One of my personal battles is dealing with teachers that are bad. I’ve said it from time to time, my wife is a teacher.
My kids went to the same school system my wife taught in. Each year my wife would evaluate which teacher was the right teacher for each of our children. And every year she would say something like “Such and Such is a bad teacher. We don’t want our kids in her class. They won’t learn anything.”
The fact is that every teacher knows who is a good teacher in their school and who is not. Teachers that can get their kids into the class rooms of the good teachers. Yet whenever I talk about evaluating teachers I get so much push back. The statement is almost always “we don’t want to judge a teacher by how their students do. That means that a good teacher can have a bad group of students and then they are judged as bad.”
I’ve been told that teaching is the only profession where there can be no objective measurements so the only way is to reward teachers by time in grade and what credentials they hold. A teacher with a Masters in Underwater Basket Weaving will be paid more than a teacher with a Bachelors in Math minoring in Education.
The best way I’ve found so far is to evaluate students based on their progression over the time in a teachers class. Thus a student that has a 25 point improvement over the course of the year tells you something about that student. If that student had a 30 point improvement last year and a 35 point improvement next year, that might indicate that this teacher isn’t as good as the other two.
The thing is, that you can track this. If there is a teacher that consistently gets 35 point improvement for every student in their class but other teachers are only getting 25 points per student, this is a strong indication that this teacher is the better teacher.
It turns out that this does work. And it works regardless of the quality of the student. This is because we know the student. A student that normally does 15 points but for this one teacher they get 25 points and then back to 15 points, there is a reason for it. And it it turns out the one teacher consistently gets more points per student, reward her. If instead there is that teacher that consistently gets less out of their students, then it is time to let that student go.
Standards-based grading is a way of determining how a student is progressing. It helps grade teachers as well as the student.
Standards-based grading (SBG) is an intentional way for teachers to track their students’ progress and achievements while focusing on helping students learn and reach their highest potential. It is based on students showing signs of mastery or understanding various lessons and skills. In fact, many districts across the country have embraced the idea for decades. Standards-based grading is a way to view student progress based on proficiency levels for identified standards rather than relying on a holistic representation as the sole measure of achievement—or what Marzano and Heflebower called an “omnibus grade.”
—Standards-Based Grading: What To Know for the 2021-2022 School Year
Our kids are on standards-based grading. They have to reach “competency” on every assignment before it counts. If they don’t achieve competency then they have to re-learn the lesson and do more assignments, often with instructor help, until they do reach competency.
This means that a student doesn’t move forward in their lessons until such time as they have the foundation for future lessons.
A few years ago the daughter of a family friend was over and they talked about how much trouble she was having in math at school. She was doing all sorts of things, extra credit, extra instructions with the teacher, making sure she participated in classroom discussions. A huge effort on her part. And she was just squeaking by. She wasn’t actually learning anything, but the teacher saw the effort she was putting in and was giving her a passing grade.
In given my friend’s daughter daughter a passing grade the teacher was making next years class that much more difficult.
I like math, I didn’t understand why she was having such issues so I connected her with MobyMath which became MobyMax. This program did the standards-based assessments and discovered why she was having problems with math. She didn’t know how to do division. She could do simple division but she never mastered, gained competency in division which meant no working knowledge of long division that meant…
Her single gap in knowledge from elementary school doomed her in high school math classes.
The board also discussed the practice of standards-based grading in the district. According to the district’s website, standards-based grading is different from traditional grading because instead of averaging a student’s scores across the term, a standards-based grading system “measures a student’s mastery of content standards by assessing their most recent and consistent level of performance.”
Trustee Tracey Pearson said there have been instances where students who have put in consistent effort throughout the term are earning the same “number” as “students who are not putting in as much effort.” This affects student morale and motivation, and causes stress for parents, she said.
And there it is. Standards-based grades are unacceptable because some kids have to put in more effort. It hurts morale. So let’s go back to the old system, where a student can get a passing grade for showing up and “putting in an effort.”
In education “putting in the effort” isn’t the goal, the goal is, or should be, learning the material.
So many parents today are more concerned about how hard something is rather than what is accomplished. They want their child to get the “participation award” grade.
Poor little Billy is working on homework 4 hours every night after he comes home, there is too much homework and it isn’t fair. Billy needs time to relax and have fun!
If your school system uses standards-based grading, support them. Don’t let grades become participation awards. If you are a parent, try and attend at least a couple of school board meetings every school year. It makes a difference. Don’t be afraid to step up and ask questions or make a statement.