Grade Fog

New and improved.

Props to Tyre for clearly posing the question. “Should students be rewarded for being friendly, prepared, compliant, a good school citizen, well organized, and hard-working? Or should grades represent exclusively a student’s mastery of the material?”

The buzzword is “standards-based grading”.

The better question is whether grades should represent exclusively a student’s mastery of the material or whether more subjective variables such as their attitude, citizenship, and effort should also be taken into consideration.

It’s hard to disagree with the standards-based graders assertion that assessment must rest primarily on mastery of course material. I want master pilots, plumbers, surgeons, and bridge builders. The question though is how far down that road to travel. For example, inevitably some students can demonstrate mastery of course material without attending class at all so why not eliminate compulsory attendance laws?

Related to that, why require athletes to attend practice, or musicians and actors to attend rehearsals if they are gamers who inevitably rise to the occasion once the race begins or curtain goes up? In actuality, the advocates are arguing for “standards-based grading lite”.

Also, everyone of us knows a litany of really smart people who never fulfill their personal or work-life potential because their flawed interpersonal skills and/or anemic work ethic.

Returning to my extracurricular references. Obviously athletes on a swim relay team, musicians in an orchestra, and actors in a drama troupe have to work together to achieve success. Just as it’s preposterous to think about a basketball player showing up at a game and trying to run a complicated offense or an actor showing up on opening night and having the necessary timing down, most students are going to take jobs that require them to be team members.

The standard grade-basers are arguing that as long as the student has the necessary knowledge in her head, she’s good to go. But is she?

Let’s start with the necessary knowledge, but not end there. I’m down with factoring in everything in Tyre’s opening list except “compliance” which is antithetical to independent, critical thinking upon which a meaningful education is built.

School-based teacher teams should identify important dispositions and interpersonal skills and then assess them in and outside of classrooms. Self-assessment should play an integral role. No doubt narrative will prove more useful than traditional letter grades.

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