Trying to find math inside everything else

So I was thinking about grading a little bit, and how grading works in my classroom. I tried to ask people about grading on Twitter, but perhaps the medium is not the best for talking about it, because only one person responded. (Thanks, @algebraniac.) I wanted to get a feel for how people out there calculated grades, before I wrote about it, but I figure, what the hell! Just write about it anyway! (Maybe channeling Hedge a little bit here.)

So, like, I’m imagining the typical first day of class that happens. The teacher tells all the students, “As of right now, you all have ‘A’s.” With the intention being, of course, encouragement, because despite how bad they might have done in that subject in the past, right now, they have an A.

But when you think about it a little more…it’s really kind of terrible, isn’t it? “Right now, you have an ‘A’…and the only way to go is down.” So then the grades don’t reward good work, they only penalize bad. Your grade tracks every mistake you make, every little fuck-up, dropping in a downward spiral. And we talk about students “slipping” and “dropping the ball” and “not doing as well as they used to.” The whole terminology is pretty terrible.

On the surface, it might seem like Standards-Based Grading can help with this, like it helps with so many others. Students have standards, and if they are low they reassess and go up. At the end of the marking period or term, that certainly seems like a good system. For each individual standard, it works, but as a collective whole? Let me ask you this:

It is halfway through the (quarter/marking period/term), so report card grades are not due for another few weeks. A student comes up to you and asks what their grade is. What do you tell them? What is it calculated from? And how will the future work they do affect that grade, if they do well? What about if they do poorly?

I’d really like to know. Drop a line in the comments and tell me. I’ll follow up with people’s responses and what I do in another post.


Comments on: "You All Have “A”s" (9)

  1. Sarah said:

    This is tough. I tell students exactly what it is at that moment. I score each skill/concept out of 10 points. What might earn a 10 the first 10 weeks might not get you a 10 in the last 9 weeks. For example, the type of equation I expect a first 9 weeks student to be able to solve vs a 4th 9 weeks student should look different. When a student asks me what their grade is I look at the scores for the skills we’ve done so far and I average them. That is their grade “snapshot” on that day. I also talk about report card, progress reports, etc. are times when I no longer can retake the photo and I have to send it to be printed. Students can reassess any skill within a grading period. The most recent score stands.

  2. Not sure how your SBG is set up, but quizzes make up 70% of grade, and are entered as they are graded. Until students come in for retakes, the current grade in grade book is what they’re earning. Do better on retake, grade goes up, do worse, grade goes down as most recent score prevails.

    Sorry I don’t feel I’m being helpful, but current grade is the “final” grade if the quarter were to end on that day.

  3. I do SBGs as the list of objectives. Sometimes I’ll talk about the number of objectives left, or what they might think of to reassess, or give them a sense of how their progress in objectives compares with the class as a whole. Check on their plans or progress on the current project.

    Moreso, I want to give them feedback on what I know about their understanding, and ask them questions that I’m curious about it.

  4. First, I usually tell them to come back at the end of the day. The student probably already has a sense of things, so only those who are the most worried or curious actually remember to follow up. (Bonus, you can talk with them more one on one if needed then.)

    Secondly, since I’m only grading tests and tasks, there’s usually less than a half dozen things going into the mark. So I tell them the average of those, subject to the fact that there’s variations due to each strand being roughly equal weight and tasks being counted less and… okay, huh, probably need to explain myself here…
    -Halfway through the term, chances are I’ve covered almost two of the four strands in my statistics. The first strand (25%) comprises two tests (maybe 80% of strand) and a task (other 20% of strand), the second strand (25%) comprises one test (maybe 75%) and a task (maybe 25%), so there’s a bit more weight on the stuff from that second strand.
    -Halfway through the term, I’ve only covered one strand of Functions, which makes that calculation a bit more straightforward.

    But yeah, I give them what that chunks down to, then point out that there’s still over half the course to come, plus an exam portion that will make the strand percentages 17.5%, plus if the exam mark is higher than term, I can make adjustments. So come for extra help if they’re especially worried.

    I feel I haven’t explained myself very well. Do feel free to call me out if it makes no sense or I’ve missed something key. Note that I’m marking based on Ontario (Canada) Standards, and don’t think I’ve ever started by saying they have ‘A’s…

  5. Mr.Atkinson said:

    I think the point of sbg is to get students to ask a different question. Students should come to you to ask what standard they need to work on to improve their grade. You can tell them a ballpark figure of their grade but stress to where they can work to improve.

  6. Mike D said:

    I would give them a generalized answer. I.E. If they have gotten only 85s/Bs on tests I would say they have about a B/85. A quick average would be the best way to tell them what they have for the time being, tat is if you base your grades off an average system.

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