From Our Executive Director, Jacqueline Hicks (April 2017 Newsletter):

Grades are a necessary part of traditional education. But what purpose do grades serve?

  • Administrators use the grades for tracking requirements for promotion and graduation, as well as ranking students.
  • Teachers use grades to give students feedback about their progress and achievement.
  • Counselors use grades to provide guidance about pursuing other courses and career objectives.
  • Grades provide teachers feedback for instructional planning.
  • For students, grades can be motivational.

Grades are a way to establish accountability for student achievement. Accountability is only valid if all parties involved agree about individual or organizational responsibilities, the criteria being used to assess achievement, and the consequences for the outcome. All parties, for me, include Administrator, Teacher, Parent, Student, and Government (district, state, federal). My purpose in this article is to focus on the accountability between teachers and students.

Teachers, you put a great deal of planning into meeting the standards and learning goals for each class, including what % of the grade will be based upon tests and how much weight to assign to homework. You try to create a fair and objective assessment of what each student has learned in your class. Did they learn what you set out to teach them? Are they ready for the next level? With success or failure, how much responsibility belongs with the teacher, and how much belongs with the student? In my classes, I always asked students what grade they thought they deserved and how they determined it. Those discussions became the basis for wonderful performance conversations, as well as a chance to review the course material.

The truth is that grades are also a reflection of a teacher’s performance and how well you facilitated the learning among your students. So, what grade do you think your students would give you?

The end of the school year is fast approaching. The last quarter has begun and standardized testing along with it. So, what do you think? How well are you doing? Are you satisfied with what your students are learning? This is the perfect time to start reflecting on your performance, making any adjustments you deem necessary. If you haven’t already, I recommend that in addition to self-reflection, you incorporate a survey to your students about your performance. Students know what makes a good teacher. They can even help you come up with relevant survey questions. Make it anonymous and ask them to grade you according to the same criteria you are using to evaluate yourself. You will likely be surprised by some of their responses. I guarantee it will make you a better teacher!