Saturday, June 07, 2014


So at the end of the school year we were informed that next year, the lowest grade we would be allowed to put into the computer gradebook, for any assignment, would be a 60. Needless to say, this news caused a bit of a kerfuffle.

My biggest concern is that I don't know of any schools that have used it and found it helpful. If there are some, it sure would be nice to see HOW they implemented it - what other procedures they put in place so that students' grades accurately reflected their demonstrated mastery of the standards.

STICKING POINT: How do we ensure that low-level students do the practice that they need so that they can improve, rather than just taking their 60s and assuming they can do some extra-credit work at the end of the term so that they can move on to the next course (for which they will be unprepared)? Back when I taught 9th grade, we read Lois Lowry's novel 'The Giver.' Scholastic says that it's at a sixth-grade reading level, but some students said that it was too hard for them.

I also think that advanced students will say that this is "unfair," but IMO they need to just suck it up. It is NOT unfair. If they bomb (or blow off!) an assignment, they get the same "free" 60 that everyone else does. And EVERYONE who wants more than a 60 has to work for it. The rules are the same across the board.

It also ties in to the law of diminishing returns, which is primarily an economic concept, but has broader relevance. The better you get at a skill, the harder you have to work in order to improve further, for example. Same idea here. The 60 is free. You want to pass? Gotta work a bit. You want a solid B? Gotta work even harder. You want a really good grade? Better be prepared to study on the weekends!

You can see this in video games, whether it's console shooters or Farmville. When you start off, it's like you CAN'T fail. But as you progress through the game, the content gets harder, and you have to start actually thinking about what you're doing. You may even decide to get help. But that is entirely your choice, you know? If you get frustrated, you can always just stay on a level you're comfortable with and not stress out over trying to beat a level that's too hard for you.

When I spoke with the principal he said that only a few teachers had sent him anything in writing, and that if there were concerns he needed to be able to give some evidence to the higher administrators. But my thought is that the reason that so few teachers have responded is that none of us were given the chance to offer our input before the decision was made. Even IF we hadn't been told that this was definitely going to happen, why wouldn't we be skeptical?

We'll see how it goes.


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