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Conversation with Kaitlin: Project 180, Day 44



“It’s a ‘D’!”

“No, it’s a ‘near miss.'”

I use a 3-point scale in the grade book to report completion of practice and proficiency on performance. I adhere to the language of a target. 3=hit. 2=Near Miss. 1=Far Miss. 0=Missing. It’s a new language for the kids who are accustomed to percentage-based grades. And so, when they see 66% in Skyward, they think “D” instead of Near Miss.

“Kaitlin, you have to quit thinking in terms of percentages. You have to start thinking in terms of, ‘There is a target. I am asking you to take aim at that target and ‘shoot.’ After you have done so, we will evaluate how closely you came to hitting the target. You scored a 2 on the performance which means you missed the target, but importantly, it was a ‘near miss.’ You were close. And then we can discuss how you can adjust your aim next time, so you can hit the target.'”

And the next time is the key. I put the standards in front of my kids multiple times so they have ample opportunity to take aim, adjusting their aim in response to my feedback. For some, next time also becomes “retakes,” which I encourage, trying to instill the notion that assessment is for learning, that each time we do and adjust and do again, we learn. That is the goal.

“But what about all the practice?” Kaitlin pressed.

“Practice is just that, kiddo. Practice. I report completion of practice as a record to your parents of what you are doing in my class. I work hard to ensure that the practice prepares for performance. But in the end, it’s the performance that matters, for that is where you demonstrate growth and proficiency.”

“So, I don’t have to do the practice?”

“Right. It’s a choice. I want you to do it because you find value in it. I want you to see that it leads to better performances.”

“So, it doesn’t help my grade?”

“Well, technically, no. But it doesn’t hurt it either. If Kyle doesn’t do any of the practice but scores 3 on all the performances, he is in a strong position to make a case for an A at the end of the semester. Of course, this will likely be an exceptional case, but I am not going to punish him for not doing the practice if it was not necessary for his success. I want you to do ALL of the practice. Of course, I do, but again, I want you to do it because you have discovered it is a path to proficiency.”

“So it’s all about the tests?”

“Well, performances, yes. But you have multiple opportunities to retake until you have demonstrated proficiency. And that’s by design, kiddo. I want you to redo and retake. I think it’s a necessary part of the learning process.”

“Okay,” she nodded.

Midterm is Friday, so grades have become a part of the discussion in room 211. Kids have an opportunity to select and support a grade (see self-evaluation below). There is not enough time to confer with each kid, so the self-evaluation is what I will use to report grades at midterm. I will post whatever they select. At term, in a grading conference, they will have to convince me with evidence of growth and proficiency with the standards, and we will then come to consensus on a grade that we can both live with. I did give the kids a little direction. As they considered their midterm mark, I told them that if they are scoring 3’s on the performances then an A is fair representation of their achievement at this point, etc.

Of course, I would just as soon that we not have to shove learning into a letter, but I have not the power to escape that reality. So, in the meantime, I will continue to try and make learning more meaningful for my learners, even if it’s not a neat and tidy fit within the system. By no means have I discovered the way, but I believe I am moving towards a way, a way that will no doubt require more conversations with Ms. Kaitlin, a way that will eventually result in my kids rethinking their learning. Their learning.

Today’s Trail

Along today’s trail we will…

…begin with Smiles and Frowns.

…wrap up our theme work with “By Any Other Name.”

…reflect in our Journey Journals.

…end with a Sappy Sy Rhyme.

Happy Wednesday, all. Still feeling crappy. Hope I can kick this cold.

Do. Reflect. Do Better. 



2 Replies to “Conversation with Kaitlin: Project 180, Day 44”

  • You hit the target with this one Syrie! Thanks for sharing your journey.

    Just add “yet”.

    You have not “yet” the power of escaping the reality of shoving learning into a letter, but you and your teachers going gradeless cohorts are in the process of learning/leading us into a new reality.

    Thank you.

    • Thank you, Melissa. Funny, almost added “yet” as I was writing it this morning, and then thought better, for I didn’t want to come across the wrong way. I truly hope yet is around the bend. Either way, I plan to stay the course. Thank you for the encouraging words and consistent support. Means a lot.

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