Grade Games

I get asked abou my grading a lot because it's pretty different than a typical classroom. I've refined it slowly over the years, and I'm by no means totally happy with it, but I'm happy with how it's changed the way I (and my students, eventually) think about grades.

I tend to struggle and wrestle with what grading communicates, even if it's not something students (or other teachers or parents) latch on to at first. I'm a big believer in the idea that everything we do sends a signal about what we believe. Grading is at the heart of school (unfortunately) and the policies in place say a lot about teachers.

1. I grade skills, not papers. I don't care what papers get turned in. It doesn't prove anything to me. Mostly because copying is rampant, and this helps curb that tendency. Writing something down does not equal understanding. I want to see application and thought. That can happen in writing, but it's easier to see in the moment with probing questions and observation. I think at the core, you could call this modified Standards Based Grading.

2. I want to see evidence. Papers may not be graded themselves, but they can serve to build an argument to demonstrate understanding. A student may have the written work - even copied at times - but it lays a foundation for their understanding. So, keeping track of notes, worksheets, labs, etc., can build a more convincing argument for learning. But, remember, students still need to communicate the skill in addition to showing the evidence.

3. I make sure grades are fluid. Once a grade is in the book, it isn't final (up until the quarter/semester deadline, at least). If a student isn't happy with their grade, they can take a minute to make it better. With this system, it's not just a missing assignment: it's a gap in a student's understanding. The standards are specific, and they can go back to work on that one idea to improve their grade. At the same time, I'm reinforcing the fact that I care about what they learn, and not what they turn in.

I don't have a specific book setup, other than each standard goes into the book as a one (you get it) or a zero (you don't). I don't play with percentage arguments because it's all subjective. If a student feels they deserve a 90 rather than an 85 on a lab, prove to me why, and I'm happy to change it. Grading should really be the ultimate form of formative feedback - a glance at where they are on a given day that informs work for the future.

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