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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Day 27: Too grade or not to Grade...

This year I have been trying many new and different things in teaching in order to create a better learning environment. One of the many concepts is how I am grading. Probably the most important and controversial thing I have been doing this year is not reporting grades into Renweb (Our schools online grade book). I do technically report them but I just don't hit "calculate and display".

Let me back up a little bit. Ever since I went to the DI convention in Vegas 4 years ago I have been doing some form of standards based grading. Every year it has evolved and this year I am trying to go 100% Standards based. No points for doing homework or having their book. Students are just graded on what they know about math.

No Grades Just Feedback
Instead of giving grades back on quizzes I am giving diagnostic feedback, this is meant as a way for students to focus on what they can improve on. One thing I felt like is that I spent all this time giving feedback on quizzes and students would just look at their grade and throw it away. I wanted feedback and learning to mean something. So after each quiz this year instead of getting a grade students just get diagnostic feedback, 1-3 sentences where they can improve. If a student gets everything correct on a quiz I will give them extension activities or challenges, i.e. "How could you graph this problem?," "Could you draw this as a picture?". I still record the score in my grade book, I just don't publish it.I do tell kids and parents that if they want to see their "grade" they can e-mail me and I will let them know what they have.

Grading Scale
I grade each skill/Standard on a 5-10 scale. 10 being Mastery, 9 is advanced, 8 is proficient (by the way this is my goal for every student to get to this level), 7, Emerging, 6 is not yet and 5 is incomplete. Bellow is a picture of the handout that I have the kids glue into their notebook. Link to document.

Retakes and speed in math
I also allow retakes on any quiz. Speed is not important in math. I tried hitting home this point with my Seniors last Friday. As each senior student finished an activity in class I gave them a $1 bill and said here is your prize for finishing. At first I said the person who finishes the activity first will get a prize. When the first group got done and got money your should have seen the rest of the class and how hard they worked when I said there is second place and third place prize.  Everyone got $1 and the next day I hit home the point that speed doesn't matter. If it takes one student a day to learn a skill but another student it takes a whole month, It doesn't matter. As long as we learn, that is the goal.

Personal Growth Days
At the end of each unit I was thinking we would have a "Personal Growth day(s)"(PGD), which at this time students would get feedback on their grades, with growth mindset language. Instead of 10 it would say Mastery or instead of 7 it would say skill 2.1 is emerging. Also on their PGD students would get video lessons if they needed to review, challenges for  mastery, and this would also give them time to request to re-quiz. Student then get to focus on what areas they need to improve. Got this idea form Dane Ehlert's Blog When Math Happens, Check out his blog post here. By the way Dane's Blog is amazing I read something from his blog every day He has really inspired me to go to a grade less system.

The real world.
I think I am starting to get warn out feeling like I have to defend what I am doing to the students, faculty, and parents. It took me a while to convince myself and I am still not 100% sure if I am convinced that what I am doing is the best thing. I do know I want to try something different to foster an environment where learning and progress are the most important thing. I would rather fail forward then not try at all. I am not sure but I am starting to have trouble compartmentalizing the negative feedback from the kids and parents. There is a part of me that feels I need to just stay the course and that the non believers will eventually believe. Another part of me is that it's just not working and it will never work. Not sure I know exactly how to change some people's mind the school is about learning and not performing. I see to many adults who value doing the simple and safe thing because they are afraid of failing, because they have been taught that being successful is getting

Ideas and notes:

  • Right now when I notice that students are struggling I tell them they need to meet with me before or after school and get some extra practice. 
  • I am thinking that when we do our Personal Growth Day's that students would see what "official" score they got then their grade in Renweb would become live. 
  • If it isn't working after 1st quarter or 1st semester that I will just start posting grades live. I would still allow re-takes and let kids know that they can always go back and learn a concept. When I hand back quizzes I would not give a score and still give diagnostic feedback.
  • Need to keep telling myself that School is about learning not performing. 
  • Going to consult with as many people as I can and get advice on this issue. 
    • My principal has been supper supportive and has already let me be a sounding board. 

People who have inspired to go grade less:

  • Alfie Kohn, Check out this article The Case Against Grades
  • Jo Boaler's: class on Mathematical Mindset, You Cubed website
  • Alice Keeler's, Blog and Twitter
  • Matt Miller's Blog and twitter
  • Teach like Pirate Twitter Community Chat #TLAP
  • Many more twitter and blog post along the way. 
    • #MTBoS, #iteachmath, #teach180 just to name a few

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