Sunday, June 12, 2011

Grading For Learning: Grade Inflation Panacea? Or More Dr. FeelGood?

At  tomorrow's (June 13) school board meeting, an "informational" agenda item will be presented regarding the switch from conventional grading/report card system to the "Grading For Learning" system throughout grades K-7.  This switch will be flipped for the 2011-12 school year.

Grading for Learning has been looming on the horizon for several years now.  It's not something new to Sun Prairie.  In fact, a number of school districts have implemented it and a number will begin implementation this year.  Grading for Learning is a concept introduced by Ken O'Connor.

What is the background and research for Grading for Learning?
The original "Grading For Learning"
frowns on extra credit.  What will SPASD do?
Decades of research on grading practices clearly show that the most effective way to affect student performance is to provide accurate, specific and timely feedback to students. When grading policies improve, students benefit by reducing the failure rate. Districts that address grading practices head-on:
  1. reduce grade inflation, 
  2. graduate students who are more successful in post-secondary endeavors, and
  3. show solid gains in student proficiency in content-area work theory, this is a good thing.  We may finally be moving away from Dr. FeelGood's knuckleball approach (easy on that knuckler, Dr. FeelGood!) to grading, whereby grades are given to build the self-esteem of our fine cherubs--or to avoid the post-report card assault by helicopter parents.  Maybe.  Grading for Learning is a concept, and as always, Sun Prairie puts its own particular stamp on it.  Only time will tell if this is the cure or just another band-aid that means more work for teachers without really helping kids learn.  Because, in the end, folks, learning is not about grades, it's about learning.   Getting an "A" doesn't make the kids work any harder in school.  In fact, subsequently some (many?) of them rest on their laurels because...guess what...if an "A" requires minimal effort, then you will GET minimal effort.
Yoda's philosophy on Grading for Learning.

We're going to be cautiously optimistic on this one.  We think there are elements of Grading for Learning which make good sense.  But we'd suggest paying close attention to the 8th grade WKCE results in 2013, because that will represent the first evaluation of grading for learning of 7th graders coming into 8th grade.