Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Stuck in the Car

So we're in the car. Still. I'm sick of Virginia and there's like an hour and a half left to go. And since we're in the car, I can't surf the net - though there hasn't been a whole lot of activity lately. (BTW - I wrote this on Saturday, 12/27, but I haven't had a way to upload it until we got back home.)

Talked with the Hunk about moving to Denver, though that isn't really all that likely. It just sounds like up in that neck of the woods they're doing some really interesting things - optional merit pay and true standards-based teaching. And the pay is better.

Not that I don't like where I am; Coach has been encouraging us to start considering standards-based grading, and our grade team was assigned Understanding by Design as a professional development book, so I definitely approve of the administration's choices as far as curriculum and instruction go. I'd just like to make sure that if we do make a go of it, it's with enough planning and support to have a chance at success, otherwise, why bother putting forth any effort at all?

At our last department meeting, Coach brought up SBG and mentioned (one) that in some schools, teachers don't give any grades lower than a 50, which brought up a heated discussion about how much - or whether! - effort should count in a student's grade, as well as WHY a zero is mathematically unsound (Coach mentioned this, but I got a chance to sound real smart by explaining what I've learned from all of you lovely people about the difference between the 0-4 scale and the 0-100 scale). This then brought up the question, "what do we do when a student doesn't produce enough work to demonstrate mastery of some of the standards?" Sure, as professionals, we can document conversations and other less formal in-class activity as a way to assess student progress, but I'm incredibly uncomfortable with the idea of using that as a way to justify mastery (or lack thereof). I can just see that leading to "well, I think she can do it, so..."

I hope it wasn't too direct of me to say that I was all for SBG as long as the administration would back us up when we didn't promote students who had, say, a 75 average but had several assessments they hadn't bothered to complete.

Coach also fished out the overworked "parachute packing class" metaphor (can't we come up with something better? it's so darn flimsy, too!) and suggested we think about how important it is for a student to demonstrate mastery of a standard at the same time as his classmates. If when it's first assessed, the student shows limited mastery, but later on, through additional practice or further instruction or whatever, demonstrates a more complete understanding, should the earlier grades still count against him? I said again, great theory, but let's look at the practical considerations. We're told that once a marking period ends and we turn those grades in, they are FINAL. What happens if a student makes great strides during the next marking period? Do we go back and change the grades from the earlier marking period and then ask the administrators to make the changes to the permanent grade?

I just really hope that I'm not coming across as a wet blanket. These are strategies that I like! I want us to start using them. I just want us to be able to use them effectively.

And I'm relying on italics again. Siiiiigh.

Images thanks to and


The Science Goddess said...

As with other pedagogy, you're just going to have to jump in and swim. Come on in!

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