Day 80 (of 184) end to letter grades
For the past few months, our school has been getting ready to make the shift from ‘reporting student achievement’ to ‘communicating student learning’. Or in other words shifting from report cards to portfolios.
It’s nice to see recent news articles talking about other schools doing similar ( http://www.vancouversun.com/touch/story.html?id=9365634 ) and to hear lots of support via twitter (one of the single most powerful educational disrupters as it connect like minded educational reformers in a way unlike ever before). But the Vancouver Sun article by @tracysherlock showed the split of people who support the change, want things to stay the way they were, and those that are just nervous about assessing & reporting/communicating being different than what they experienced.
And it’s not an easy change.
Letter grades have been part of the education system for approximately 100 years (initiated well over 100 years ago, accepted by many -including the meat packing industry- slightly less than 100 years) and moving away from them is not going to be easy.
Especially since so many (nearly all) people have had to deal with them. Making deals with teacher to get 50% if they promised not to take the next level of class (many math 11 deals with this provision). 85.4999% being considered completely reliable….as a means to keep ‘a’ student from an ‘A’. And that 85% earning the same $ reward as a 73% (I got $5 for a B). Counting assignments and begging for bonus marks to ensure a grade. Wondering if being nice led to a higher grade…..
And of course figuring out … strategies…. (methods of cheating seems harsh) to eke out an extra mark on a test that may or may not be connected to actual learning outcomes…
And then seeing in the envelope what letter grade communicates student achievement…. and thanking the teacher/cursing the teacher for what that teacher gave them/what they earned.
In a current era where a C+ is seen as a ‘fail’ and a B is a way to avoid conflicts. And where descriptors for each letter grade vary from place to place.
–> work your way up to an A (to give some motivation by ‘only’ giving a B)
–> inflate grades for nice kids
–> fill in your own experience
Education needs to be different from previous decades. We are teaching different (I would’ve loved #geniushour & excelled with an iPod touch) and wanting our learners to …. learn. A letter grade doesn’t communicate learning and neither do %s but descriptive feedback gives students information about what they are doing well and what can still be improved on.
I am looking forward to working with our learning community (teachers, support staff, parents, students, others) over the next months to build ‘a’ (not ‘the’) methodology to communicate what students are learning. We will be celebrating the positives, acknowledging and working on the negatives and supporting the nervousnesses.
More to follow.