There’s a Superman (women) in Every Student: They just have to see it.
Why can’t we all have an aspect (s) of our life, our career, our schooling, or our love where we feel like Clark Kent turning himself into Superman? Standards based grading, although more time consuming for teachers, permits every student to see areas where they are Superman.
I have worked at a school where each student was graded in their subject matter based upon their understanding of separate standards, along with character/participation/homework grades. Once parents understood the grading system, most if not all accepted and liked this evaluation their student. It “makes sense” like one parent told me.
I currently work in a public school system that is planning for standards based grading in the future, but currently completes the traditional A-F grading scale for each class/subject. This is extremely easy for the teachers, but prevents the parents from completely understanding where their student struggles.
Freddy has a C in Math, but where is he really struggling. What aspect of his math grade is bringing this down and what areas does he excel at?
Student/parent frustration, from my encounters, are higher with the traditional grading system. Many students, although they work very hard, ask questions and put in the effort to get better, do not SEE the end benefits of this effort. They may work like an A student, but get C’s. They may be Superman in many aspects of Math, but struggle with decimals.
With my experience working with standards based testing, students never walked out of completely deflated after reviewing their grades with the teacher. (Now, obviously there are those exceptions that just “don’t care”. That argument is for an completely different post.) There were always those rays of sun, no matter how small or larger, where they showed improvement or triumph. Students were able to understand the areas they needed to improve upon, but also earned some sense of accomplishment for their previous nine weeks of work.
I had a student who was in my 4th grade classroom for two consecutive years. The gentleman had an amazing heart, was kind to everyone, but was very low in academics. He began his first year significantly behind his peers, had never experienced success in the classroom, and started out the year giving little to no effort on the work. I remember having a conversation with him early in this first year. When asked why he wasn’t showing much effort his reply was simple, “I work, but get nowhere“. His effort slowly increased and gradually, after a string of small phone booth moments, changed his attitude. He was low in all areas, but there were some specs of success that first year and we were able to tangibly point these phone booth moments out on his report card. Without standards based grades, he would have had all F’s.
His second year, the deflated Clark Kent was gone and his effort was soaring through the clouds. He still had the same learning disabilities, BUT something in him had changed. He worked harder, helped more, and was more excited than any other student in my class. His small success at the beginning showed him that it was worth it. He liked the feeling of walking out of that phone booth. He still had areas of frustration, but these were outweighed by his successes. Even so, without standards based grades he would have earned a C for his total math grade. He was not afraid to fail!
With standards based grading, he earned his first Exceeds (A) in any area of his life. He had turned himself into a multiplication machine through practice and perseverance. I will remember the smile and laughter on his face when I was lucky enough to explain his report card. This was one of those moments where you know there is no other career you could picture yourself performing.
We all have heard the saying “Success breads Success” and to some extent have experienced it. When we accomplish something that we busted our humps for, we want to work even harder next time to reach that feeling of walking out of the phone booth. Students should be allowed to earn this feeling every chance they get.
It is not about the destination, it about the journey. We should allow out students to not only experience the journey through their education, but to view their areas of achievement.
Yes, there will be an initial financial cost to any district who changes their report cards to standards based, but is this price more important than allowing our students to feel pride in topics where they succeed?
Again, teachers will have to put in more time and effort to complete these assessments, but isn’t our job to shape and liberate student achievement to their highest levels possible?
Everyone wants to experience that warming power of success when they walk out of the phone booth, cape flowing, head held high with confidence knowing that they may not be perfect, but their hard work is making them better!
Build Your Dream.