Before we could make any changes we had to reach some consensus as a staff about our grading philosophy. Why do we grade students at all? After much debate, we decided on the following philosophy statement:
All Comstock Park High School grading and reporting practices will support the learning process and encourage student success.
We want everything that we do in our instructional program, including grading, to support student learning and encourage students to focus on the learning. Unfortunately, much of what we do in education today focuses students on working for the grade rather than working for the learning. Students often want to know how many points they will receive for an assignment or whether or not they will be graded for a task. We want to discourage this thinking and encourage students to focus on the value of learning for their own improvement.
We also want to encourage students to be fearless in their approach to learning. The current grading systems in place in almost all secondary school settings teach students to be fearful of mistakes and failures. We want students to be resilient; we want them to readily attempt difficult tasks and we want them to stick to it until they succeed.
Finally, we want to ensure that students have the opportunity to engage in their own success at any time. The current percentage based system over emphasizes the 0 and, as a result, students that fail to turn in their work very quickly eliminate the possibility of passing their class and often give up. We want a system that allows a student to recover if they chose to engage and bases the final grade primarily on demonstrated mastery of the content. We are not suggesting that there should be no consequence for failing to turn in work. We are suggesting that the consequence for failing to turn in work should be reasonable and appropriate.
Purpose for Grading Student Work
Once we had decided on a general philosophy, we had to specifically answer the question, "Why do we grade students." After seeking significant input from parents, students, and educators, we decided on one primary purpose or reason and for secondary purposes. The primary purpose for grading students is to provide information that students, staff, and parents can use to evaluation student growth and academic progress. We want to know what students are learning and what we can do to improve their learning. The four secondary purposes are:
1. Communicate achievement status to students, parents, and others. We live in a world where students are often rank ordered based on their demonstrated academic achievement and we need a system that allows for that ranking.
2. Identify students for appropriate educational programs and opportunities. We need good information so that we can provide effective guidance regarding the types of academic programs students should consider.
3. Evaluate the effectiveness of curricular programs and practices. We need a system that allows us as educators to evaluate our own practices to ensure that we are constantly improving the educational services that we provide for students.
4. Encourage students to engage in academically appropriate behaviors. Whether we like it or not, grades do serve as rewards and punishments for academic behaviors. We want a system that motivates students to engage in their learning.
In the next blog (later this week - I hope by Friday) I will discuss the proposed Grading Guidelines and the Rubric, Scale, GPA section of the proposal with some detail.