Thursday, August 25, 2011

And on the 3rd day I cried (already).

I’ve been back at work for 4 days. Yesterday I cried.

I had a meeting with a prospective student and their family about the possibility of attending our school. I asked my usual question in this type of situation: “Tell me why you want to attend St. Pat’s?”

The tears instantly welled up and poured down her face. She couldn’t speak. She couldn't find the words. After a few minutes of quiet consolation from her mom, she finally found a few words.

The student was a victim of on-line bullying from some peers at her previous school.

I listened with my own tears welling up. As a teacher, father and fellow human being my heart broke for her. The only words I could find to say were: “I’m sorry”

We talked a little about her attending our school, her interests and passions.

I also explained that, as the principal, I couldn’t promise that she would be 100% immune from this type of reprehensible behavior from other students. But I did promise her that at our school
  • All students have a clear understanding of how to treat others, both face to face and on-line. We are intentional in our modeling and teaching of how we, as people should treat other in all mediums. 
  • She will be coached and mentored on how she should deal with situations that are hurtful. 
And most importantly,
  • She will always have a caring adult who will listen to her and intervene to restore justice and bring healing to the situation. Always. 
As the meeting ended I thanked the student for being truthful and courageous with me. I wished her healing from all this hurt. I thanked the family for showing interest in our school.

The student and her mom left my office each with a used tissue in hand.

I grabbed my tissue when they left my office.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Grading Practices That Inhibit Learning

For the past 4 years I have been giving teachers at our school a copy of the following resource to start the year.  What I find interesting is the date the original resource was published (1989). As we all head back to school soon I thought I would share it on my blog.  

Maybe we can add more to the list?  

1. Inconsistent grading scale: The same performance results in different grades, in different schools or classes. Differing expectations can penalize students. 

2. Worshiping averages: Insisting on using all of the marks to calculate an average,even when “the average” is not consistent with what the teacher knows about the student’s learning.

3. Using zeros indiscriminately: Giving zeros for incomplete work has a devastating effect on
averages and often they are not even related to learning or achievement but to non-academic factors like behavior, respect, punctuality, etc.

4. Following the pattern
of assign, test, grade and teach: When teaching occurs after a grade has been assigned, it’s  and too late for the student. They need lots of teaching and practice that isn’t graded although it should be assessed and used to enhance learning before testing takes place.

5. Not teaching to the test: Too many teachers rely on trick questions, new formats and unfamiliar material. If students are expected to perform skills and produce information, for a grade, these should be part of instruction.

6. Ambushing students: Pop quizzes are more likely to teach students how to cheat on
a test than they are to result in learning. Such tests are often a control vehicle designed to get even, not as an aid to understand.

7. Suggesting that success is unlikely: Students are not likely to strive for targets that they already know are unattainable to them.

8. Practicing “gotcha” teaching: A nearly foolproof way to inhibit student learning is to keep the outcomes and expectations of assignments secret. Grades become ways of finding out how well students have read their their teacher’s mind.

9. Grading first efforts: Learning is not a “one-shot” deal. When the products of learning are complex and sophisticated, students need lots of teaching and practice and feedback before the product is evaluated.

10. Penalizing students For taking risks: Taking risks is often not rewarded in school. Students need  encouragement and support while they try new or more demanding work, not low marks.

11. Failing to recognize Measurement error: Very often grades are reported as objective statistics without  attention to such things as weighting factors or reliability of the scores. In most cases, a composite score may be only a rough estimate of student learning and sometimes it can be very inaccurate. 

12. Establishing inconsistent 
grading criteria: Criteria for grading in schools and classes often changes from  day to day, grading period to grading period and class to class. This lack of consensus makes it difficult for students to understand the standards. 

13. Weighting long questions for more: teachers tend to assign weighting to problem solving questions 
based on the number of steps or items in the solution. Using a problem solving rubric evaluates the students thinking skills, not the length of the solution. 

14. Moving target: Too often assignments are given to students without a clear explanation of what is expected. Set the criteria and standards for assignments before students are given task and discuss them with the class.

15. Inconsistent standards: Some teachers are philosophically opposed to giving a student a
high grade. If the student has achieved the curriculum standards Then that learning needs to be recognized.

Adapted from Canady and Hotchkiss, 1989