personal blog

# “Do you round up?”

At my school, we’re nearing the end of our second trimester.  Consequently, students are starting to see how their grades are stacking up now that most of their assignments and assessments have been completed and entered into our LMS.   Our LMS reports the grades to students as percentages, but we (teachers) report the grades to the school as letter grades.  We have a range that gives a student their letter grade based on their percentage.

Students are starting to see that they’re one percent off of the next letter grade. Some are even only 0.4% away from the next range, so immediately they are asking me if I round up (they have a point; who am I to say if my student knows 82.3% opposed to 82.7%?  I can’t accurately measure their learning to that sort of precision).  And when I try to tell them that they still have opportunities to show me their learning progress, they quickly jump to asking for extra credit assignments.   They are willing to do anything just to make that number go up, but that anything typically detracts from their actual learning and adds stress to their overstressed student lives.

I struggle with this mostly because these students are stressing about a letter instead of their learning.  It is unnecessarily sucking away their curiosity to learn and shift their attention to a letter that is not a good representation or measure of their learning.  I know that my students want to do well and learn, but their learning is distracted by the pressure to have a good grade, whether it is from a parent, college aspirations, previous grades or just pressure they put on themselves.

I spend all trimester working to shift their focus away from their grade and onto their learning.  Without fail, every time finals or report cards come around, it seems to completely unravel.  I wish I knew the solution, but I struggle to see this changing until we can eliminate our traditional grades altogether.

Photo Credit: ludwg via Compfight cc

1. This brings up two major points/reminiscences for me

1) I always tell my students that they cannot get a letter grade lower than what their average says. They can, however, get a letter grade higher than their average based on the arc of their term, their participation in class, and their general contribution to the learning environment in our class.

2) I had a student at my last school ask for a conference with me when she was unhappy with a midterm grade report. Her first question was ‘What can I do to improve my grade?’ I said, ‘Can we talk about improving your understanding? I think that will help take care of your grade concern.’ Her response was ‘Colleges have no idea what I understand. They know what my grade is.’ As long as we are dealing with this reality AND the students know it, I’m not sure there’s much we can do to change what you’re describing.

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