An interesting situation has developed this year…I seem to be living in two worlds with regard to grading and assessment in schools.
World number 1 – my professional domain
I have the honor and privilege of working in the business of education. I am blessed to work with teachers to grow their instructional practices, provide professional development on a number of important issues facing educators, and have been given the space and support to promote healthy grading practices. Learning always seems to be this chaotic process no matter whether it is for adults or kids, but I get to be a part of that wonderful experience for both.
I work within my district as well as with other districts to change how we look at assessment and grading. We discuss the purpose of grading and work to make it meaningful, accurate, and non-threatening for students. It is a huge shift in paradigm for most, but really important for kids and how they view school.
World number 2 – my parental domain
I have two children, one in elementary school and the other in junior high. Let’s just put this out there…it is virtually impossible to walk the fine line between parent and teacher when we consider our children’s education. I do my best to find that line, yet there always seems to be a gray area. At times I feel like I know too much with my background, but I refuse to discontinue my pursuit of better practices to grow and cultivate student learning.
Here’s the juxtaposition…my children are being graded for compliance, and it seems to be across the board with regard to content areas. Points are lost for missing signatures…deducted for lack of color on a math assignment where all problems are completed…gained for binder organization…the list goes on. They are developing a fear of bad grades and missing and/or late assignments (even a small one) for the repercussion that follows. They feel the high stakes of testing and assessment when reassessment is not an option. Anxiety has crept into their educational experience. As a parent, I work diligently every evening to refocus my kids back to the importance of learning. However, it is becoming more and more difficult to reinforce the natural progression of learning when a school culture is grade and compliance focused.
I have nothing against their teachers. They are wonderful people who truly care about the students in their classrooms. This is how they were instructed and how they are expected to teach kids lessons of responsibility, effort, and accountability. Don’t get me wrong, these are important lessons for all students…I simply disagree with including them in a letter grade. I worry that students’ academic achievement is not accurately communicated and no one knows how much of the grade is behavior, growth, or proficiency levels with the standards.
Moving forward I feel I need to ask some questions to best help my children. Are there any standards that are below proficient and need additional practice? Are there behavioral concerns that I can help to improve at home? Is my child growing and improving throughout the year? I also want to let the teachers know how thankful I am for their care and the positive relationships they have developed with my kids.
How can I separate my roles as a parent and educator? The truth is, I can’t. Together they are who I am as a person and deeply intertwined. I will continue to reflect and attempt to walk that fine line. I will search for ways to ensure my kids focus on learning while respecting the values and culture of their school. Living in two worlds is an interesting and challenging situation. I hope in the future the two will merge and become one.