Repair Kit Study Guide: grade relativity, how to base grades, peer and self assessment

Today’s post will the last three questions from the agree to disagree section of this pre-assessment.

17: Assessments and marks/grades should demonstrate how well students are doing relative to one another.

Oh yes another statement I highly disagree with.  There things tell me how a student is doing relative to their own previous performance.  Kids are different, like no two snowflakes are alike (and we ought to know this winter) no two kids are alike either.  This has been a big argument since the inception of No Child Left Behind (NCLB).  In Missouri (where I live) state tests were taken only every few years, each subject area at different grade levels.  So when looking at test scores for a school one group of students is compared to a previous group.  In a large school with many students this may average out, however in a small school such as the one I was in it just doesn’t work.  We had a group of very high readers one year and the next a large group of struggling readers.  They were achieving well for themselves but comparing their scores to the year before it looked like we had done an awful job teaching.  I know that there are small schools that do well year to year but I happened to be in a building that struggled and I’m not sure why.  We did all sorts of data analysis, attended workshops, tried techniques other schools had used successfully but it just wasn’t working for us.  Really though it comes back to the fact that I worry about each student as an individual.  I know that some parents compare their children, there are kids that here “why can’t you be more like your brother?”  I once had a parent say that at parent teacher conferences to her child while the brother was sitting right there.  I know that there were conferences where having had both or all of the children in a family I said to the parent “Johnny is so different from Bobby,  he’s really good at __________________”  I know parents don’t mean to add additional stress to their child by comparing them but it happens.  I won’t do this in the classroom, I want to look at a student’s score and look at their growth or lack thereof.  Ok I think I’m now talking in circles time to move on to the next question.

18: It’s most accurate to base grades on the mean (average) score rather than the median (middle) or mode (most frequent score).

Ok this takes me back to criterion 5.5, my grades are mean.  I don’t know how you would use median or mode.  I’m not sure about median but I wonder about using mode, the score that occurs most frequently.  I’ll be interested to see how this works.

19: Peer and self-assessment should be limited to formative assessment because only teachers should assign grades/marks.

I’m somewhere in the middle on this one.  While I think self-assessment could be considered, students can be either their own worst critic or their most lenient.  Peer assessment makes me nervous, maybe with some specific training and blind assessment as in no name on the item being assessed.  Several years ago my then partner teacher and I had a writing contest.  We taught 6th, 7th, and 8th grade communication arts.  Each grade read and assessed the entries of another grade.  The entries were identified by number only, and only we had the list of names to numbers.  Students readers provided comments and ranked each story or poem.  If there was a way to do this for peer assessment I think it could be possible because let’s face it any teacher, any parent, any PERSON has at some point in their life been the victim of, participated in, or witnessed the judging of others.  Classroom are a melting pot of personalities, personalities that don’t always mesh well.  Even the best of friends fight from time to time.  I can be hard to be objective when assessing others without some strict guidelines and training, which is what I would want before allowing peer assessments to be part of a final grade.

Ok so that’s the last of the agree to disagree statements, what do you think?  Anything strike a chord, leave you wondering how it would work, or why it should be done that way?