Parents...

I had a great conversation with some parents the other day. When they first emailed, they mentioned they wanted to talk about their students' math. My first thought was why? Very bright kid, very self-motivated, always at the top of the class - I figured they wanted information on his continued acceleration.
No... they wanted to discuss assessment and grading practices. We had a great conversation, mainly because they have a daughter in the same course taught by another teacher. Now, I have to admit my approach to teaching in my non-Calculus classes is non-traditional for an independent high school. I'm very much a constructivist, I don't like to be the one talking in the class and, most important to the parents' discussion, I refuse to just average scores for tests throughout the year. I patiently track the students' progress through all our assessments and adjust scores as they exhibit understanding (thank god for spreadsheets). It may take all year before a student gets the hang of factoring anything I give to them... but if they finally get it, their scores increase. It also means my students at the end of the year have higher grades but if they understand what I've asked them to learn I think that's what the grade should indicate. And, they've had to work throughout the year to get a grip on things -- I don't have a unit test and then close the book on it.
The parents wanted to know why the rest of the teachers didn't do the same. I didn't have an answer for them.

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2 comments:

Kate Nowak said...

I'd like to hear more details about how you manage your grading sometime.

LDW said...

Grading this way is a very interesting idea. I'm interested in knowing how exactly you keep track of this system. With so many interrelated concepts in math, which ones do you let students improve their grades on and how do you assess their improvement? With the factoring example, do you just improve their grade from earlier on if you notice that they have factored correctly in a problem that requires factoring as a first step to solving this?

I really like the flexibility of your system, but I'm really not sure how I would implement it.