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The Business End, Part One: Project 180, Day 91

“But it’s a ‘D.’ On Skyward, it’s a ‘D.'”

During our recent grading conferences, I gave kids a chance to offer recommendations/suggestions to our grading approach. Most shared that they liked it just the way it was. Many made no suggestions. Some suggested that we change the 3, 2, 1 scale because on Skyward, our online grade book, a 2 registers as a D. Some even went on to offer alternatives ranging from 5-point to 10-point scales. In fact, a few offered rather detailed plans with corresponding rationales. I was impressed, and I listened, but I respectfully declined their offers, thanking them for their input. Here’s why.

To be fair, they are not wrong. It does show up as a D on Skyward. I, too, find this bothersome and unfortunate. If a parent is not adequately familiar with our approach, then this could be problematic, especially if their child is unable to sufficiently explain the approach. Of course, this is not necessarily the result of our not trying on our end to be communicative with parents about our approach, but we do acknowledge that what we send home does not always get home, so when the situation arises, our hope would be that a parent contact us, so we have an opportunity to explain. Still, one’s knowledge of our approach does not change the bump in the road that Skyward is. It’s a problem. Can’t deny that, for it is neither readily nor conveniently adaptable to our approach. So, we have had to make do as best we can. And that making do, if you will, is about educating parents and students to think differently about grades. No, small task.

My gradeless colleagues, Jenna Tamura and Madeline Alderete, and I have been in and out and around this issue. We know the glitches that exist and persist as we bring our approach and Skyward together. And we have tried to make it work as best we can, but we concede that it will never be a perfect marriage, so we just keep tweaking, trying to honor not only our approach but also our kids and parents.

With this in mind, here are some tweaks that we have made to our approach for second semester.

We will no longer report practice on Skyward. We made this change for a couple of reasons. First, some background. Going back to earlier in the year, we discovered that if we did not enter a “counted” score, then our grade book would not show up on the student or family end. So, we decided, for better or worse, to go ahead and enter both practice and performance as “count” scores (both 3-point scales). This was not ideal, but it would give parents a sense, albeit only an approximate sense, of progress. And though it never really created too many issues with parents, we were worried that it might create false positives–or negatives, especially with the addition of practice scores.

For instance, a kid who had only done marginally well on performances but had diligently completed all practice, might have a percentage that communicated a “higher grade” than what the performances (the only evidence kids could use to support their selected grades in the end) reflected. Conversely, a kid who had scored 3’s on all performances but did not complete all practice, may have a percentage that communicated a “lower grade” than what the performances reflected. And in the end, it is–and was–about the performances. Practice did not come into play during our grading conferences. So, with that in mind, we have decided to no longer include practice in Skyward. But there is more to it than Skyward.

Practice is important. Our approach to learning relies on it. In the end we are asking kids to perform, and to support that, we have to give them practice. But we have decided to approach practice differently. As we reflected on the learning from semester one, we came to recognize that the most powerful learning moments for our kids came from their performances. It was here that they were growing, and it’s no wonder, for it was here that they were getting the necessary nutrients to grow. They were getting feedback. Even more, they were given, through additional required and redo performances, the opportunity to apply what they had learned from the feedback. And as we made our way through our grading conferences it became apparent as kids pointed to their evidence that the performances were key to kids’ growth. So, I had a thought. Performance as practice…

To be continued… Tomorrow, in Part 2, I will explain. But I’m out of time this morning. Sorry.

Today’s Trail

Along today’s trail we will…

…begin with Smiles and Frowns.

…continue our Holocaust/Injustice unit. We are going to watch the Book Thief. We are going to explore among other questions whether it’s an appropriate representation of the Holocaust and if movies have a place in the ELA classroom. 

…reflect in our Journey Journals.

…end with a Sappy Sy Rhyme.

Happy Tuesday, all. Sorry for the uninspiring, incomplete post this morning. I guess that’s what happens when one sits down with no idea of what he’s going to write about.

Do. Reflect. Do Better.

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