Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Today, let’s talk about grades.

I love to read discussion about grades because I like to see the struggle that seems to be so intense when one discusses grades or marks.

It seems that most educators would say that they are concerned with student learning and achievement.  Apart from one or two teacher that I have been around, they all want their students to perform well.  What does ‘perform well’ mean though?  Does it mean that hey want to see the standardized test at high marks or the final grade in the class to be an A or the student to leave the class being able to show evidence of learning or for a student to be able regurgitate information back or mastery of all of the skills outlined by the course of study?  What does it mean?

For most schools, a student’s performance is measured periodically and cumulatively by a grade of A (superior), B (above average), C (average), D (below average), or F (failure).  These grades are the standard by which students rate themselves and educators rank students.  The grade is meant to be a scale that is used to track a student’s performance for the students own good, but it has grown into a monster of expectation, guilt, demoralization, false hope, and false identity.

Grades are an idol or a destructive force to many students.  The grade becomes the goal or the consequence to be avoided.  Shame on educators when we use a grade to shame students into obedience.  Shame on parents when they hang a grade over their child’s head.  Shame on our culture for allowing this atrocity to go on.

I want to bring learning back to my classroom for the sake of growth and equipping students for the future.  What good is it to gain the A and lose your learning?  I must give a grade to my students, but I want it to be different than it has been.

I understand that measuring growth is the easiest way to hold people accountable in the system that we have as public educators, but it is flawed and the data is bad data.  There in no depth to the numbers.  There is no genuine accountability there.  Teachers are afraid of grading practices because that measuring stick that is beat over heads when the numbers are not favorable.  There must be a better way.

Sorry for the rant, but that’s all I have right now.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Attendance Policy

Today way the last workday of the 2011-2012 school year.  At our last staff meeting we discussed: attendance, grades, make-up work/tests, test re-takes, and late work.  I would like to take a few minutes to get my ideas on paper while they are still fresh in my head. I am still working through what I believe on these issues; here is my rant. Please remember that my ideas are for high school (specifically juniors and seniors).

Today I will tackle Attendance...

The state policy is that students who have ten or more absences in the semester fail the course.  This policy is rarely followed because the principals have the freedom to create their own workable policy.  I like the idea of attendance being required because class time is immensely valuable for interaction, collaboration, and social learning.  The quality of education is much higher when it is shared with a small group of individuals.  Therefore, if a student is absent over 10% of the semester, they are losing valuable classroom learning time.

The student may be learning outside of the classroom, but there is no true accountability and the student is not getting the full benefit of journey that the class takes.  A student who scores an 85% on all assignments while attending class is gaining a more social and rounded education than a student who scores an 85% on all of their make-up assignments.

So, should a student fail if they do not show up for the required number of classes?  This is a difficult question, but I believe that a student who misses 25% of the class should be required to make up that attendance somehow (or fail).  The class is not simply about the mastery of the content and skills but about the collaboration and discussion involved.

If we are not concerned about the attendance, why don’t we simply have online courses that students can complete in their leisure or at a central computer lab?  There would be no wasted money on so many teachers, classrooms, etc. A school district could have one large computer lab that employed 3 or 4 support lab administrators. 

There is something to be said about the personal interaction of a facilitator and students that cannot be captured when a student misses class.

For 95% of the students in our schools, there should be an attendance policy. There will always be the 5% that legitimately cannot be present in class and must have the ability to graduate fro high school, but the majority of students should be engaged in corporate learning.

I see this in my own life.  I can read and study a subject until I believe that I have mastered it, but as soon as I join a dialogue with someone about the content, I am stretched in my learning and gain a new perspective that must be heeded.

Monday, June 4, 2012

A Summer of Reading

The end of the school year is here and I have turned in my grades for the semester.  I am proud to say that the students really accomplished growth this year and I feel that the majority of them will be ready for the challenge in English IV.  Some of them are going to have to do some soul searching if they want to do anything other that simply survive in high school English.

Pending being re-hired next year, I am scheduled to have four different preps.  I am going to teach English IV (AP, honors, and academic) and AP English III.  These are all high level classes and there is a great need for me to be on top of my game.  When I am not prepared, I feel like the students can see right through me.  Here is a smattering of what I’ll be reading through again and reviewing for the upcoming 2012-2013 school year.

 I gave both classes (AP III and AP IV) their summer assignment today.  It is funny to hear the mournful comments from some students and the excited expressions of other students.  They do not realize the amount of work that goes into simply making their assignment, let alone the work that goes into making next year fun and engaging.

I am excited to get started reading, but I can remember my freshman and half of my sophomore year when I hadn’t discovered deep, rich reading.  It wasn’t until sophomore year in high school that I learned what reading could be.  I read The Grapes of Wrath in honors English class and was hooked.  Since then, I have read all of the John Steinbeck books that I could.  Each one was enjoyable except for The Red Pony.  He has a way with words that speaks to my reader’s mind.

My mother-in-law and step-father-in-law are coming to visit this week.  We will enjoy some time at the Carolina Mudcat’s game and time in Williamsburg, Virginia.  Hopefully, I will continue to blog throughout the summer as to journal my reading and preparation for the year.  Right now, I am focusing on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.  We’ll see what I come up with.  I am also going to be reading Humility by C.J. Mahaney and Hebrews by the Apostle Paul.

Wish me luck!