Sunday, October 26, 2014

TOMMIE SAYLOR: Don't miss the ball when considering a student's grade

“The past decades of education have trained students and teachers to focus on grades rather than learning. Unfortunately, grades are generally an account of points earned through various activities that are influenced by artificial deadlines, grade inflation, extra credit, and subjectivity. It's time for us to change the student mind-set currently focused on reaching a particular percentage and instead empower them to take charge of their learning and measure their own success.”
-- Focus on Learning, Not Grades, by Brad Kuntz

By Tommie Saylor
Kennedy High School Principal

We need to consider how we assess a student’s mastery of the material taught.  Remember, a letter grade is nothing more than a symbol that is intended to convey a message to the student and the student’s parents as to the level of proficiency the student has achieved in regards to the content material taught in class. 

This symbol should only take into consideration the student’s knowledge, their understanding of the material, and educational level of competence.  Unfortunately, we as educators have a tendency to incorporate items into this symbol that have absolutely nothing to do with measuring the level of the student’s proficiency. 

We incorporate the student’s ability to follow directions or remember a command and control procedure, and fool ourselves into believing that this is good for the student because these are important attributes they will need later in life.  Though this may be true, the ability to follow directions, take commands, and adhere to due dates and time schedules are important traits for students to learn, they have nothing to do with their level of understanding of the material taught.

Therefore, when assigning a student a grade, that grade assigned should be pure, the symbol used should only reflect the student’s level of competence over the material taught, it should be void of logistical constraints.  Otherwise, our symbols used to denote a student’s level of aptitude becomes misleading, irrelevant, and deceitful.

Attendance, ability to turn work in on time, ability to follow specific instructions, ability to stay out of trouble has nothing to do with a student’s mastery of content material.  Simply, a student can be a pain in our necks, disrespectful, and even disobedient, and though we may discipline this student, it should not reflect negatively on their content grade. 

All of this is about being a professional, honestly evaluating a student’s ability regardless whether the student is a “good” kid or a “bad” kid, regardless if you “like” or “dislike” the student. Remember, the grades you assign a student speaks as much about the instructor as it does about the student.  It speaks about the instructor’s integrity, the student’s ability, and the school’s authenticity.

With this, I would urge everyone to reflect upon the grading procedure and drive out those things that have nothing to do with measuring a student’s mastery over the material taught.  Find other ways to encourage turning in assignments on time, following specific instructions, making sure their names are on their papers. 

Let it be, that when we report out to the student’s parents by assigning a letter grade, it truly reflects the student’s ability.  Remember, once a grade is placed on a student’s transcripts, it is there forever, for the rest of that student’s life the grade will speak about the student. Let it be pure, pristine, and unspoiled … a true reflection.

What starts here, changes the world. Making Kennedy the school of choice. Excellence by design….

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