Grades - what's the point?

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by otterpop, Nov 28, 2013.

  1. otterpop

    otterpop Phenom

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    I was just thinking about this while reading another thread. Why do we even give grades at all? I have heard other teachers complain about this before. Wouldn't it make more sense to just list scores? How does your school do report cards?

    Consider this scenario (based on the real set up of a local school):
    Fifth grade classes are leveled. Ms. G. has all the high level students. Polly is reading at a seventh grade level, but sometimes doesn't turn in her work, so she gets a "C". Ms. S. has lower level students. Sue is reading at a second grade level. Sue turns in all her work, and gets a "A" because she tries hard.

    Sue's parents see her report card. "All A's! Wow! Sue is doing great in school." Likewise, Polly's parents see her report card, and wonder what happened. Polly loves to read at home. Sure, the lack of motivation is a problem, but should that really be her reading grade? She still is a great reader, and well above grade level. Perhaps she is bored because the content is below her level.

    It's just crazy to me how subjective grades are. Teachers can have different work requirements. I saw a news report a few weeks ago about another local school that switched to Common Core. Parents are mad because their students went from being "A" students to getting "C-"s in math class; now they are pulling their students out of school to home school them in a parent group, just for math.

    Wouldn't it make more sense just to list a behavior grade (or something like that), and then a score? As in, listing on the report card that Sue tries hard but reads at a 2.3 grade level, and Polly lacks motivation but reads at a 7.6 grade level? This would make so much more sense, in my opinion.
     
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  3. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    Reading is so much more than reading levels... :confused:

    I do think there are MAJOR problems with how grades are handled across the map. But listing just a reading level doesn't indicate to the "learning community" whether students have mastered the standards. And that's important.
     
  4. otterpop

    otterpop Phenom

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    Yes, that's true. So, perhaps a checklist with standards and whether the student has met the standard would be a good idea. I have heard of this being implemented in some places.
     
  5. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    We use a standards based report card in our elementary schools. I have a feeling that it will quickly come to our middle school, but the parents are part of the reason it hasn't yet. Our report card committee includes teachers, administrators, parents and community members. Our parents like that their child receives grades, so we are working together to create a new report card that would meet the needs of teachers, administrators, and parents.
     
  6. BumbleB

    BumbleB Habitué

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    I am all for standards based report cards at every level. Traditional grades are far too subjective to be a true indicator of mastery. Not to mention the percentage/letter grade system really makes no sense mathematically.

    I realize I'm probably in the minority though.
     
  7. orangetea

    orangetea Connoisseur

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    In my class, I would say that standards based grades would be more subjective.
     
  8. iteachbx

    iteachbx Enthusiast

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    For the first time I did hand out a list of grades on all of our assessments so far to parents at parent teacher conferences. I think it made it easier for me to discuss their child's grades and much easier for parents to understand how their child is doing compared to a report card that has 2 or 3 things for me to grade them on in each subject. I could explain how the student showed progress from a pre test to a post test but still struggled on the unit test. I could show how the student is doing well in math, but that wasn't reflected on a benchmark test, or vice versa. I plan on continuing this.
     
  9. Blue

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    My GS school has changed grading to be based upon competency and mastery, not work. For my GS, this is great, as he does not do well on homework. He masters concepts easily.
     
  10. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Im on a committee revising our report cards to standards based. Each benchmark will have a rubric.
     
  11. BumbleB

    BumbleB Habitué

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    Awesome! I have seen great things done with the Marzano rubric and standards based report cards.
     
  12. gr3teacher

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    I think it's just the way my district does them, but I absolutely despise our standards based report cards. For us, basically anything that isn't scary bad or perfect is supposed to be a 3... so parents get these report cards which supposedly have a ton of info on them... but since pretty much everything is a 3, it doesn't actually give them anything. Even worse, for the kids that do get a 2, it doesn't look too terrible (So a 2 is like a C, right?) to parents. As a gifted teacher, it drives me bonkers because I've pretty much been given a quota of how many 4's I'm allowed to give out. Even though there are math standards where 20 out of 28 kids really deserve 4's, if I put that many down on report cards, I'm going to get dinged and have to rewrite them all.

    As a result, most teachers that I've talked to end up just letting grading slide because there is no real point to it anyway.
     
  13. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    I wish we could get rid of grades and focus on targets and standards. Yes, this would be more work because you really need to know which students have met which targets, but I think it would be so much more accurate.
     
  14. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    I agree, a reading level says nothing. It would have to be a list of what the student can do: blend and segment sounds, use picture cues, make inferences, etc. A reading level doesn´t say what the student can or can´t do.
     
  15. LouiseB

    LouiseB Cohort

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    I think the issue is that parents seem to know what the letter grades and percentages mean. I believe that many parents really don't know what a third grader should know but if they see an A orD, they understand that.
     
  16. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    I see your point, but it can always be explained. I just wish we could get away from grades and focus on growth and what students can do.
     
  17. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    Right. Adults can learn. ;)

    And while they know an A is good and an F is bad, when you have teachers giving grades for behavior*, bonus points for bringing in supplies, and test passes for good attendance, an A does NOT necessarily mean students mastered the standards. I think that's a problem. It's misleading to everyone.

    I vote for listing the standards and assigning a 1, 2, 3, or 4 (not there, approaching, mastered, exceeded). That is more telling than a C, for example. You could still average these at the year's end if need to be (to determine if students should be retained, etc.).

    *Behavior is huge...important enough to have its own category.
     
  18. HistoryVA

    HistoryVA Devotee

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    Might work for elementary school, but I can't imagine you could get away from traditional grades for high school. It'd a mess for college applications.
     
  19. Myrisophilist

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    Actually, all Maine schools are required to issue standards-based report cards by 2018. My school is making the transition right now. The argument about transcripts is that colleges and universities have to interpret various formats (including homeschooled students) all the time, so this will not be as big of a jump as it seems. I can't judge the validity of that argument because I don't work in postsecondary admissions, but any insight from others is welcome.
     
  20. BumbleB

    BumbleB Habitué

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    If you use the 4 point Marzano rubric, scores for each of the standards can be averaged together and you get something identical to a traditional 4 pt. scale.

    I agree about the behavior. My favorite format for standards based report cards includes a "citizenship" category in which students receive a score for behavior, readiness to learn, etc. :)

    I like this teacher's system for using standards based grading in her classroom.
     
  21. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    Our universities don't concentrate on GPA in my area. They know they're inflated, different at each school, etc...
     
  22. Kaley12

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    This is how I feel as well. I agree that grades can be incredibly subjective, especially in the primary grades. However, when it comes to high school, I think it will be harder to get rid of the grading system completely, largely because I feel like it's fairly necessary for college and university criteria.

    The OP mentioned that a lot of marks are based not just on ability/mastery but on behaviour. While I completely agree that it can give false impressions about what the child is capable of, I think at the high school level it's not necessarily a negative thing. What I mean is, if "Bobby" is a great reader and a talented writer, but he lacks important behaviour for his HS English class (ie. submits work late, doesn't always do homework, etc), then I DO think it should be reflected in his grade. When it comes to "real life", I think students need to learn that their behaviours are important. Even if Bobby gets an A on every assignment he DOES submit, I don't think he should still have an A on his report card if he only submits work half the time. Students need to be held accountable for their behaviours and effort because that can be just as important as mastery. You can be the smartest person in the world, but if your lazy and unmotivated, where will it get you? It's not preparing him for post-secondary, or for real jobs where that type of behaviour is not tolerated.

    So while I can definitely get on board for getting rid of such formal grading for the lower grade levels and focus more on mastery and criteria, I think at some stage you do need a more concrete way to evaluate.
     
  23. orangetea

    orangetea Connoisseur

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    I heard of a system where a teacher, in this case math, would give a test and grade based on standards. I think there were 3 levels. Students who didn't earn the highest level could still earn the highest level by somehow demonstrating to the teacher that they had learned that standard.

    I like a system like this because it really encourages students to go back to exams that they didn't do well on. I feel like students get a test back, and no matter what their grade is, just forget it in the end.

    I think this system makes sense because it rewards students who learn the material in the long run. I fear that it could be too easy for students to just look back at their notes and copy down a problem to demonstrate that they've learned a standard though. I have been thinking of a system like this because I want my students to go back to their old tests always.

    But I also think standard based learning could work well in an English class, where grading writing can be incredibly hard to quantify. For other classes, I think it might be hard to determine when a standard is met or not. I'm not sure...maybe I'm wrong.
     
  24. HeatherY

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    When I taught in Hawaii we gave letters like this:

    ME - Exceeds/Mastery
    MP - Meets Proficiency
    DP - Developing Proficiency
    WB - Well Below

    This makes a ton of sense to me and I loved it. It shows a lot more information than an A,B,C,D,F grade. The grades for math, English, science, etc... were based only on the students performance in those subject areas on the specific standards for that semester. Then there were "character" grades where you would give grades like participation, turning in assignments, etc...
     
  25. BumbleB

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    I have seen math teachers set up their assessments so that each skill being assessed has its own "section". Students get a grade/rating for each section of the test, rather than on the test as a whole. So, their grade for the assessment might look something like: Functions = 4, Graphing = 3, Pythagorean Theorem = 4 (using a scale like Marzano's), rather than the typical 85% for the WHOLE assessment. This would also make it easier for students to understand their own strengths and weaknesses.
     
  26. orangetea

    orangetea Connoisseur

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    That definitely makes sense. I do think it would be beneficial for students to see that. I guess I would struggle with partial credit if I used this system though...just because it would be hard for me to choose between two numbers. This is probably common to all subjects though.

    I can't get away from a traditional grading system now, but I would love to do something like you're suggesting. Maybe like a sheet that I staple onto their exams giving them a check plus, check, or check minus for the standards I'm testing for. It wouldn't affect their grade at all, but it might be beneficial for my students to see...
     
  27. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    Yep, this has been my experience.
     
  28. Math

    Math Cohort

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    At my school in Algebra 1 and HSPA math they use grading to the standards. Students can receive Advanced Proficient 100%, Proficient 92%, Basic 85%, or Non Proficient 0%. If you received a NP you could retake after all homework was in and going to tutoring during lunch or staying after school. Then you had the opportunity to earn a Basic score. I felt like students suffered a lot from this. Especially since the assignments given in class never matched notes there was always something extra with the test that was never mentioned. I could tell the teacher had not even looked at the test beforehand.
     
  29. Pashtun

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    In 4th grade I do something similar. They get an overall grade for the test, yet I show the students how to analyze their own tests. I have them go through the tests(with guidance) and figure out what categories of topics are their strengths and weaknesses. Students then have to reflect on why something is a strength or weakness and what they can do to continue or improve. This way students learn how to be more reflective on their own.
     

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