Monday, November 29, 2010

Grades: The letter doesn't tell the story.

A colleague of mine challenged me today and asked me:

"How would you feel, Mr. Administrator, if a teacher in your building had 10 D's/F's?" (out of a team of 100 students)

After a long pause, surprised by the question, my response was: "Where did they start?  Are they ready for this content?  Are they finished learning?"

(A little background here:  I am a 6th grade teacher and I am a proponent of standards-based grading and use it daily in my classroom.  A D/F is reported based on student knowledge of specific content or objectives scoring at the beginning level of a rubric.)

Where did we start?

Considering the gain in students is so much more important to me than the final product shown on the report cards.  Although every teacher and school is evaluated by the standardized assessment and the final product on the report card, considering where a student began and charting student growth throughout the quarter is what is so important to me.  Seeing these students as "D/F students" is missing the point.

Understanding a few things about them is key: (Isn't this indicative of every student?)

1.  They each came in to my room with a very different starting point than other students.

2.  They each have VERY different needs.

3.  They each have shown tremendous growth.

4.  They each are receiving VERY different services and interventions, none of which support my content.

5.  They are all wonderful, motivated, and successful students at what they do.  It's a shame they are all measured by the same stick.

6.  Grouping them as a D/F student right now is a disservice to them.

Bottom line, have these student's shown growth...Yes!

Is it as much as I would have liked, No...But we aren't finished....

The beauty of SBG

That's the beauty of standards-based grading.  We're not finished yet so there is ample time to make that D or F (the beginning range of our rubric scale) higher.  The most important question is not, how would I feel about it as an administrator, the more important questions are.....

True differentiation

1.  What am I doing about it as a teacher to continue to care for and nurture learning in my classroom to continue to see growth through the last three weeks of the quarter?

2.  How can I connect with these 10 (and the other 90) students to propel their learning past the beginning stages?

3.  What support can I ask for outside of my classroom to make the gains necessary in these students, while of course, never losing sight of the other 90?

4.  What tools can I tap into to personalize their learning?

Let the last three weeks of 2nd quarter continue...

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