Wednesday, January 12, 2011

3P Grading: Parent Questions

I have received several excellent questions and comments from parents about the 3P Grading System that I am using this semester. I am piloting this system this semester, so there are going to be bugs I need to work out. Instead of e-mailing each parent individually, I will address them all on this blog.

Click here if you would like to read Steve Peha's original article about the system. It is a long read, but definitely thought-provoking. This the letter I sent home to all parents.

Here are the questions I received, with my responses:

1. Why are you starting this mid-school year instead of implementing next school year?

I read an article last semester about the inherent problems with grading. The more I read about grading, the more problems I saw in how I was grading and evaluating students. I wrote about this in a post on my professional blog. 

In my opinion, grading is the least effective form of feedback we can provide. It only provides feedback AFTER the learning, when students have already moved on to something else. Instead, I am going to give feedback throughout the learning process.

Simply put, I had to do something. After reading about the problems with grading, I couldn't go on doing the same things I had been doing. Several of my colleagues encouraged me to try out the 3P Grading System this semester. All grades start over at semester, so it was a great time to try it out. If it works, I will implement it from the start next year.

2. Do you include "organization" in the "participation" evaluation?

I had not thought about this, but I would say that it is a part of all three categories. Their blog is acting as their portfolio. If they are not keeping their blog up-to-date and organized (participation), it will be difficult to conference with me to show their performance and demonstrate progress.

3. How may we find our student's blog so as to observe his/her performance in class?

I would encourage you to ask your student for their blog address. In fact, I encouraged my students to share their blog with you. One of the major advantages of maintaining a blog is to reach a bigger audience than just me or their classmates.

They set up blogs in class, and submitted their blog address to me. I can also e-mail you their blog address if you send me an e-mail.  

4. Will your evaluation be weighted compared to the child's self-evaluation in class?

Both of our evaluations are worth 50% of their final semester grade.

For each of our grades:
Participation is worth 50%
Progress is worth 30%
Performance is worth 20%

I will give them a grade for each component, and they will give themselves a grade. I will use a formula to calculate the final semester grade.

However, I don't expect that our grades will be too far off from each other. In other words, I don't expect that a student will give themselves all A's, while I give them all D's. For the most part, we will probably be off by only one or MAYBE two letter grades.

If so, that is why we will conference. They will need to prove to me why they deserve their grade. Perhaps they can demonstrate that they showed progress in one area, and I did not recognize it. I can be convinced to raise my grade from the initial one I assigned if they make a compelling case for it.

5. How will improvement from the beginning of the year be gauged since a different evaluation system was in use?

One philosophy that I try to live my life by is to, "Get a little better every day."

I believe that I can improve as a teacher every day. I also believe students can get a little better every day. What we get better at is unique to each person.

That is the great thing about this system. Student "A" might be really bad at writing thesis statements at the beginning of the year, but by the end they are pretty good. Student "B" might hate Shakespeare and not understand him at all, but by the end of the semester begin to appreciate and understand his writing.

We are all works in progress, and I believe we can continue to show progress and get a little better every day. 

6. By participation do you mean if someone answers a question or gives an idea? Seems it can be subjective if you have a particular student who doesn't LET others participate because they always want to respond.

Yes, that is one part of participation. Here are my expectations of participation:

  • Come to class every day.
  • Be prepared. Have work completed on time.
  • Share regularly. Give good feedback. Ask good questions.
  • Be respectful.
  • Take ownership of your results; be accountable; don’t blame.
  • Ask for help when you need it; use the advice I give you.

As you can see, there are other ways to show participation without speaking up in class.

At work, we are all expected to "participate" and contribute to our jobs. I make a concerted effort to call on each student at least once each day. Some students are much more outgoing and willing to participate. I also understand that some students are shy. I think that is something we can work to improve on (progress) throughout the semester.  

Every year I have students who are scared to speak out in class at the beginning of the year and then really come out of their shells by May. It is really amazing to watch.  This system will reward those students for the progress they make in participation. 

7. I don't see anything about tests. Will there be any?

I have worked hard to eliminate traditional tests from my class. When you think about it, how often do you take a multiple choice test in "the real-world"? The only time I can think of is when you get your driver's license renewed. I'm sure there are other examples, but they are few and far between.

If we aren't expected to take tests in our lives after school, why should we spend time taking them in school?

Therefore, I assess students through projects, real-life writing assignments, class discussions, etc... One exception to that is the Kansas Reading Assessment that our sophomores will take. That is a very important test we are mandated by law to give, so we will spend a great deal of time working on that. I also do ACT prep with my seniors in the fall, and sophomores in the spring.

With that in mind, one way that my sophomores can demonstrate "progress" is through their scores on the reading assessment. We took pre-tests in August and December, and the final test will be in February. Almost across the board, I have witnessed progress in their scores. That is awesome!

I hope this helped answer your questions. Students or parents, please feel free to add questions in the comments section at the bottom of this post. I am here to help you be successful!

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