Grading to Communicate: Discussion

We had a faculty learning session during our weekly meeting time this morning. You might recall that we were asked to select, read, and think about an article on assessment provided to us.

Today we broke into groups based upon our article of interest. My group consisted of my principal, a Judaics teacher, a history teacher, and me. Our biology teacher popped in, too. One of the things I was wondering about what how my administration might feel about Tony Winger’s ideas — I suppose that question was answered.

My principal made the valid point that in our school, in a culture that is so grade conscious to the point that students will want to discuss and argue about a few points, how do we get kids to see the value of a grade that is reflective of their performance, that communicates areas of strength and deficiency? This is something I wonder about, too.

I would say that my grading is tough, but fair. I feel as if I am in line with my school and department in that area. However, students expect to make A’s and B’s. In fact, students in Honors classes expect to make only A’s. It is frustrating for me to communicate to them that a B is a very good grade. In most grading scales, it means “above average.” The A grade means “excellent.” I don’t know about you, but not everything I do is “excellent.” This conveys a level of mastery that is impossible to achieve on every assignment in every class. Yet I feel that I must have too many conversations with students justifying grades when I gave given, in most cases, copious comments and clear rubrics. I am not saying that I don’t have room to improve in communicating expectations, but I feel that at least as far as major assignments, such as the research paper, students are very clear about expectations. I think they don’t always believe I will adhere to the rubric, but that’s a different issue.

6 thoughts on “Grading to Communicate: Discussion”

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  2. As a reader of your blog, I sympathize. As a student at a rather-well known prep school in New Hampshire, however, I hate that you feel as if you must give out those C's. We are under enormous pressure for the grades, and those C's can literally change the way our life plays out. If you want grades to be more of a means to an end than the end itself, talk to those who must change before we can. Talk to our parents, colleges who only accept straight A students with fifteen million extra-curriculars, and a world where the accomplishments listed through one-line summaries on a resume determine your life from 6th grade onward. To the rest of the world, a 'B' is not a good grade. To be hired or admitted you must be the Best canidate, and there is always that guy with the A, the guy who lucked into an easy English teacher who could care less about the grades he gives.

  3. You make some really good points. You are right about the issue being more pervasive than I really discussed. Unfortunately, what happens is that teachers also succumb to the pressure to give easy A's, which devalues the grades, which is why colleges and corporations expect all A's — because anyone should be able to get them if everyone gets them. I hope that makes sense.

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