TODAY'S EVIDENCE TRUMPS LAST WEEK'S EXPERIENCE
I have had some great conversations with a number of your regarding grading in the recent weeks. The timing is appropriate since we just shared grades feedback with parents via conferences and report cards. I wanted to share some thoughts with you.
First of all what is a “grade,” and what is its purpose? Grading is the reporting tool we use to communicate with students, parents, and each other about academic ability. A grade is supposed to provide an accurate description of students' mastery towards learning standards. It is feedback. That’s it. It shouldn’t be a reward. It definitely should not be viewed as a consequence. It should not reflect a student’s behaviors. A grade must be accurate feedback on what a student can do in relationship to the standards and the expectations of meeting those standards. Otherwise, the grade is an inaccurate portrayal of the student’s abilities.
Your gradebook and your evaluations of students have been separated into learning targets- communicated through objectives. Schools are dynamic because kids are dynamic. Your instruction is dynamic. You are dynamically assessing these standards and skills to tell the kids where they are in relationship to your expectations, and instruction you need to revisit with them. Their “grade” should be evidence of their ability, their mastery of the content, today. Some students will demonstrate mastery their first attempt, and they should receive that feedback. Some will not, and they should receive feedback that they need remediation in that area. If they cannot, the answer is not to give them that feedback and move on. The answer is they need remediation until they master that skill. Then, again, they should receive feedback that today, they have demonstrated mastery.
If “test day” is the only day we assess ta child, we leave remediation up to them, and the chance for them to succeed diminishes vastly, and it will be impossible for you to know that they mastered the content. We must give a student an opportunity to demonstrate their current level of understanding at the end of unit, and the next time we assess those skills, and where they are today.
So where should the grades come from if not just from “test day?” You have the answer already… How do you evaluate the students’ success? Not, how do you grade students… How do you evaluate their success? It should be the same way we evaluate our own success- not one day, not one observation, not one week… You evaluate their success based on the evidence you see in a number of areas- the phrase I like to use is, the most recent preponderance of evidence.
Doug Reeves suggests that there are five levels of evidence:
- 1. Opinion – “This is what I believe, and I believe it sincerely.”
- 2. Experience – “This is what I have seen based on my personal observation.”
- 3. Local Evidence – “This is what I have learned based upon the evidence that includes not only my own experience but the experiences of my friends and colleagues.”
- 4. Preponderance of Evidence – “This is what we know as a profession based upon the systematic observations of many of our colleagues in many different circumstances in many different locations and at many different times.”
- 5. Mathematical Certainty – “Two plus two is four, and we really don’t need to vote on whether that statement is agreeable to everyone.” It is almost impossible to reach mathematical certainty in most conversations that we have in our field, and very rarely do we find it in our discussions as we try to influence positive change.
Most of the time, the best thing we can do is get to level four, a preponderance of evidence, which is very good. Mathematical Certainty is a wonderful aspiration, and we will be very wealthy if we discover how to do that with “grading.” Mathematical Certainty is not averages. Averages do not reflect current ability. I like to use the “riding a bike” example. If our expectation is that students can ride their bikes by November 6. Does it matter is Student A needed training wheels for the first two weeks, Student B needed someone guiding him for a month, and Student C was riding her bike on her own from day 1 if they all ride their bike equally well on November 6? What if Student A was the most advanced at riding her bike by November 6? What would happen if we averaged her first assessment when she needed training wheels compared to her ability on November 6? Would we be reporting an accurate description of the student's ability?
Mathematical Certainty it is not a 100-point scale either. In fact, statistical evidence (mathematical certainty) can prove that a 100-point scale is violates the basic principle of ratios. When you assign a student anything lower than a 50 on a 100-point scale you violate the basic principle of ratios. We are all familiar with this scale: A= 90-100 B= 80-89 C= 70-79 D= 60-69 F= 0-59. Each grade range is about ten points except for F. F is worth sixty. The only way you could make this scale accurate is to have a label for each mark below 50 points like this: E= 50-59 F= 40-49 G= 30-39 H= 20-29 I= 10-19 J= 0-9.
So what do we have? We have evidence. We have the most recent preponderance of evidence of what students can do, and we report that. We report evidence that we have, and try to give the most accurate grade feedback that we can.
December 7-11- Study Island Curriculum Check #2
December 9- APD
December 17 &18- Holiday Teas
December 21- Grade 5 Winter Concert
December 22- Gymnastics Show @ETR- 7:00
December 22- Holiday Gathering
December 23- Holiday Sing-Along
December 23- Gymnastics Show for Students