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Mar 20

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Change in Grading Policy for Mr. G’s Science

Mr. G's wimped out avatar.Monday, March 22, 2010, students were given copies of their final grades for the 2nd trimester. Students received a progress report along with a letter for parents. I drafted that letter after an earlier blog post I wrote about grades. I’ve come to the decision that grading my students is doing harm. Based on conversations I’ve had with other teachers and some articles and books I’ve read I’m going to stop giving my students grades. My reason for abolishing grades is to help students learn Science and to help them enjoy learning. Students should experience success and failure not as rewards and punishments but as information.

Please read the letter I sent home and/or the blog post I wrote. There is a survey on the blog post that I’d like to have parents fill out. Once I get feedback from parents I’ll write a follow-up article and letter about the results.

I have a sample progress report to show parents what they can expect to see when there are no grades or marks. It’s similar to how the elementary uses standards-based grading. You can see the sample here where I will be posting 3rd trimester progress reports. Here are the standards 6th graders will be learning in the 3rd trimester and here are the standards 7th and 8th graders will be learning in the 3rd trimester. Paper copies of those documents also went home on Monday the 22nd. Please come see me if you would like to discuss this new policy.

Mr. González

Check out the  Homework Section of my website to see what we are doing in Science everyday.

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  1. Kim Thacker

    this is a tough one for me to swallow. Tough to shift the thinking away from the model our kids have grown up with, (as well as adults). My thoughts on this are that while I admire and can somewhat understand the concept you are trying to achieve with learning, I still believe the grading system is working. My girls have both always tested well and that reflects they are understanding. The grading system in place is only guiding them towards higher learning and maintaining high standards to have success in college. All colleges and universities use grades and scoring to even get in! I will be following the progress of your new idea (new to Chimacum, anyways) and look forward to their success in science. I have told them all along, that success in math and or science could practically garantee them a scholarship, (based partly on their gender), and also provide a solid base for higher learning. I will encourage full understanding of the concepts, while I still feel this should be reflected with a good old fashioned “A”.

  2. Mr. G

    Hey Kim,

    I really appreciate your comment. Thank you! We get stuck doing things because they’ve always been done that way and because they are done that way in high school and college. Many do well in this system because they’ve figured out what they need to do to get the A’s and believe me, I understand the power that A has over us. In short, the good news is that I can give A’s at the midterm and at the end of term on Skyward. In the long run though I really would like to see students learning because it’s valuable to them and not for the reward, so I’m going to continue to challenge the way we’ve always done things. Another reason I’m challenging the way we’ve always done things is because in this day and age, it’s just not working. One thing I’ve been telling kids is since they won’t have grades they need to keep assignments in their notebooks as evidence of their learning. I said that when parents come in to see how their child is doing I can get the Science notebook and show them instead of just saying, “your child is getting an A,” or a B or a C or a D or an F. Those letters don’t really tell anything about what the child is learning. As I wrote in the letter I sent home, I’d rather talk with parents about what their child is learning, how their child is learning and how their child is getting along with others in class.

    At least in Science I’m hoping to see students continue learning what they find interesting and not stop because they’re already flunking with a D or an F or they’ve already gotten an A. I’m hoping that when students think back to middle school Science they’ll remember what they learned and not what letter grade they got. It was revealing when I asked all my 6th graders what they remember about their 5th grade report card. I heard students tell me about 1’s, 2’s, 3’s and 4’s. But when I asked what standards they got those numbers for, not a single student remembered. It’s what the studies show, when people do something for a reward it’s the reward that takes precedence and it’s the reward that they remember. The saddest part for me to learn when I read Kohn’s book is that people who do something for a reward end up not interested in doing that thing once they get the reward. Highly motivated kids who plan to become doctors or scientists have a long-term goal to continue learning Science but the majority will not. I can’t believe it when a 6th graders tells me they hate Science or that they are not god at Science. Not good at Science? Trying to figure out how the world works is natural so I can’t stand it when children tell themselves they can’t do it. I see my job in middle school is to help my students become scientifically literate but also to love Science and even to love learning. In this century, in order to be successful we all have to be life-long learners.

    This one teacher from Alberta, Canada, Joe Bower, has been blogging for quite a while now because he stopped giving grades to his 8th grade students five years ago. He’s put links to all his blog articles about grading here. Check it out, he brings up some very interesting points and challenges the ways we’ve been doing things vs the ways we can do things.

    Let’s keep this conversation going. It would be great if more parents can join in so they don’t feel worried. I had a nice conversation with Maggie and Kris about this, too. We can work together through this change.

    Al Gonzalez

  3. Anonymous

    I dont quite understand, will this affect gpa’s? Well are you just going to give everybody an A if they understand it? Some kids need to know this. My child is very sensitive with grades. They need a 4.0!! Is this science still going to affect it? Can you still get an A-? I understand the reasons for doing this, there are both pros and cons with this. For us, the cons worry me.

  4. Alfonso Gonzalez

    Students brainstormed and came up with the idea to get a Pass or No Pass so they can concentrate on the learning without focusing on grades. I thought that was a great idea. For those who want to maintain a good GPA I can certainly put letter grades at end of term on Skyward. Just like the Pass/No Pass I can put A or F on Skyward instead for those families who would prefer that. I can also give a letter grade at midterm but I want students to focus on the quality of their work and whether or not they are understanding the standards.

    How does that sound?

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