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[teacherartexchange] The ethics/fairness of grading


From: Sharon (sharon_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Mon Feb 09 2009 - 16:54:15 PST

Marvin brought up a MOST interesting point--and something that I
always consider with my students:

On Sat, Feb 7, 2009 at 2:30 PM, Marvin Bartel wrote:
"One aspect of fairness in grading relates to growth. A student who
starts out very strong can coast and still might expect to get a high
grade without learning anything. A student who starts our very low
may learn a lot but is often not given much credit because the final
work is still not as good as the work of the lazy student who started
out very high. Fairness should be explained in advance."

Over the years I've had a couple of "art stars"--immensely
skilled/talented kids who could whip out stellar drawings and
paintings, but who were lazy, arrogant and totally "uncoachable." For
that reason, I've included "work ethic" and homework (usually
pertaining to art history, specific artists or art techniques) as part
of a student's overall grade.

True story (and one I share with my HS students each year when I talk
with them about how they'll be graded):

When my son was in HS, he enrolled in a crafts class. One project was
macrame' and he had a horrible time with it--organization is not his
strong suit. He said he'd spend most of the class time just trying to
get it all untangled. He started bringing it home at night to work on
it just to try to get it completed, with all the required knots,
length, patterns, etc..

And he got an F on it.

I met with his teacher during conferences (odd to be on the opposite
side of the desk) and asked why he'd gotten a failing grade.

The teacher picked up a beautiful macrame' piece and said, "See this?
It's really perfect. It's a 100. And your son's piece was only half
as good, so it got a 50."

After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I quietly asked if she'd even
considered that he'd had to work at least twice as hard to produce
something "half as good..."

She blinked, but said the grade stood, I said fine, but that totally
reinforced the grading plan that I use with my students.

No, not all students get As (in fact few do) but I ABSOLUTELY pay
attention to their progress, their effort, their willingness to learn
new skills and to acquire art knowledge (even though the emphasis of
my classes is on art production).

And a related thought--one of my cousins is an art curator for the
state of NY. He admits that he can't draw "stick people" but he
always loved art, loved art history, got through his HS classes and
now loves his work. If he'd failed art simply due to his low skills,
he probably would have gotten completely turned off and never would
have pursued the work he does now.

I would never fail someone who was really trying to improve and
showing some progress. It takes time to work with students as
individuals (and I have the "luxury" of time in that respect, due to
my small class sizes), but as the big poster in my classroom says,
"For success, attitude is as important as ability."

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