Friends and readers shared a couple of thought-provoking pieces with me this week, so I thought I'd pass them along.
In response to Monday's post about "no zero" grading policies, former colleague Ken Soo steered me to a Chronicle of Higher education piece laying out the case for revamping the traditional 100-point scale. Douglas Reeves, a Colorado education consultant and author, argues that the way most professors (and teachers) award grades defies logic and mathematics:
"If the grade of A represents a score of 90-100, B is 80-89, C is 70-79, and D is 60-69, then the interval between each letter grade, A to B to C to D, is 10 points," he writes. "But if a student fails to submit an assignment and receives a zero, then the interval from D to zero is 60 points, a sixfold penalty compared with the other grading intervals."
"Let us stipulate that work receiving a D is wretched, and that the failure of a student to submit work at all is abysmal. The use of the zero, however, requires us to defend the proposition that abysmal is six times as bad as wretched."
Reeves takes a complicated path that veers through acquiescence and achievement, race and gender roles, video games and sports. But his conclusion is a simple one: Educators should act now to create grading systems that are "accurate, fair and effective."
Meanwhile, CMS parent Amy Wlodyka sent a link to this column by John Kuhn, a Texas superintendent, on "The Exhaustion of the American Teacher." The central tenet, that parents are escaping blame for student failure while teachers take a beating, is hardly original. But the writing is so vigorous I couldn't stop reading.
"Like many educators, I’ve smelled on my students the secondhand drugs that fill too many of their homes with bitterness and want," Kuhn writes. "There is sometimes a literal pungency to low academic performance that remedial classes won’t scrub from our kids."
Or consider this: "We were all told that a mind is a terrible thing to waste, and we all became adamant about education; but no one told us not to waste kids’ hearts or weaken their spines or soften their guts, and we long ago abandoned our traditional cultural expectations for children’s formation. I’m not calling for picket fences and Leave it to Beaver; I’m calling for childhoods that aren’t dripping with pain and disenchantment and a huge chasm where there should have been character-building experiences from the age of zero to five. That aren’t marked by an empty space where there should have been a disciplinarian. And a gap where there should have been a rocking chair and a soft lap waiting when the child was hurting."
I'm not taking sides on the ideas in these two opinion pieces. But I do admire the authors' way with words, and suspect theses essays will stir up some lively responses.
Thursday, October 4, 2012
Posted by Ann Doss Helms at 6:00 AM