Here is a letter I just sent home to parents, explaining my grading scale. I’d welcome any feedback about both the letter and my video (attached). What do you think of the hammering in the nail metaphor?
As the 9 weeks comments are coming out, I wanted to make sure that you and your boys were able to understand what these grades mean in English Class.
In traditional classes, teachers give many small assignments, all of which are graded. This was the system that you and I grew up under. This system tends to lend itself toward averages which are hard to move. If a student struggles in the beginning and then masters the concept at the end, the average does not accurately reflect that eventual mastery, which is what is important in learning.
I use a different grading system which includes Standards Based Grading (hence the categories of Reading, Writing, Discussion, Etc), and of the Guskey 4 point scale. I also have lots of non-graded practice for the students and less frequent larger summative assessments.
Think of my grading system like practicing for a play or practicing a sport for a game. During the practice time I provide lots of of frequent formative feedback (like a coach would at practice or a director would during play rehearsal). Then on the infrequent summative assessments (like games or the performance, to continue the metaphor) I will provide numerical and narrative feedback. As of now, the boys have had lots of practice with research, writing, reading, and responsibility, with feedback in those categories, but they have only had one “game/performance” which was the culmination of these skills into a research paper. This paper is where the grades come from.
Please watch the following 7 minute video that will hopefully provide a better understanding of where the 9 week grades come from:
This type of feedback system is research based (See the work of Tom Guskey and Shawn Cornally) as being a more effective way of communicating specific learning to students, which is why I am using it this year. If you want to know more about how we got the translation scale, please read this blog post by Jill Gough which explains the scale in more mathematical terms: http://jplgough.wordpress.com/2011/10/16/translating-rubric-scores-when-you-have-to/
Your students received/will receive a grade report print out this week. They also received an email from me with narrative and numerical comments on their papers. I encourage the boys to share all of these with you so that you can see their progress in Reading, Research, Writing, and Responsibility. In fact, I encourage you to sit down and look at the paper with your son, and perhaps find some bright spots where you might point out where he did really well. Even if your son earned a 1 or a 2 on his first try, please remember that he is continuing to practice his writing skills and research skills, and he will have multiple tries to show he can meet expectations. Please look for the new grade report that will be coming home in a week or two after the boys turn in their rewrites.