What did my students learn?

It is quickly coming to the end of the school year, which mean final exam time,(I actually gave mine today).  As my students prepared for their final exam this year, I wondered how much they really learned this year.  As I go through the grade book I see mostly A’s and B’s, and a sprinkling of other grades, but those are on test and quizzes.  I believe a final exam is a useful piece of information to reflect upon how much the students learned during the year, I actually think watching them and helping them review is more insightful than the actual test.  The test and quiz grades tell me they knew the topic well for a short amount of time, but the final exam gives me more insight to whether or not the learned, retained, and can still apply the skill(which is the true goal).

For the most part, I teach a pretty good group of students.  They are very concerned about their grades, and they like to compare their grades and results with one another.  That’s not my main concern….I am more concerned that they enjoy the challenge of solving difficult problems, and want to obtain the skills to conquer these challenges.  When I think about how many of my students have the same goals for themselves that  I have for them, the percentage is very small.  Why????

Why do we as a teachers, schools, school districts, and a society still grade our students with percentages and letter grades? Or even letter grades?  It seems almost archaic!  I remember someone once asking me the question, “What do you call the person who graduates LAST from medical school?……DOCTOR.”  Sort of a profound question, but it makes me think about how we should grade students, and what our objective is when we grade them.  I know there is a trend to Standards Based Grades, in my limited amount of research about the topic it seems to make more sense than what I am currently doing.  I guess I would tend to even go a step further and based on their skills and understanding of the standards put students into 3 categories:

  1.  High achievement
  2. Moderate achievement
  3. Partial achievement

Even these are somewhat ambiguous and not the greatest way of grading students, but I feel with “grades” like these we could shift the emphasis.  When I had students who were more concerned will getting challenged and conquering difficult task rather than getting 100% on every test and quiz, I think I could create a students who was more prepared for high school, college, and life in general.  Math was created to solve problems, but I think using math to grade our students is a PROBLEM.




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