Saturday, April 16, 2011

The A or Da-ay or Guskey Redux (#apr13)

My wife is not the only family member making topic suggestions for the April 13 Blogging Challenge. My two-year old son (born on April 13) is also providing topics. At dinner, my wife asked him for a topic. He answered, "Da-ay." We each asked him several more times to be sure, and he answered the same each time. So, Da-ay it is.

Now, I immediately knew what my son was talking about when he said, "Da-ay." He wants me to write a blog post about Thomas Guskey and grades. You know, the A.

A while back, I attended a conference to hear Thomas Guskey speak about standards-based grading. I wrote this blog article in March 2010. It has been the most read articles on my blog, by far.

This winter, the New York Times ran an article called No More As for Good Behavior that tried to explain one school's transition from traditional grading to standards based grading.

Now, just the other day, Bo Adams reposted, on Connected Principals, Jill Gough's great inquiring post about grading. Jill presented a real dilemma that she is facing with her grades due after this weekend. Several of us commented either on Connected Principals or on Jill's Blog.

The bottom line seems to be that no one really can say what is the purpose of grades. If Jill and her community could make that crystal clear, then her dilemma would be much easier to solve.

I think that while we work in a system that is still so unsettled on the purpose of grades, then why not use the scoring system that will work best for each child. Use the system that will best report what progress the student has made towards the learning.

Maybe most helpful for Jill and teachers like her is the idea that effort and other compliance factors be taken out of the letter grade. Make the A, B, C reflect the learning and report effort separately. If the system doesn't allow for a separate effort grade then use the comments. Find out if you can add custom comments and explain what you are doing. Anything you can do to clarify what the grade actually means would be a big improvement.

We may not quickly be able to change the larger public's understanding of grades, but we can begin by clarifying them for our classes now.

What are your thoughts about grading? Please enter this debate. Thank you.

Image credit carosaurus