Saturday, October 1, 2011

Letter Grades

This past week, my Schools and Society students have been reading about different points of view regarding assessment. Each week, each student sends me two journal entries. One is a focused response to the chapter they read in the Educational Foundations text we are reading and the other is a response to a question about their two-hour weekly public school classroom experience. The journals are great and give me a good insight into how the students are thinking about the profession of teaching.

The readings about assessment are promoting some really interesting responses from my students. Many of them, even those who get As, don't like letter grades and wonder why everything has to be graded with a number and a letter grade. I must admit I often think bout grading as a bit of an anachronism but it's required by the college as well as by the State of Vermont DOE for students wishing to get their teacher licensure. In fact, the State Department of Education requires a B average which, in effect, renders a C grade a failing grade. Perhaps this is one reason for grade inflation. I certainly don't give many C grades.

Most of the readings in the book present quite a radical view of teaching and education because in the Education Department at St. Mike's we believe the teachers who graduate from our teacher education programs should be thinkers and intellectuals in addition to caring about children's learning and welfare and having a passion for teaching. Two of the readings on assessment this week are by Alfie Kohn and William Ayers; two of the great writers and thinkers about issues in education.

To make the discussion more interesting I am going to leave off the small grade sheet I attach to the students' journals when I return them at the beginning of class. They will only get to read the copious comments I write on their papers. How do you think they will react? I have a feeling they will want to know what grade they got before the end of class.

My grading system is a bit tougher than the one above; a few points more are required for each letter grade.

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