I was walking down the hallway today and passed by some students talking rather
excitedly about the subject matter they were studying. I stopped and said, I was thrilled with the learning that was going on in the hallways. The four students bantered back and forth, until one student asked if we were going to use percentages on the report card, because the 4 point system was stupid.
We implemented the 4 point assessment system this year and I would have to say the majority of the students love it. They find that it has taken the pressure off of testing and allowed them to learn freely. We have a lot more practice, feedback and formative reviews, so when students do summative assessments, they are much more prepared for it. The other side of it is that students now have a chance to redo assignments, retakes tests and make the corrections. However, there are a few students, usually the high achievers that are very competitive, that don't like the new system for a variety of reasons.
One of the girl's in the hallway said, "All of the students don't like the 4
point." I replied, "Careful. We can't use the all inclusive 'all', when I know there are students that love it." She smiled and said, "I'll just move to another school that uses percentage." I said, "Good luck with that, because we are all changing to the 4 point over the next year." So one of the other girls said, "I like the percentage system, because I want to beat my sister. They use it in high school, and I want to average out my grades so I can beat my sister."Just then another student interrupted and said, "It's a competition, so we need the percentage system." I replied, "Sorry, that's exactly why we need to change the system, because we want you to learn for learning sake, not to beat another student." I went on to add that learning is about self-respect and dignity. It doesn't matter what another student gets for a grade, what really matters is what the individual student learns. And what most students don't understand is that percentage grades are incredibly subjective, as illustrated in the example below.
Coming back to the students in the hallway, I can't help but think we have created a monster in our schools around the percentage grading system. The focus tends to get placed on the mark and not the learning. Who cares whether you got better grades than your sister? Really, especially when they are so subjective to begin with. I want students to care about what they are learning. I want teachers to care that students are learning. I want administrators to get more interested in assessment for learning.
I have to share what Justin Tarte tweeted today, and I couldn't agree more. He called it "10 truths about educating students that are often ignored."
It's going to take awhile to change deeply ingrained attitudes about learning and assessment in our schools. But the change needs to happen, not for the sake of change, but because it's what we need to do in our schools. The old system was so punitive and hard-hearted that is robbed many of our students
of the desire to learn. It's a philosophical shift in our thinking; it's a change of heart or even putting the heart back into education. In any case, change is necessary for the students' sake. We need to be open minded about what we will gain from change and not focussed on what we will give up.
If you want to have your heart stirred to embrace change, watch this TedTalk by Linda Cliatt-Wayman.