Sunday, October 27, 2013

Grades, Grades, Go Away, Come Again Another Day...

Grades....when I hear this word, curiosities pop into my mind. What is the purpose of these devious little monsters? And are they accurate? 

To society, and sometimes to myself, a grade is an assessment of how smart you are. No matter how many 100s you get, it is always weighed out by that one time you forget to study or make a silly mistake. Look at it this way, in an example report card.

English - 100
PE - 100
History - 100
Science - 100
French - 67
Algebra - 100
Band - 100
Rogate - 100

You probably quickly passed by everything, until you got to French. Do all those 100s really matter? I guess most people wouldn't even look at what classes the 100s are in. They would only say, "OOOOOOOHHHH, you got a bad grade in French!!!" 
In traditional grading, the 67 outweighs all of the 100s. Of course, the student should not be excused from that 67, but neither should the 100s. 

Even if a very intelligent student gets a 67, because of the way grades are seen by society, the 100s do not exist. I sometimes see grading this way to, but try to see it more as my progress in school rather than how smart I am. 

To schools, grades are a measure of how well you will do later in life. Grades basically measure you're future. If you DO get a 67, the reaction of schools is, "Oh no, what if they don't do well in life??" But to be honest, HOW MANY FAMOUS GENIUSES DO WE KNOW OF THAT FAILED SCHOOL???

"His nose looks like a raindrop." -Christina
So there you have it, folks. A world view on grades.

Opinion Time!

So, I really think that grades nowadays are kind of lame. It's really not an accurate assessment of your ability. Another thing that strikes my attention is the idea of having two kids getting the same grade, but not both deserving it. In my American History class, it is always annoying when you spend all this time on a project and it looks super-nice, and you get a 100, but somebody who did the bare minimum got the same grade. Now, I'm not saying that this is the teacher's fault, though it does happen often in this class, but the grading system's fault. If we are going to use points, why not use five-hundred points rather than one hundred, similar to the NJ ASK? This way, the minimum to be considered at grade level is not the highest score, but maybe a 400-450? If we are to keep something similar to the current system, this is the best alternative. But I still don't like it.

This leads me to the next question: 
Do you think that the current grading system accurately represents your learning and knowledge?

No. Not at all. When I get a test back, I often see that the problems marked incorrect are marked with a slash. No correct answer is marked. What is the point of tests if you teach the students what is correct, give them the tests, and never tell them what they don't understand. This is why I like the standards base. If someone gets something wrong, their new goal is to get it right. It's not, "Oh, I got a 84.7, so I'm set. Yeah, you may have met requirements, but if you have the opportunity to learn more, why not jump at it? The point of school is not to make sure you know enough already, but to add to that current supply.

I have a grades story that I think has been told to just about the entire world by now because it never gets out of my head. Last year in seventh grade, I got a 75 on an essay. Yes. A 75. And writing is my best subject, which is the only thing I dislike about Rogate: the fact that we miss the writing class. But anyway, my teacher, we'll call her Ms Moltres, 'cause that's a Pokemon, but she gave us an assignment where we had to write a letter to the author of this terrible book called Fever 1793. It was almost as bad as Code Orange. The book (actually both books mentioned) was about an epidemic that broke out a long time ago. We got a six-point scoring rubric, and Ms Moltres told us exactly what to say:

-tell her how much you liked the book 
-talk about your favorite characters/parts, but make sure that its not about [insert list of twenty scenes from the book]
-ask her these questions: [insert list of questions]
-sign your name, but don't show off your signature
-don't be "too wordy"

I tried to follow this, I really tried. But then something dawned on me. What if you were an author and you got a bunch of letters from a bunch of twelve and thirteen year olds that all said, in short:

Dear ______,
I loved your book. My favorite character was Charles and my favorite scene was when he became a potato. (that is dedicated to Christina) What is your favorite color? How old are you? What did you think when writing this book? What was your inspiration? 
Ash Ketchum

Wouldn't you feel soooo special??

Wouldn't you think that they all just FANCIED your book?

Wouldn't you just want to give them all a big group hug?

Wouldn't you just read all of them individually and give them all a unique response?

And so that's why I decided to write a unique response. I tried to stick to the rules, but I still got a "too wordy" on my paper and criticism for not sticking exactly to what was given to me. Basically, I got criticized for knowing how to write a letter.

The traditional grading system is a huge formula to turn us all into robots when we grow up. But I'm not going to let that happen to me.

If I could decide on a grading system, it would be my take on the standards-based grading.

You know in elementary school (at least those who went to Springfield will know) when at the end of your report card there were comments? Well, I think that we could probably do something that is more based around this. For each standard, the teacher of the subject could have a short comment, and then an overall, longer comment at the end. There would also be behavior standards included.

When we had comments in elementary school, I always looked right at them when I got my report card. Because I felt that I should be represented by words, not by numbers that could apply to anyone. Yeah, on powerschool we have comments. But the teachers can choose from a list instead of writing their own, and just about everyone gets, "A pleasure to have in class!" or "Good effort."

Hopefully one day, the world will stop producing robots, and people like those supporting standards-based grading will overcome. Maybe one day......

1 comment:

  1. Charles, I absolutely love this post. I think my favorite part is: "The traditional grading system is a huge formula to turn us all into robots when we grow up. But I'm not going to let that happen to me." You go, Charles! It is clear to me that you have a very mature perspective. You should continue to be critical of of the flaws you see in the education system and be vocal about how to improve it. Your voice matters.