New Teachers Talk about Grading, Part 1

I thoroughly enjoyed spending time yesterday afternoon with several of our new teachers. Tina McKay, Francie Ball & I lead a discussion about grading and its impact on students’ completion of high school.

There were a few questions that some attendees had after the session. Considering just one at a time, I’d like to offer my responses here…

Question:” In terms of reassessing students, how often would you do this? How do you determine who to reassess? only students who received an ‘F’, or any student that recieves something other than 100%?”

I love this question. It’s evident that this teacher, in wrestling with the grading issue, has tapped into the larger topic, “What does mastery look like?” Does 100% mean mastery? What about 90%, 80%, 70%? Does it depend on the scale?

Great questions.

If you see my previous post and the related article, you can walk a while in the philosophical clouds of this discussion and consider what one Kentucky division has decided and implemented to address it. But for purposes here, let me offer my best practical advice.

How often you reassess will depend on your answer to your last question – as well as the schedule you’re able to use at school. Reassessing a student here or there won’t take too much planning or adjustment. Reassessing everyone who makes less than a (insert grade) will require something more methodical & organized. Choosing a particular day or afternoon, for example – and having it coincide with when you give a summative assessment, will allow you to reassess larger groups of kids without making your schedule crazy. When you do that depends on transportation, if you do it after school – also your daily schedule (do you have a block of time during the day you can sacrifice – part of your planning?).

I understand that sounds radical. Why should you give up any planning time, which is precious, to re-teach & reassess a kid you already taught? Well, because she hasn’t learned it yet.

Again, practically speaking – you need to consider what you’re able to do. I’ve seen teachers dedicate themselves to this – unable to rest until every child “gets it.” They meet kids before and after school, spend nights on the phone arranging transportation with parents, asking the principal for permission to open the classroom on Saturday.

I’m not limiting you or giving you the magic measuring stick for what constitutes the right amount of dedication. To whatever degree you are able to give over and above, your students will benefit tremendously. But you aren’t a mediocre teacher if you decide you can’t do that. Part of being a good teacher is balancing your responsibilities with the time you have. You need to consider your personal life, family, other interests – and draw the line in a way that maintains your physical & emotional health and preserves your energy so you can invest yourself at home too.

We want you to be happy in your job, personally rewarded – and here for the long haul. So let’s get back to the question. How often should you reassess?

As often as you decide you can, given your schedule & considerations – and once you’ve made that decision, as often as it takes to make sure your students “get it.”

The second part of that question is just as important. How do you determine who to reassess? Is there a specific number or letter grade you can use to decide who needs to be re-taught?

We’ll talk about that in Part 2…

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