Today I submitted grades.
I gave up on Schoolloop because I didn’t want to erase the data already there, so I created a new grade book in Excel. This is my second period–not my best; they’re still waking up–with their names erased.
The assignments go as follows:
- Workbook pages on the Reformation (Reading Notes)
- A quiz on the Reformation with 5 questions (the negative numbers are the number of questions they missed)
- Students rewrote the state social studies standard for that particular assignment (SS)
- Cornell Notes on the Reformation
- A paragraph evaluating reformers other than Luther
- A hand-drawn map of China (Tang and Song dynasties and modern borders) and surrounding countries
- A paragraph comparing and contrasting meritocracies and aristocracies
- A single-point rubric assignment where they assessed each others’ work
- A quiz on Japan
- The online reflection (more below)
- The grade the students gave themselves
- The grade I thought they deserved
- Their final grades
Codes go as follows:
- 0 = they didn’t do it
- 1- = it’s incomplete/unfinished
- 1 = it’s finished but student has made no attempt to revise it and it’s not proficient
- 1+ = student has made an effort to revise it/it’s almost done
- 2 = proficient
- NIF = not in folder (we’re using an online portfolio system)
- Half = student only photographed half of the assignment for their portfolio
In order for my students to assess themselves and report the grade they thought they deserved, they needed some kind of guidelines.
- A = 2s in everything, maybe one 1+
- B = 2s in almost every assignment; no more than one 1+, no 1s or 1- grades
- C = 2s in at least half of your assignments; no more than two 1+s; no more than two 1s
- D = 2s in fewer than half of your assignments; no more than three 1+s, no more than three 1s
Now of course because this is the first time we’re starting all this, and the end of the semester was at hand, and I have never done this before, and because the thought of having an entire classroom with nothing to do for four days while I conference with individual students seemed unpleasant, I had students do their grade conferencing via Google Forms.* I had them assess their work habits, record their scores for each assignment, and compare them to the grade guidelines.
They didn’t do this.
They assessed their work habits, recorded their scores, but most of them did not measure those scores against the grade guidelines. And that led to some overly-inflated self-grading.
One of the questions on the form was “do you agree with the grade you’ve selected? If ‘no,’ explain why.” Whenever a student selected “no,” I recorded the grade they self-reported and put an asterisk next to it to show we needed to meet further. I also put asterisks next to anyone who severely over- (or under-) inflated their grade.
I then addressed my periods and said that they could come after school during “office hours” (which I posted on the white board) to get help, discuss their grades, make up work, etc. I got about 18 students over the course of 5 days and I was able to help all but one.
One major drawback of this system was this: I kept having to re-print, re-cut, and re-tape spreadsheets to my cupboards, and sometimes I’d forget to hide names, and students had no access to it at home. So if I use this method next year I’m putting it in Google Sheets and sharing it with my students.
However, I’ll probably be using Schoolloop next year, at least until the district decides to cancel our subscription.
I’m reading this article by Zerwin on using an online grade book with a gradeless system. And I started thinking about grade codes for Schoolloop. I didn’t want to mess with my history grade book, but we also teach a 1st period, non-academic, C/NC class called Advisory, and I had nothing in my grade book there for fourth quarter. So I began futzing with codes and the like.
Here’s my Schoolloop grade book with no points values entered.
And here it is with point values added.
The first is much easier. In the first, you set no points values for the assignments and it simply never calculates a grade.
For the second, I created a grade scale with a floor of 0% for “Failing” and a floor of 70% for “Passing” because, frankly, I don’t feel a kid deserves a passing grade if they haven’t done any of the work, precluding a serious grade conference. (Of course there are reasons. I had a kid break his right arm in 6 places once. He came to school doped up on painkillers for two weeks and couldn’t write for six more. Not his fault he didn’t learn much because he was in so much pain. Etc.) Though I probably should set the ‘passing’ floor at 60%.
I used the scores that Zerwin chose, and for the same reasons: they measure how much of the work is completed. Not how good a job a kid has done, etc. etc. They’re basically like loading bars. You are 75% of the way through the work you need to do kinda thing. So let’s say the student is practicing the skill “basic computer usage.” It comes with five assignments. You put all five in the gradebook, mark them all under the category “computer skill,” and assess how far along each kid is in each assignment. You can weight each category, too. I teach history, so computer skills might account for 5% of my class, whereas research skills, citations, etc. might account for a lot more. That gets tricky, though, because middle school students have trouble understanding weighting. It would be easier on the kids to vary the point value of each assignment than to teach them how weighting works unless you really want to invest that time vs. their incomplete frontal lobes.
All geekery aside, I had trouble going gradeless all the way to the very end of the school year. Students still asked me what their grade was on each assignment. Students still had trouble remembering that they could go back and repair assignments. It just didn’t occur to them. And I kept thinking and saying “grade” instead of “assess” or “score.” It’s hard to change a lifetime of thinking in seven weeks.
Going back to report card grading … I looked at their self-reported grades, and I reflected on the work I’d seen them do (I took notes), and I kept in mind their IEPs, their language challenges, their housing challenges, etc. For some of them I went back through their portfolios to see just how close to “proficient” they were on the paragraphs and reading notes and determined their grades based on that. And I spot-checked. For several students I recalculated their grades based on my old system (Missing = 50%) and a traditional system (Missing = 0%) and my new system seems to be incrementally kinder to my students right now than my old system was. I am hoping that, by the end of next year, my students (I’m keeping the same kids) will have figured out that they have a lot of chances to demonstrate proficiency and will take steps to revise their work in a timely fashion, so they don’t try to write a paragraph on the Reformation, that was due in early May, in mid-June.
I haven’t read my class evaluations yet, but several of my students have informally told me that they like this system better because they get more chances to work on their work.
*I have no idea if you can see the form. It might be limited to people in my school district only. Please let me know if you can’t see it.