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Grades Based on Knowledge, Not Behaviors (Lateness, Effort, Participation)

studentsMelia, high school art teacher

“I have actually gone out of my way to tell the kids that I’m not going to be grading them down for cell phone use or other behaviors, but I do have a lot more conversations with kids as it’s happening if they’re off task or don’t use their class time. And the conversation is different. It’s not like, ‘You’re losing five points here.’ Before it was either that they didn’t care about losing the five points because they’re already failing; or to them, it was worth losing five points so that they could talk with their friend on their cell phone. Like, ‘What? Five points for a phone call? Sounds good.’

“Some are not responsive, and I’m having the administration deal with them, and some students are very responsive. They say, ‘Yep, I get it. You’re right.’ And they’ll put the phone away and I didn’t need to have points attached.”

Grace, high school English teacher

“Including effort and participation in the grade has some sort of favoritism involved because students who put in a lot of effort and students who participate a lot I tend to favor more. But  I don’t want to have favorites in the classroom so it’s a good thing I don’t include effort and participation anymore. I believe my thinking changed because I hadn’t realized that effort and participation being graded is favoritism. I was like, ‘Oh my God. That’s right!”

Justin, high school world languages teacher

“I have a lot of preconceptions and one of them was that the best way to punish the students when the didn’t do their work was giving them zeros. And also, [inaudible] when they were late. But now I think that this is not a good practice because it definitely stops students motivation in many aspects. My thinking has changed because I see that students are having a better performance and motivation is better compared to what I saw last year. I’ve been seeing a lot more homework checking and assignments, in general, are well done.”

Danny, middle school humanities teacher

“I strongly believe that grades should reflect students’ mastery of the standards. What I used to do was input a zero because they didn’t turn the assignment in– that was basically it. They never turned it in, so I don’t have anything to assess. So the grade of a 0 is saying that the student is showing no mastery of the standard ot whatever it is I’m measuring. But technically, what I did was give the student a zero for work habits, because that student didn’t complete it. That’s not showing mastery of the standards. What that’s showing is a work habit; because that student is not doing the work, I’m giving that person a zero. I now believe that was wrong.

“What I did was some action research. For my elective class, whenever students didn’t do the assignment, I gave them a zero. I have one student, Jasmine. She ended up not passing my elective class. She got 68%, which is no credit. She has zeros because I never got these assignments. I never got them; therefore, I gave her a zero. With my core class, whenever a student  missed an assignment, whatever it is, I left it blank, and I allowed the student to redo the assignment at another time. Jasmine has an 85%–a B. That means that one of my core class top students, Jasmine, is not passing my elective based on work habits, not mastery of the standards. That means I need to sit down with her and talk to her and say, what can we do to help her with her work habits and her ability to increase the amount of work she’s turning in? What I realized was, when I’m giving zeros for missing work, I’m bringing Jasmine down based on work habits and that’s no okay. When I allow her to do the assignments at a later time, where I can truly assess if she’s mastering the standards or not, it turns out that she scores a lot higher.