If anyone knows me, they know a huge stress and angst I have felt this year in my teaching job this year has been due to over regulation of the teachers by the administration. Specifically its over regulation of grading practices and policies. That is what I intend to focus on today for my perfect school.
Last year I implemented a grade weighting system intended to show more clearly a correlation between grades and learning. I call it the 90-10 weighting. The summative assessments are weighted heavier than the formative assessments, specifically in my class ninety percent of a grade is determined by their summative assessments and ten percent of a grades is determined by the formative assessments.
Formative? Summative? What do you mean Adam? For those of you who are not educators I will explain these terms. Formative assessments are those assignments that form the knowledge or skills students need to learn. This would be like the notes, in class assignments, and homework given by the teacher. It is there so that the student can practice and accurately form the knowledge correctly. Summative assessments are those things that summarize what the students learn, like tests, quizzes, essays, projects, etc. Everyone clear on the vocabulary? (Seven second pause for questions) Good moving on.
The reason behind this grading weighting is to put the emphasis back on learning not on the process or how hard the student works. I explain it to my students like this. What things that the teacher gives you to do in class really tell you, as a student, if learned the material. Does the homework tell you learned the material? Do the notes show you learned the material? Most kids instinctively point to their tests as that things that tells them if they learned the material. So if we are grading based on what they learn tests, quizzes, projects and other summative assessments need to be the largest grade weight in the class. The grade then reflects what they have learned.
In my school we would have a system similar to this. It would be the policy of the school that teachers would have to implement a form of this system. Summative assessments would be the largest weighted grade. It would then be up to the departments and/or individual teachers to determine what they proper division between summative and formative would be.
One criticism that I have heard on this system is the fact that a student could take the quizzes never do any of the assignments and still pass the class. That is very true. I know a student who did just that. He was a smart kid. He came up to me about three weeks into the year and asked me, “If I just pass the quizzes and don’t do any of the homework can I still pass your class?” I said, “Yes, because you are proving to me that you learned the material.”
Other criticisms I hear is about kids who are poor tests takers or don’t get it the first time. A teacher will need to make allowances for factors like that. A policy they implemented this year at my school is the ability to retake an assessment they did not do well on. That would also be the policy of the school. The teacher can set reasonable guidelines for a student to retake or assign an alternative assessment. To some that means you have to correct your quiz first. For me it involves doing all the assignments you may have not completed before that assessment was given. Either way the poor test taker and the student who maybe a little bit slower still has a chance to show the teacher that they learned the material.
I plan on addressing grading policy a little bit more in detail but this is good place to start. Comments or questions? (Side note: Blogspot does not seem to recognize summative as a real word.)