October 7, 2010

Answering questions about a ROLE

Over a month into the school year, the Results Only Learning EnvironmentTM is firmly entrenched in my seventh-grade classroom. Although I've fielded a few questions from students about grades, for the most part the students have figured out that there are not any grades, until final quarter report cards are mailed. Most students are already well-conditioned to look for feedback on their classroom web sites, instead of a score out of 100.

There have been a few parent e-mails wondering about grades, but so far, most parents have been very supportive of the program.

My colleagues, however, are very curious of this new approach.

"How will you justify the grade that goes on the report card?" one asked.

"What will you say to administrators who say you have to use the percentage grading scale mandated by the district?"

"Give me some examples of how it's done," another chimed in.

These are supportive people who are trying to help me look at things from all angles, so it seemed I had some explaining to do.

Some of this is quite simple, I said proudly. The bottom line is that when I am forced to assign a letter grade to my students for a quarterly report card, I will do so. It won't be based so much on a percentage, I told them; rather, it will be based on a cumulative evaluation of activity throughout the quarter.

"So, how does that work?" I'm asked.

Basically, I use the feedback that I provide on all activities, all of which is contained on my students' private web sites, along with scores from various diagnostics I've given throughout the quarter. I judge students on what they've done in class in terms of production and how much they've worked to take my feedback on projects and to improve their work, based on that feedback.

I tell them that they are being evaluated on everything from how often they contribute to a class discussion to how well they read the instructions I provide on a web-based activity to if they fold up the newspaper properly, when we are working on non-fiction. It's all about the results.

I constantly refer to this method as "Production, feedback, change." This is how we operate in my Results Only Learning EnvironmentTM. The ultimate result is in the change that occurs throughout a quarter, which de-emphasizes points typically awarded on a quiz or project.

Even if a student scores 50 percent on an initial diagnostic (a test or quiz), if the student reviews the lessons pertaining to this diagnostic, retakes it and scores higher, then the student has produced -- even if the retake result is still only passing at 70 percent. In my mind this is an A (in the grade world), not a C, because a 20 percent improvement in one attempt is a giant leap forward.

There are still many questions to be answered, but until report cards are printed, for now, my colleagues were satisfied with this.

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