Friday, January 04, 2008

More Grading Thoughts

(I wrote this post last night and it apparently disappeared. If it shows up multiple times in your reader, I apologize.)

The Washington Post had an article recently on grading scales and weighted grades in various honors classes in different school districts in our area. This is frustrating to parents (and I assume to students, although that is not a focus of the article). This was a front page article in the Post which suggests a significant level of importance. I read the article with growing frustration. These parents are up in arms over this issue which has absolutely nothing to do with what their children are learning. The only thing that matters, apparently, is the grade on the transcript.

I found this to be a sad commentary on the state of education today. Our students are working to earn grades rather than to learn and their parents are encouraging this. Many teachers will say that one of their main goals is to encourage life-long learning. Grades are in direction opposition to this aim.


Chris Prout said...

I think schools seem to promote life-long schooling rather than life-long learning. Life long schooling is the idea that to learn you go to a school and learn from a teacher. Life-long learning involves teaching students how to find and build their own learning networks and learning from it.

Jenny said...

I completely agree with you. My two goals for my students each year are that they continue asking questions and have the skills to find the answers. Our educational system, and the concept of grades, don't encourage this at all.

Gwen said...

Our elementary school doesn't give out grades, just a general "meets expectations" sort of thing. I know it drives parents crazy, though, because if you don't have the GPA to back you up, how can you prove that your child is better than everyone else's?

Anonymous said...

"These parents are up in arms over this issue which has absolutely nothing to do with what their children are learning."

I think that's an oversimplification. At the very least, it shows concern for their child's future education opportunities. If you read between the lines, it shows that some parents don't trust their children's schools to properly handle grades. Indeed, reliance on standardized tests seems to reflect a general societal belief that it's not possible for teachers throughout the city/state/country to give equivalent grades. And of course, that's true - all teachers are different, with different assignments and learning objectives, and that's not a bad thing.

What about this sentence from the article: "In recent years, it has often been parents, not school officials, who have researched grading policies and called for changes."

Either 1) parents are more interested than school officials in continuously improving grading policies 2) school officials aren't communicating the reasoning behind their grading policies 3) the Washington Post's front page story is completely off-base

I'm leaning toward #2 myself. Some people I work with seem to think that putting more information online will lead to more complaints, but I think that's only going to happen if it turns out that the decisions being made aren't justified.

Just my two cents. : ) Thanks for pointing out the article.

Jenny said...

I agree that parental concerns about this issue are a sign of their interest in their child's future. However, I don't believe that grades have much, if anything, to do with actual learning. I'm not frustrated with the parents in this issue, I'm frustrated with the concept of grades.

I think you are also probably correct about schools communicating about their grading policies. I have doubts that any school could actually communicate it well because there is so much variety between teachers, disciplines, and individual student issues. Yet another reason I'm pained by the focus on grades in our society.

Thanks for your thoughts. I'm always grateful to be pushed to think harder about things.