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Lesson Plans


Re: Those awful grades

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
EVasso
Wed, 16 Oct 1996 22:44:08 -0400


In a message dated 96-10-16 21:01:00 EDT, kblack (kathleen c
black) writes:

<< I want to make a statement to my school district powers that be,
and I am looking for some ammunition. I believe that grades should not be
given for art work to children in early elementary grades. All my
students, grades 1-4 love art and they do not have problems participating.
At present, I am asked to give them a grade for their art work, and another
for participation. This may be so the parent or guardian can say," My child
is a better artist than my neighbor" or for some other inane reason. I
have never noticed a student to be concerned about a grade he or she might
receive. Since I know I have to establish some kind of notation for report
card reasons, I have proposed a S for satisfactory effort, or U for
unsatisfactory effort. Some kind of notation might be noted for a student
who goes above and beyond, such as wanting to come in to art during "free
time" or asking to stay after school to experiment with art matierials, or
someone with a special talent which might need extra nurturing. Do any of
you have any ideas that I might add when I go before my administrators?
Kathy B.

>>
Kathy,

I had been trying to convince board and adminstration of the goofyness of
giving a grade to my students for more than a dozen years. To no avail.

Until last year. About this time the district (its a small district: five
elementary schools and a middle school) was in the middle of a program to
put a Mac on each teachers' desk. The Macs came equipt with Clarisworks which
contains a data base environment. I took a look at the data base and realized
that I could put together a report to each parent which would include a list
of the activities the student had participated in, a concise grid which would
allow for a 1 or 0, meets/does not meet expectations, in four areas including
effort, skills, participation and conceptual understanding, and an area for a
brief narrative, a comment using my "oreo cookie" approach of something
positive, something about an area for improvement, followed by something
positive.

This proposal, draped in the banner of "technology use" was accepted. 550
reports each trimester. It became doable because I entered the comments as I
went along, updating each Friday. This became verfy helpful to me as it
provided an opportunity to sit down and reflect on what the children were
doing, needed help on, were kicking butt on.

The students love it because they have a written comment that they can take
home, something which is clearly more meaningful than a letter in a box. The
parents are fine with it. I always used to get a phone call or two or ten
from parents after report cards asking why their child only got a "B." These
conversations always drove me bonkers. Now there is no parental comparing of
grades since there is nothing to compare; grades being a relative/norm based
measurement and my report not. My problem now is that because this change was
done in a technology framework, it is not connected to something more in
terms of rethinking curriculum, in terms of the way we talk about student
achievement and performance. I like what has happened but I'm kind of stuck
here trying to figure how to push things further (farther?). Good luck with
your struggle against "those awful grades."

-Fred