Making the grade

I received an email today at 7:09 AM from a parent:

Mrs. Lepre, why aren’t you using the traditional grades in your class? What does a “3” mean? It’s easier for me to look at A B C grades to keep up with how she’s doing. I never agreed with pretending WE ARE ALL DOING GREAT. If they EARNED an F, then let that be an F not a 0. Let’s keep it REAL WORLD for them. High School and College are on Letter Grades.

To which I replied at 7:34 AM:

Good morning!

I understand that it’s easier for you to keep up with her grades if it was a traditional A, B, or C, however that letter doesn’t let her know where she needs to improve to prepare for high school.
Last year, my goal was to help the students ease into middle school and bring them to a more level playing field in terms of their reading and writing. This year my goal is to amp it up and get them ready for the rigors of writing in high school. That requires me to give more specific feedback so that both the student and I know where they need to improve. If I give them a score of 1,2,3, or 4 on a specific standard, then they know exactly where their strengths and weaknesses are.
I also want to take the pressure of the grade out of the picture, which I know is a foreign idea for many. If students don’t have to worry about that as long as they commit to improving and working on their areas of weakness, then they will learn to be more reflective and independent. If a student knows that their main area of weakness is capitalization and punctuation, they will be sure to not only try to improve that, but also double-check for those before submitting an assignment.
Honestly most grades in most classes tell students how smart or motivated they are, but they in no way provide feedback on what to do next. If I earn a D on a science test, it most likely means I didn’t study, didn’t get it, or didn’t care. If I retake it and still earn a D, then what? But if I give a student a 3 on “citing the strongest evidence” and a 4 on “author’s main claim,” then they know that they have main claim down and can focus on improving finding the strongest evidence in a text.
Finally, grading them this way also gives me a better picture of each student. Before, I’d look at the sea of A’s and B’s but not necessarily remember how each of my 180 students wrote. Now when I look at the scores on their standards, I know who needs small-group reteaching, and who needs to be stretched a little more. I can basically personalize their learning more than I could before.
Sincerely,
Kim Lepre

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 I’m actually surprised it took this long to get a reaction from a parent about my new grading system.  With my particular group of students comes parents who are really involved in their education, which I LOVE. Therefore this new way of looking at grading might be uncomfortable for them, but in the long run, I think it’s beneficial for all.

This video also adds to my argument:

Happy Saturday!

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