Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Passing on Letter Grades?

Guest Post by Andrew Leamy
Teacher, Duchess Park Secondary
in part, a response to the article "Passing on Letter Grades" by Alex Browne of the Peace Arch News --


It's interesting to imagine that a day of greater accountability is coming, when it seems every change we've made in the past 10 years has diminished student accountability. 

Provincial Exams? Gone.

Skip a test? Write it when you're ready.

Late penalties? Unthinkable.

Final Exams? How 'bout a project instead?

Plagiarize that research paper? Re-write it. Penalty? Why would there be one?

Copy off the smart kid beside you? You must not have been ready. When do you think you'll be ready for the re-write? Let me know.

Attendance? Come when you can. We'll be here. 5 days a week is a LOT to ask. We know you're busy.

No. You should never have to turn down a shift to finish a lab.

Poor grade? Here's some extra work to bump you up.

45%? Not Fair! Tough break. Here's a package.

A 0% for work not done? Madness. Here. Do it now. Or when you're ready. Or do this instead. Or this. When you're ready. We're here til June. July, even.

No, you're right. Summer is family time.

Essay too hard? Do a T chart.

Can't read the text? Fill in this template. I'll tell you what to write.

Of course you can have the notes with you for the test. What is this? The 90s?

No text? Here. I've run off some copies of the chapter just in case.

Any essay that only addresses one of the two required works will receive no more than a 4.

Miss a few assignments? We have make up days.

When? Every day is a make up day!

Fail a test? Of course you can re-write.

Quiz hurt your grade? Here's a re-write.

Working nights? Well, when can you be here? I'll wait.

Hawaii in January? Lucky kid! Here's a package.

Didn't get the package done? Here's another package.

Lost the second package? Here's an omit.

Basketball? Love it! Enjoy your Fridays. Let me know when you're ready to do the tests.

Laggard student? We must not be motivating you enough. We'll work on that. Sorry to have not engaged you.

Made it 3 days a week this week? Here's a Tim's card as a reward. Why not go next block?

Made it 5 days this week? What do you expect? A reward?

Stressed out by oral presentations? Sorry to hear that. Wanna do a T chart?

Logical Consequence? Sounds like a nasty code word for Unfair Punishment.

Anxious? I'm anxious, too. Perhaps if you studied, some of that anxiety might go away. Just kidding. We'll omit it.


(I refuse to admit which of these very practices I have engaged in recently.)

I guess the question is, "Are our students (raised in the accountability climate sketched above) better off today than they were 10 years ago? Are they better students today than 10 years ago? Are our inputs leading to better outputs?

Am I turning into that toothless old man shaking his fist at passing cars as they speed down the street in front of his stoop? That yawping, toothless backyard mutt chained to and defending to the death the old rusted barbecue that is his dignity?

Does anyone else here ever have the nightmare that our own newly minted "best practices" might in fact be "worst practices", or that we who have perhaps the most invested in the system are wholly complicit in tearing it down?

Does anyone ever wonder if perhaps kids don't take school seriously because we encourage them in myriad ways not to?

Have kids changed because we've encouraged them to?

And when, in our schools, do we discuss this?

(Funny what you come up with when looking to avoid marking....) 

Cheers, Andrew


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