Well That Explains It…but I Don’t Like it!

Oh golly geez (yeah I really say that). Had a meeting yesterday with teachers from one of our feeder pattern schools (the elementary schools my students attend before coming to us). The purpose was to discuss procedures and find ways to transition the students better. One thing we talked about was the kids not caring about classwork/homework. The teachers told us the kids knew if they did not do it it would not mess up their grade too much. Um what?! What they proceeded to tell us has kept me up all night. BUT it answered A LOT of questions.

They told us that classwork/homework/projects are only worth up to 20% of grade for each subject. The other 80% is on assessment/tests. Yep tests. Assessments on reading levels/math levels etc. How on Earth could you teach if you had to give this many test?!

This explains so much. My class grades are only 20% based on tests/assessments while the other 80% is on projects, classwork, participation in discussion, etc. It takes me the first 9 weeks just to get the students to do this 80%. They could care less about finishing work. I usually do not even grade for correctness, I mostly focus on whether or not they follow the learning process. Getting them to do this is like pulling teeth. Eventually they have an “Ah-Ha” moment and begin to participate in class. Classwork has never amounted to much for them, but now it is what determines most of their grade.

Another issue I usually have is the parents and students freaking out about tests.  They are very demanding my study guides go home a week before tests. The kids also panic when they score low on a test. They automatically think they will fail.

I could not imagine spending so much time on activities in class and they could for only 1% or less for a grade.  Why can’t observation of learning  not be the most important. What is point of allowing students to discover/think/solve if only facts and processes count. What is more important, a student knowing multiplication facts or a student who can discover the formula for a graph or pattern?

I find this so messed up. It is not the teacher’s fault. Their “coaches” have required grades to weigh in this manner. BUT this information does help me to know where my students are coming from. This is why everything taught is questioned “Will this be on test?” or “Will this count?” Next year I know where to start. I have an understanding of where they are coming from and will start off immediately reminding students how important my class really is.

There are too many ways to assess student learning beyond tests. Memorizing facts should not be the only way.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Interesting post, I quit giving grades on homework a few years ago and instead only gave grades on assessments. Yes, some assessments were standard tests, others were projects the students did. I thought it was only fair to give a grade showing what my students did or did not master (as well as I could define it). To me, the homework was practice. I also let my students retest as often as necessary for them to achieve the grade they wanted.

    Ultimately this made the grading of homework insignificant. We reviewed it all in class and I noted who did/did not complete the work. Then after the assessment I could often show the students why they did poorly or did well. Practically this meant I had only one or two grades per week for each class. It saved a lot of time for me and I feel it better reflected my students knowledge of the subject matter.

  2. amandacdykes says:

    Well guess what. I don’t give homework grades either. The reason being, I do not give homework. When I taught math I did assign homework and only gave credit for completion. But I do give in class assignments. My classes are 90 minutes every other day. So for 90 minutes we have a variety of activities. I may lecture for 15/20 minutes then they do other things for the rest of class. Some days are just reading assignments then discussion of what they read – our standardized test scores are mostly low on textual reading so I do use text books for this reason.

    My kids have become awesome “learners” and “questioners” this year. That needs to be assessed and count for something. I think learning goes beyond the facts I MUST assess.

    I love to do problem based learning in my class. You said “projects” were part of grade. These teachers cannot count projects as assessments. ONLY tests. Most of these tests are dibbels, drills, AR, etc. Is that REALLY mastery?

  3. gaithergirl says:

    well coming from that feeder school i can tell you that the creativity is being sucked from us each and every day. we are told what to teach, when to teach it, how many grades we can give for each thing (i.e. x amount of tests, x amount of quizzes, x amount of fresh reads, etc.). and what exactly they want us to test. it is getting out of hand and it’s taking away the freedom of the teachers. my homework grades are solely who at least attempted to do it, because i know that many kids have no help at all at home and the other half have parents that are doing the work. they really do make it difficult for us on the elementary school level, but oh yeah i forgot – by 2014 this method will have them all ‘fixed’ and we won’t have to worry about modifications, special education, or any of those other things. okay, i’m stepping off of my high horse now. i just had to get that out.

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