What is a 3, anyway?

In the world of standards-based grading, a 3 means proficient. Does that means it’s kind of like a C? Or more like a B? Don’t tell me it doesn’t matter. It does. It has to go in the gradebook. In late August, I wrote this post about my first foray into the world of proficiency-based…

Read More

The teacher’s way is rarely the only way

Last week, I asked a few hundred of my former journalism students: Did you ever feel like you received an unfair grade in high school? If so, why was it unfair? I asked them to share their stories with me, and I received just one — from Alistair. His experience is good food for thought,…

Read More

AP test scores are out… So what?

I am one of those nerdy teachers who cannot wait to check her students’ AP scores in July. Pass rates, distributions, average scores — it’s all interesting data to me. I always want to know how my latest cohort of students compares to previous groups, whether I’m reaching my goal (93% with a 3 or…

Read More

Let’s use – not abuse – standardized tests

Watching Frontline’s documentary of Michelle Rhee during the same week AP scores were released has me trying to wrap my head around this issue of standardized testing and how we should use test scores. I know many teachers hate standardized tests of any kind — and for good reason. They cause anxiety. They are biased…

Read More

Grading time brings a burst of ‘motivation’

At the end of the semester, “motivation” soars. High school teachers get heartfelt pleas from two groups of students: those who are failing and really want to pass, and those who are earning A-s and really want As instead. “What can I do?” both groups ask. “I’ll do anything!” The first group – the kids…

Read More

Re-learning that really works?

Three years ago, under a new principal, my high school leaped head first into the “re-learning, re-take” trend sweeping public education. The philosophy is simple and has undeniable logical appeal. If Michael performs poorly on a test, he should have the opportunity to re-learn the material and improve his score. After all, we get more…

Read More

Would you give out all As?

What would happen this year if I tossed out all of my rubrics, test scores and grading scales and just granted As to all of my students? Would my classroom become a utopia, where students — free from the rat-race of chasing grades — would engage in learning for the pure love of it? Or…

Read More

Who taught you to write tests?

Can a test capture how well you understand something? I’m not talking about the massive standardized tests that are making us crazy right now. Just the humble classroom test, written by a teacher to evaluate how well a student is doing in class. The kind of test that forms a grade, then a transcript. Then…

Read More