior counted in grades

Fix 1: Don’t include student behaviors (effort, participation, adherence to class rules, etc.) in grades include only achievement.

I agree with this fix.  I don’t need to be convinced on this one but I’m going to read it anyway.

On page 16 I found the following “To make grades as pure a measure as possible of student achievement…make them (grades) reflect only student performance in mastering the public, published learning goals of the state/province/district/school.”  I think I may be a bit biased when it comes to this fix.  I am loud and talkative socially, just ask anyone who knows me they’ll tell you, as a teacher I can be the same way but not so much as a student.  I was shy and quiet in class rarely raising my hand unless I was sure I had the answer and preferring to ask questions of the teacher without the whole class listening in.  As you can imagine I lost a lot of points for lack of participation.  It drove me crazy but at the time I was just uncomfortable speaking up. (I know hard to imagine.)

I would argue in the case of foreign language classes though that participation might need to be part of the grade.  Not every teacher has time to give each student individually an oral exam, they need other opportunities to hear their students speak.

Two examples are given of grades being inflated due to the inclusion of behavior indicators in final grades through these grades do not match state/province exams.

The point is made that grades are being used to control student behavior.  I was fortunate in my first year of teaching that we assigned separate effort and conduct scores.  Grades were to be solely academic though they did include late grades and zeroes for cheating (addressed in a later fix).  I think the suggestions made that an expanded format report card be used is an excellent suggestion.  A rubric/scoring guide through which each teacher provides scores for organizational skills, homework assignments, citizenship, teamwork, and interpersonal skill is in the book, it comes from the Winnipeg School District.  I love it!  I could see adding this to my quarterly student reflection sheets as additional materials for conferences.

I know my students’ scores on projects are better when given a scoring guide.  For a few years during the state testing we assessed students effort and conduct during testing time with a scoring guide.  Students were given a copy of the guide and so they knew what I was looking for.  Why not do the same thing for year long effort and conduct?

Student Involvement: on page 20 I found this statement “Students often hear that they need to improve their effort, effort may seem a vague concept.” Oh yeah I’m guilty of this, I have my students complete a reflection sheet at the end of each quarter (a result of having student-led conferences as the norm my first year of teaching.)  I use just the word effort on my reflection sheet and have students rate their effort, now when I talk through the reflection sheet with students as they complete it I give a more detailed description but why not create a rubric for this section to make it easier for students to self-assess?  I think I will be making a change or several changes to my reflection sheets.

Teacher Vignette – This vignette is about a student with high grades in some subject areas while failing other areas due to not completing homework.

The argument is that the child was not being graded solely on academic achievement but rather on teacher’s expectations of behaviors.  While this may be true this example bothers me.  Yes homework is a behavior expectation, it is also a formative assessment.  As a teacher I use homework to help me gauge that a student is learning, gaining knowledge.  Then again I would not wait until a conference over bad grades to reveal homework not being done.  I would contact parents, explain my concern and try to remedy the situation that way arranging a time before, after or during school to get the work done so that I can be sure I get the information I need so I know before a unit assessment that the student is acquiring the knowledge I am trying to help them acquire.  Now that may have happened but with the way this vignette is told I doubt it.

So what do you think of fix 1?  Do you include behavior expectations in your academic grades or does your school have a separate system for that?

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