I felt the pressure - big time - this past school year.
It was much tougher to go without grades this year than in the previous two.
One upset parent was the start of the pressure in October.
Migraines made the pressure worse.
I run into so many walls.
I feel up against so very much.
- Students prioritize other classes first.
- We still have to condense all they've learned into one arbitrary letter at the end of each quarter.
- No matter how much I communicate home to parents, it never seems to be enough.
- I do not know the percentage of parents who look at the feedback I provide.
- I do not know the percentage of students who look at the feedback.
- I do not know if students will remember these grading lessons learned.
- I do not know if students challenged other teachers' grading practices this year.
- I do not know if students will challenge future teachers regarding grading practices.
- The old ways of grading are so ingrained in our students and parents.
- In my opinion, standards-based grading can't come soon enough to my district.
- I have written reflections and how to go without grades on my blog, but it will never be perfect.
I'm stressed out about trying this for the fourth year in a row.
So I'll look at what I've learned - again and again...
I DO know...
- many students stop working in May, no matter the grading practices.
- some students wait until the last minute to revise (just like when I was using points).
- some students often see themselves as "A" or "C" students, no matter the proof.
- video feedback on student writing is powerful - IF students watch it.
- there have been no requests for extra credit the past few years.
- some students (and parents) don't understand how arbitrary grading can be.
- some parents appreciate the feedback instead of the averaging of points.
- some parents care more about the final grade than the students.
- I (most likely) keep parents in the loop more than any other teacher on my team.
- students who want to do well will put forth the effort.
- the more relevant our assignments, the more buy-in from students.
- 1:1 conferences are non-negotiable. The more, the better.
- it did sink in for some students that "It's not about the grade; it's about the learning."
I'm grateful for supportive administration.
I'm grateful for a supportive co-teacher.
I'm grateful for students who say not grading made a difference for them.
I'm grateful for the lessons students teach ME about grades and feedback.
I'm grateful for the 1:1 conferences we had each quarter.
What will I change and what will I keep next school year based on how this past year went?
I am considering going back to points next year,
IF I DID go back to points...
- There will not be 100 point scales on anything.
- Students can continue to revise writing.
- Comprehension checks can be deleted/excused if/when students show progress.
- Heck - ANYTHING can be deleted/excused if/when students show progress.
- I will attempt as many standards-based moves as possible.
This means homework, effort, compliance, neatness and behavior will not be included. Ever. It will probably always make me cringe just thinking about including those!
- I will continue to have 1:1 conferences - about reading, writing, progress, and goals.
- I will continue to do my best to make the curriculum relevant.
- I will continue to share with parents what's wrong with grades along with keeping them updated on our lessons in class.
- I will continue to be an evangelist of using quality feedback and goal-setting over points/marks.
I am considering an "opt-in" option (to no points), although it may mean different work for me - but less stress. Perhaps I could host an extra parent night to explain the reasons why and to share how it will look with just those parents who are interested. The plan would be that this would help parents and students make the most of the narrative feedback in the online gradebook. I would love to make this meeting mandatory to all who opt in. This idea seems like too much, but maybe it's how I can make it work for certain students.
I will leave the decision open until September, because we never know how our next classes will go, how my outlook can change, and what I can learn from my PLN that will help me make this decision. As always, comments, suggestions, and links in the space provided below are so very valuable and much appreciated! I'm sure there will be more thoughts on this to come as they percolate through my head all summer - such things happen when educators are so passionate about something.
I've got to share this online binder once again... tinyurl.com/FeedbackBinder