Now that I have begun using “I can” statements as a way of monitoring student progress and creating assignments, I have loved it. I know so much more clearly what my students know and can do, and they know better the expectations for their work as well.
However, now that it is grade reporting time, I’ve encountered a significant problem. The way the traditional report card is set up leads to unclear communication about what my students have learned. This problem is manifested in two ways.
First, my grades are super-inflated. Because I care more about whether students ultimately get the skill more than how many times it takes for them to do it, I let them re-do work when they don’t “get it” the first time. (The reasoning behind “re-do’s” is not something I want to debate or talk about here, but it is a worthy conversation.) Ultimately, however, many of my students have A’s–where in a traditional system, these same students might have high C’s or low B’s.
Second, if a teacher or parent were to look at my records of a student’s “I can” sheet, it would be abundantly clear to that teacher or parent what the student knows, how long it took that child to achieve that skill or knowledge, and whether the student had been responsible in completing the work. However, if a teacher or parent were to look at the grade report for that same student, the message would not match.
Take for example the following student’s work compared with his grade report.
I can sheet:
Notice all of the different color pen marks, scratch outs, etc. This sheet only shows about half of the process taken.
This high average is due to several factors, including the problem of averaging with assessments from the first marking period (since the grade report traditionally needs to be cumulative), and the fact that this report card shows nothing of the process Jimmy encountered. It took Jimmy many tries to achieve those marks in reading and writing, but that process is not listed here. The traditional grade book’s model–even one that uses standards based grading– assumes that process (or, lack-thereof, really) is averaged in to the overall grade, therefore the average is traditionally lower. Finally, the traditional grade book also doesn’t show that there are several assignments this student hasn’t completed. I will give this student an INC (incomplete) at the marking period if he doesn’t attempt this work.
This discrepancy between what I know and have records of vs. what my grade report shows leads me to wonder: what are grade reports for? In my recent conversations and in reading about assessment, it seems that there are two reasons we give grade reports. First, we give grade reports to show learning and process to both students and parents. Second, we give grade reports so that students can be “compared” to other students by our own school–for class placement, honor roll, etc– and outside institutions–colleges and those in the hiring world.
The current grade report we have is trying to do both at one time, and in attempting so, doing neither effectively.
So, here are my ideas for a new grade report that would meet both outcomes:
The important things to report for LEARNING include:
–Has your student accomplished the required skills?
–Has your student accomplished the skill at an acceptable or an advanced level? (ex. the difference between a 3 or 4 on the Gusky scale).
The important things to report for PROCESS include:
— At what RATE did the student accomplish the skill? (ex. did your student finish the work immediately and at a high level, or did it take him multiple tries? This is important process information because it helps teachers to know how much and what type of differentiation each child would need.)
— Responsibility (did the student meet deadlines, follow directions, take initiative, etc?)
The important thing to report for COMPARISON includes:
— Based on the above criteria, compared with the other students I teach, what “rank” in the class would you give this student? Top 10%, Upper Middle, Middle, Lower Middle, or Bottom 10%? (ex. I’d rank Jimmy as Middle overall.)
So here is what my *first draft* new grade report would look like if I were the boss: