I received an email today at 7:09 AM from a parent:
Mrs. Lepre, why aren’t you using the traditional grades in your class? What does a “3” mean? It’s easiest for me to look at A B C grades to keep up with how she’s doing. I never agreed with pretending WE ARE ALL DOING GREAT. If they EARNED an F, then let that be an F, not a 0. Let’s keep it REAL WORLD for them. High school and college are on letter grades.
To which I replied at 7:34 AM:
I understand that it’s easier for your to keep up with her grades if I used a traditional grading system, however that letter doesn’t let her know where she needs to improve to prepare for high school.
Last year, my goal was to help the students ease into middle school and bring them to a more level playing field in terms of their reading and writing. This year my goal is to amp t up and get them ready for the rigors of writing in high school. That requires me to give more specific feedback so that both the student and I know where they need to improve. If I give them a score of 1, 2, 3, or 4 on a specific standard, then they know exactly where their strengths and weaknesses are.
I also want to take the pressure of the grade out of the picture, which I know is a foreign idea for many. If students don’t have to worry about grades as long as they commit to improving and working on their weaknesses, then they will learn to be more reflective and independent. If a student knows that their main area of weakness is capitalization and punctuation, they will be sure to not only try o improve those skill, but also double-check for them prior to submitting an assignment.
Honestly, most grades in most classes tell students how smart or motivated they are, but they in no way provide feedback on what to do next. If I earned a D on a science test, it most likely means i didn’t study, didn’t get it, or didn’t care. If I retake it and still earn a D, then what? But if I give a student a 3 on “citing the strongest evidence” or a 2 on “author’s main claim,” then they know that they’re on the right track for evidence and need to focus on main claim.
Finally, grading them this way also gives me a better picture of each student. Before I implemented this, I’d look at the sea of A’s and B’s but not necessarily remember how each of my 180 students wrote. Now, when I look at their scores on the standards, I know who needs small-group reteaching, and who needs to be stretched a little more. I can basically personalize their learning more than I could before.
I’m actually surprised that it took this long to get a reaction from a parent about my new grading system. With my particular group of students comes parents that are really involved in their education, which I LOVE. Therefore this new way of looking at grading might be uncomfortable for them, but in the long run, I thin it’s beneficial for all.
This video also adds to my argument.