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A Devotion for Teachers for the week of SEPTEMBER 23, 2018
DO YOUR GRADES MEASURE LEARNING?
Proverbs 11:1 The LORD abhors dishonest scales, but accurate weights are his delight.
God cares about your grade book. He cares about your test strategies. He also cares about your student’s success or failure. The marks you make in your book are measurements or percentages of learning. The degree of success that a student achieves is reflected in their scores. At least that’s what most people assume and accept to be the case. However, in my experiences, it has not always been true.
I once worked with a teacher who gave a 20 point bonus on tests when students did “favors” like bringing him candy or doing special chores. Another teacher added test questions like “How do you spell relief?” “Rolaids” was the answer. “Relief” was considered wrong. I’ve seen other teachers take points off test scores because of misbehavior or failing to write their name on the paper. Are these accurate “weights” or measurements of education?
Grades are based on percentages. An 88 means the student completed 88% of the tested material correctly. How can we have an accurate measurement if that 88 is lowered by 10 points for failing to put the name on the paper, or 20 points added for special favors? And what about trick questions on a test? Even though they may be cute and enjoyable for the teacher, are they an accurate reflection of the material learned in your classroom? What about homework that was not done or an assignment left at home? Is the “0%” really a correct evaluation of their education? Or is it a measurement of behavior, attitude, or organizational skills?
I ask you to consider your decisions when measuring grades. I encouraged you to be sure the scores in your record book reflect actual test scores and academic achievement. Also, it is more accurate for incomplete or forgotten homework or papers not completed to be dealt with in the discipline policy rather than in the grade book. Design consequences for these problem behaviors to encourage the student to learn new patterns and habits. When a student receives multiple zeros for no homework resulting in failing the course, what has he learned? This student hasn’t gained much—at least not in self-discipline. Every test may have had a passing grade, and the student may have mastered the subject material, but his behavioral problem was never addressed. He doesn’t need to repeat the subject matter another year; he needs to be held accountable for his assignments and be disciplined into correct behavior regarding his responsibility to do homework assignments. A zero is faster and easier to give than holding a student responsible. However, we are doing children a disservice by letting them take a zero rather than requiring them to complete the work?
I had a tenth-grade student who didn’t turn in the assigned research paper. At first, he told me that he laid it on my desk, and I must have lost it. I called the parents to inquire about the paper and discovered that he had not been working on it at home. I encouraged the student to be honest. Finally, he admitted that he had not done the paper. I gave him an “I” for incomplete rather than a “0”. I wanted him to learn to do a term paper. I met with him during lunch hours and after school to check on his work. The project was completed a few weeks later. This was his first report or long-term project he had ever completed. For years he had learned to take zeros without failing. He knew how to work the system and how to keep from failing. He completed his next project by the due date. The discomfort of having to meet with me those extra hours and knowing he would have to complete the paper eventually was painful enough that he did not want to repeat the process. I did lower the project grade for being late by one letter grade but allowed the student a chance to get a “lower” passing grade if the project was done well. I felt the lost points reflected the need for re-teaching—thus a lack of achieved learning.
I encourage teachers to take this same approach with incomplete homework. Students need to complete the work and learn responsibility rather than be given a zero that destroys their academic average. The pain of being kept after school to finish homework assignments often encourages students to do the work on time in the future.
Dear God, Help me to give grades that reflect an accurate measurement of learning. Give me clarity of thought regarding your ways. Allow me to see each situation as you see it, and give me the wisdom to make correct judgments.
A Message From Dr. Wyrick
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Copyright 2008-2018 by Elderine Wyrick, teacherdevotion.com. All right reserved.