David Bradley

Project Manager, ALPFA Institute

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to grade people in high school on improvement vs. right or wrong

Would it not be a better idea to recognize improvement vs. intelligence? I know that there would have to be careful attention paid to bias, but It would seem to me that being recognized for how much better I am doing today than yesterday would be much more inspirational and make me think about how to do better. We could change a "C" from meaning average to meaning "the same", a "B" would mean better than before, and an A would mean even more improvement, a "D" would raise eyebrows as to why they are not as good as before.

Is it a problem with the student or the environment? Did I not teach this subject as well as I could have? etc.

Improvement based grading would give us a great barometer for our schools and our teachers, those students who may be ahead of the curve would have reason to excel, those that were perhaps behind would still remain confident in their decisions and learn better by having a more accurate rating of their skills.

We could use technology to create running charts of improvement and see trends over longer periods of time. I'm sure there would be other ways and I'd like to here your thoughts on this idea.

What do you think?

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    Jun 16 2012: It's all part of a system, and when my kid is getting heart surgery, I could really care less how much the surgeon holding the knife "improved", I want to know if she or he knows the material backward and forward. Same goes for my tax accountant, my pharmacist, my lawyer, the guy fixing my brakes, the woman designing seals for space shuttle engines, etc.

    Working back from there, we need to know which people have mastered the material at a level to be ready to begin med school (or whatever).
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      Jun 21 2012: I think I may have been a little unclear and didn't mean to say that ALL education should be done this way. I was more referring to primary education vs. post-high school. obviously, there needs to be a standard to achieve once a certain level of education is obtained.

      i was thinking more along the lines of a way to provide the necessary self-confidence required to achieve certain levels of education.
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    Jun 15 2012: There is legitimacy in providing evaluations of both effort and level of attainment. Ideally there should be a clear signal as to whether a student has attained mastery of the course material and if not, which areas need further attention.

    In terms of monitoring improvement, people in the field of k12 education call the signposts collected along the way formative assessments and the final one summative. The formative assessments show what students know, understand, and are able to use at a particular time. This collection of results over time gives feedback to the student so he knows what he understands well and what he doesn't understand yet and gives feedback to the teacher as to which ideas need further work for the whole class or for particular students.
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    Jun 27 2012: I think we need to grade on both - one for society and the other for the person's self esteem but will you have time?
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    Jun 17 2012: Dave, I do not have the room to go into a lot of detail however, I favor Competent non Competent with remedial for modual failure. I also favor a pretest and an exit test. Two mid term test can be installed to gage retainability and application. If a master course chart is developed that covers K-12 with all available courses included and broken into modules the student could work at his learning pace and maintain his place with his peers for social development. This system shifts the onus onto the student and allows the instructor to spend time ensuring mastery and attention to those who have problems in modules. The teacher would have immediate feedback on both successes and failures. All modules would be recorded by computers and each student would recieve a personal copy of progress. This would also be a ideal situation to conduct college level classes with university approved modules. The completed modules transcript would be submitted to universities for acceptance.

    Your "right or wrong" inspires other thoughts. Finding the answer should not be the goal. The goal in all subjects should be application. Rote memory went out a long time ago.

    Your system addresses those who missed it the first time and regrouped to pass. What about those who got it the first time (our current "A" student). How would their grading system look like.

    Interesting thought. All the best. Bob.
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    Jun 16 2012: I agree with you David and Linda the trends are what you want to watch and this will not show up by just looking at grades.

    There is conduct that is appropriate with the trends E.G. if the graph skyrockets it is imperative to find out what you were doing that caused it to skyrocket and not take it for granted that you are just suddenly a genius the corollary of which is when it plummets don't take it for granted that you are a complete failure. Following the trends is an invaluable life skill that you would do well to teach to your students.

    I hear what Erik is saying but there gradations of knowing the material.
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      Jun 16 2012: "there gradations of knowing the material." Not in my discipline.

      Would you really want go to the pharmacist that had the lower gradation of knowledge? How could you even tell? I don't know about you, but I would want the best.

      The discipline is what establishes minimum standards and that is for our safety.
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        Jun 17 2012: Like I said I get it. But there are all sorts of levels above the minimal standards and below for that matter.

        What counts is the trends even after you have met the minimum standard, not for the authorities but for yourself.

        E.G. Your a salesman and yout average quota is 100 units a week, after a few weeks you start selling more. You analyze your schedule and your attitude and your policy and discover that the weeks that you sold more were weeks you started getting more sleep.

        From there you make a point of getting enough sleep and thingd go along and you discover that you start selling even more and do the analysis and discover coincident with the increased sales you were practicing what you learned in a Dale Carnegie course.

        Most people will not think to look at it this way but it is really the scientific method at work in the everyday world.
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          Jun 17 2012: OK I get it now and I agree. We do this a lot with standardized testing. We analyze trends in student data and we also have students analyze their own trends. It is actually a very helpful tool especially when you have a marginal student. It is very objective and the student can see where their content weaknesses are and address them. They also can see how lack of sleep affects performance or distractions from families or relationships. I agree trending performance is a skill for the future.
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        Jun 17 2012: Hoorah
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    Jun 15 2012: You still get that same affect with the normal grading system. Teachers would still likely use the same point charts that they use on their computers as they do with the normal grading technique. Plus, that would mean that even if a student gets a low grade in a class and they need to retake it, it would still be counted as passing if they raised by a certain amount of points from their previous grade level.
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    Jun 15 2012: I trend data in higher ed. You will probably have too much data. You might want to break it to biweekly or monthly to really analyse trends. Otherwise your data will be too sensitive to stuff like boyfriend-girlfriend breakups, fights with parents, staying up late. You will still get some of that but it will better reflect true improvement.

    I really don't think daily grades will be inspirational. It will eventually become just more ignored information that grades already are. Just ignored daily. Let me guess, you were a boyscout and you collected badges:)
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      Jun 21 2012: No, I just have a personal story. Member of the family is super smart, but can't do well in school and it has to do with his confidence vs. his ability to absorb and regurgitate knowledge. To him it became "Well, I was never good at it so I guess I never will be. I give up."

      I was trying to think of a way to help students in this type of situation. I also wasn't referring to giving out daily grades, just grades in general.
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        Jun 21 2012: I have one of those brilliant kids that can't do school either. Also gave up on school. But the kid is brilliant, just cannot sit in a class for hours on end. I wish the education system had more hands on learning. Why not teach math in an application like woodworking? Or history at historical sites? Finance at a local business? Really the problem is the way we do school, not how we grade. At least for many many learners.

        Our local high school where my kids attended had a 48% drop out rate. 48% and instead of looking at what the problem is in the system, they are looking at the problem in the student. Trying to find the best way to fit the student into the system. This is so wrong.
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    Jun 15 2012: If you lower the bar they won't have to jump as high. If you care about your students and you engage them like they are your friends, they will provide you with amazing results b/c they won't want to disappoint you.
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      Jun 16 2012: I disagree. In my experience when that happens they expect a free ride because you are their friend. Then you get into the whole 'how could you do this to your friend' rationalization.
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        Jun 18 2012: Hi Linda, I see what you mean and I didn't fully explain the attitude I was imagining. I was thinking of a chemistry teacher I had in high school, he acted like a friend in that he would listen, consider, and reply topically and thoughtfully (which can be rare in friends).

        Teachers who respect their students without being overly strict or aggressive worked great in my experience. The attitude I am recalling is one of social trend setting, teachers who make it cool to get good grades without lowering standards.