You must get an A to pass

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Darkhorse, Dec 26, 2008.

  1. Darkhorse

    Darkhorse Companion

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    Dec 26, 2008

    I found this PBS segment on the internet and found some very interesting insights in it. It is a five part episode on America's schools and some of the problems with it.

    You can see the show here:http://www.pbs.org/wnet/wherewestand/reports/achievement/segment-three-from-full-episode/20/

    In the achievement episode, there is a (charter/private/magnet???) school where students must get an A in order to get credit for their classes. They interviewed a student and she thought this was a good idea even though she was having to repeat an algebra class. (BTW I have no clue how Dehjene spells her name.)

    This was like a light bulb moment for me when I heard this. Why do we allow our students to get anything less than an A or even a B? I know I have heard certain people on these boards say that they think an A is above average and students must show above average work to get an A, but in most cases I don't think that that's the case. In most cases an A equals mastery in a subject. So why are we not making our students show mastery in something before allowing them to move on? Why do we allow students to get less than an A? Would this give the push to our education system that we need?

    What are your thoughts...
     
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  3. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Dec 26, 2008

    Typically a C grade means "average."

    If, at that school, everyone has an A, then A has become the new C.
     
  4. Darkhorse

    Darkhorse Companion

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    Dec 26, 2008

    Alice, what are your feeling on that? Is that a bad thing? Does it then make an A mediocre or does it bring "average" expectations higher?
     
  5. giraffe326

    giraffe326 Virtuoso

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    If a "C" were truly "average", then it would mean the same everywhere. I grew up with a "normal" scale where a C is between a 70-79. Where I teach, a C is 77-85. So, which is average?!
    I truly believe that with effort, no child should average less than an 80.
     
  6. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Dec 26, 2008

    I have some kids who are working their tails off in my class and barely passing. Others do the bare minimum and have an easy A. If life were fair, it would be otherwise, but life's not always fair.

    It think that awarding only A's accomplishes nothing. Some kids will still have an easier time with the material than others. The kids will still know which kids are the "smart kids" and which aren't.

    It's like those Little League games where no score is kept, but every 5 year old on the field knows which team is winning.

    I think it's silly.

    Also, realistically: if it's a charter/magnet school, it's a school where parents can opt out, right??

    Don't you think that the parents are going to start yanking kids who repeat too many classes?? At some point, won't this school be all about how incredibly smart we all are, instead of challenging the kids??

    Any time I have a smart group of kids, I find ways to challenge them and keep them on their toes-- there are always ways to challenge kids and keep the new material coming. But if all my kids have to receive As, then won't I be under some pressure to keep that goal easily attainable??
     
  7. Darkhorse

    Darkhorse Companion

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    Dec 26, 2008

    Hmm... I think you are missing my point. I am not saying that every student should automatically get an A or that A's should be the only grade given. That would be silly.

    What I am trying to say is that students should be required to master a subject before they should be given a passing grade, which in this case would be an A or B or whatever. In the video the students were not held back if they didn't pass the class. In fact the girl in the video that I quoted was retaking algebra 2 while moving on to trigonometry. It wasn't seen as a bad thing that the students did not get an A in fact that allowed them to get extra support and time.

    I would also hope that the requirement that students receive an A would be seen as a good thing. Something for the students to feel proud of. Is there a problem with a school touting the fact that all of their students received A's if the students really deserved it? Don't you want all of your students to do well in your classes?

    If students are struggling in your classes just to pass, then do you really think they have a solid understanding of the subject? If a passing grade is a D (or even a C) does it make you feel okay to know that your students only know 60% of the subject that you taught them? I am honestly not criticizing you, but that is what went through my head when I watched this video. It really made me think what I was and was not comfortable with in terms of my students' understanding.

    I have students who are struggling in my class, and I before I was just fine knowing that they would get a D. I am working with them as much as possible, but they are definitely having a tough time with some of the material. But now that I have seen this video, I am almost ashamed that I was fine with that and I don't think I can be anymore. I am not going to make it easier to get an A in my class. I am not going to lower my standards. Instead I feel that I should demand that my students rise up to meet them and not allow them to slide along with a "passing" grade.

    I get the feeling that you are of the opinion that an A is and should be above average and that is fine. In that case, not all students would be able to get A's and I understand that. Again I am not trying to nit pick on you, but like I said, I don't think you understand my point in this. Please let me know your opinion on what I wrote as I appreciate your insight.

    BTW, You should watch the video in the link I posted above it might help you see where this is coming from a little better.
     
  8. Darkhorse

    Darkhorse Companion

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    Dec 26, 2008

    That is exactly how I am feeling about this right now.
     
  9. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    Dec 27, 2008

    I'll start by saying that I haven't watched the video--my computer is not cooperating and it won't load so my comments are only based on my experience.

    I know that grading systems and scales are different everywhere. Here in Ontario, A = 80-100%, B = 70-79%, C = 60-69%, D = 50-59%, below 50% is an R (remediation required). The provincial standard is a B--this is mastery of the basic concepts (e.g. perfect on a test of multiplication facts = B). To achieve an "A", the student must demonstrate higher-level thinking skills and show great proficiency in communciating about the subject concepts. Our grades must solely be a reflection of mastery of the subject content--no bonus marks for attendance, participation, community service, etc.

    As a teacher, I hope that all of my students will achieve to their greatest potential. I will work with them to take them from where they are at and move them to where theyy need to be at the end of the year (or as close to it as we can get). All students are different, however. Everyone is not an "A' or even a "B" student in everything. They have individual strengths and weaknesses. Some just will not "get" order of operations involving integers, exponents, decimals and fractions no matter how much they work at it. Some will have difficulty remembering physics formulas, will not be able to write a perfect piece of expository writing, or will mix up dates and events from history.

    Expecting all to achieve the same result, to me, may fail to recognize individual strengths and weaknesses. Everyone isn't, in my eyes, an "A" or even a "B" student in every area and the expectation that everyone achieve an "A" somehow makes it less of an achievement, at least in my eyes.
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2008
  10. Budaka

    Budaka Cohort

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    Dec 27, 2008

    In my school 70% is the lowest passing grade. 94% is the lowest A. I feel pretty good about giving a C because that still represents 80% mastery. I rarely give a D.

    I think if this charter school wants all students to have an A they should make it pass or fail. You have mastered the components or you haven't. Wanting students to have all A's is just a prestige thing.
     
  11. runsw/scissors

    runsw/scissors Phenom

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    Dec 27, 2008

    I have not watched the video either, but here are some random thoughts that popped into my head as I was reading the posts.

    What is the grading scale at that school?
    As has been evidenced above, grading scales differ between schools, districts, even countries. I grew up with the grading scale giraffe currently teaches with (A=100-94, B=93-86, ect.) until I got to college where they used the 90, 80,70 scale. I barely squeaked out a D+ in college algebra so I was in the 60's but I felt like a complete failure because I had worked my tail off all semester. (i blame the professor for teaching above everyone's heads) This brings me to my second thought.

    What are the requirements to earn the A's at that school?
    I don't get the feeling the teachers feel pressured to give A's all over the place to look good, especially when the students are not looked down on and don't have to retake classes they did not pass (What's up with that by the way? If you want them to pass they should be required to retake or you have a very odd definition of "passing".) And if they do not retake the classes how are they promoted?

    What about those students who struggle and just don't make the grade?
    How are they treated? Again, I'm thinking back to my classes where I knocked myself out trying to make sense of the foreign language or algebra or chemistry and just wound up with a headache. I usually managed at least a C, but apparently that's not good enough. Why not? It's one thing if a student is lazy and just doesn't care, but not everyone has the same strengths and gifts. It is most disheartening to require A's when a person simply cannot achieve that no matter how hard one tries. If I had to master Spanish to graduate high school, I'd have dropped out or cheated like crazy or something. I'm am no good at learning foreign languages. Algebra was my forte. And I hated science in part because chemical equations made no sense to me.

    I can see making 76% or 80% the benchmark for passing, but 94% is just too much. And students EARN grades, teachers don't just randomly hand them out. At least that's how it should be.
     
  12. shouldbeasleep

    shouldbeasleep Enthusiast

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    Dec 28, 2008

    Change the "A" "B" "C" system to "1" "2" "3".
    Think of a "1" as "Does not understand or apply the standard"
    Think of a "2" as "Meets the standard"
    Think of a "3" as "Consistently meets the standard"

    Apply that to elementary schools. (Forget middle and high for a moment. I don't teach it, and I can't speak for how it would work.)

    A student doesn't pass the subject unless they have a "2" or a "3". Students with "3's" are formerly the ones who made "A's".

    The teacher continues to teach the student until he/she is passing.

    I'll bet any middle school teacher would love to have students come to them knowing the standards.

    That's the theory, and it seems a bit like what you are describing, except for a younger age group. Learn the subject, don't pass until you do.

    In practice (our first year of implementing it):
    1. I've never taught and retaught and retaught so much in my life.
    2. I have a select few students who haven't mastered 3rd and 4th grade requirements, so that adds to the difficulty of getting them caught up.
    3. Grade keeping is a nightmare. I can teach some students a topic once or twice and they've got it. A few others have multiple entries in the gradebook. And keeping up with who's got what and at what level and for what type of test is all supposed to be part of notetaking/gradekeeping.
    4. When do you find the time to teach something to just two students (usually the same two) and still go on with new topics?
    5. Does the pleasure of seeing a "3" mean the same as an "A"? Well, to me, it doesn't. But the kids have been adaptable. They do seem to think of it as the same thing.
    6. There seems to be an aura of never-ending assessment in the classroom. Not only do I have to assess and re-assess the ones who didn't get it the first time, I have to re-assess everything I've taught once a quarter to make sure everyone is maintaining. Granted, those are mini-quizzes or projects, but they still have to be graded.

    I'm sorry for the long post. I've poured my thoughts out on this new grading system of ours. I'd delete it, but maybe someone else is going though the same thing. Let me know if you are. I'd love to hear your opinions.
     
  13. Darkhorse

    Darkhorse Companion

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    Dec 29, 2008

    Thank you for your thoughts on this topic. You all pretty much mirrored my DH's opinion on the topic. He also felt that it was unrealistic to expect all students to achieve at an A level. It seems that instead it would be more realistic to expect all students to at least achieve a C (70%). In CO that is considered proficient on the state tests.

    shouldbeasleep I would love to hear more about the way you (your school) are doing things. It sounds like it is a lot of work. Are you noticing improved scores on tests, or is it just adding more work and stress? How and what are you assessing? How does this look in your classroom?
     
  14. decseh05

    decseh05 Rookie

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    Dec 29, 2008

    I think the grading system should be left like it is. I don't think an "A" should be a requirement to pass a class for any child. Like it was said earlier, not everybody performs like other kids do. I can see in certain classes maybe making it to where you must have a "C" to pass. When I went to school as long as you made a D or above you passed.
     
  15. shouldbeasleep

    shouldbeasleep Enthusiast

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    The entire county changed the grading system. That's 17-18 elementary schools. There are some other school systems in the country that have changed to this "standards-based grading system".

    It is a lot of work. The teacher is forced to really look at each child and what he/she needs to know. Sounds fine, but like I said, it's constant assessment and constant reteaching to just a few. Hard to find the time. But I do see the benefit to each child in doing this.

    I'm not sure if there is going to be an improvement in the state test scores since this is the first year of implementation. I think there will be an overall increase; I don't see how there can't be.

    I give a short quiz in every subject every few days, and then again sometime before the quarter ends. (5-10 questions). Other things are also assessed. We seem to be doing a lot of projects that involve mixing several standards together. For example: One project had the kids making a "saddlebag" of information with maps of cattle trails, research on famous black cowboys, a word splash of items and their cost that were needed on the trail that had to add up to $60, an inferential group guess as to dangers on the trail, and a writing assignment (persuasive letter asking the rancher for a raise). There's no room for unit tests. No time and no reason when you're constantly giving mini tests. And the quarterly Benchmark tests seem to take care of that.

    System curriculum directors are making up the Benchmarks, and they're pretty much right on target. As long as the teacher sticks to the state standards and pretty much keeps up with the timeline, kids are doing fine. So we have to come up with the mini-quizzes and build the projects from a barebones example. The 5th grade team collaborates on this. I do the Science quizzes, someone else does the other ones. We all put together the projects.

    I have about ten to fifteen papers on my desk at any one time...papers that show that I have to reteach someone or go over something and make sure they really get it.

    I do notice that kids try a bit harder to do well and learn the material the first time. They know that my new motto has been "I'm not leaving you alone, so you might as well get it right the first time."

    There's a lot of individual attention...and kids are constantly wanting my attention if they haven't got something. More than in the past. I guess they don't want to do it over again. Or maybe they really do realize that they can't just do a mediocre job any more.

    We'll see. Proof will be in the state test. I'll be looking to see if individual students improved from last year. But I can't compare this year's class to last year's class. Whole different group of kids.

    Again, I apologize for the long post. If you made it through, I applaud you. I'm not sure I would have read the whole thing!
     

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