Magic with Numbers: Slice of Life

Magic with Numbers: Slice of Life

My coffee waits, and I keep forgetting to take a drink. It’s getting cold, but I’m distracted by the vagaries of grading systems. I’m trying to understand why a student who has turned in most of her work (and it’s mostly excellent work) has a 65%. 

Testing out a hunch, I go to the screen where I initially set up the assignment. I unclick one box and click another, moving the assignment from one assessment category to another one.

Her grade jumps 20 points. 

I scan the other grades. A class that had 13 students with failing grades now has 4 students with failing grades. Nothing has changed about the quality or quantity of the students’ work. The only thing that changed is which weighted assessment category I sorted the assignment into when I created it. 

Grading is such a con.  

And now my coffee is cold.

11 responses to “Magic with Numbers: Slice of Life”

  1. The joys of grading. I think your example shows how assigning a number grade to a student’s work makes something so cut and dried that shouldn’t be because of all of the complexities involved in assigning that number to a paper/project.

  2. I am so happy that we don’t grade children in the primary school. it takes so much pressure off the kids and teachers and allows more personal approach to learning.
    I like how you added the detail of coffee getting cold to this slice. It punctuates this slice perfectly.

  3. YES! “Grading is such a con.” Grades are not an indication of learning and Alfie Kohn provides so much to support this. Many in my district are moving to ungrading and Jesse Stommel’s approach in University is proof that this can work. And besides, coffee is way more important.

  4. Grading is a con of sorts. If students don’t know exactly what’s expected through rubrics and feedback it can be so elusive. The weighting of grades is tricky too. Some teachers weigh homework heavily while others put more weight on assessments. It’s a tough call. I’m glad I’m not being graded in life…

  5. The weighting of categories is subjective and yes, a con. It is doubly unfair when teachers don’t care to notice, as you did, that something is amiss. Or, when a final exam in an ILA class for a ninth-grade student is weighted at 50% of the final grade and to make it worse is graded by the “inclusion” teacher who never graded anything for anyone but “his” students all year and now weighs in on final, heavily weighted papers. Sorry… I could go on and on. I used to think grades were fair. Now, I know they’re not.

  6. When I saw your title, magic with numbers, I was expecting a totally different slice. Grading is the thorn in the teacher’s side. Just glad I’m not rolling those numbers anymore. And get a fresh, hot coffee, You deserve it!

  7. How lucky your students are that you took the time to play with those categories. It is crazy how such a seemingly objective thing is actually incredibly subjective. The cold coffee is a great commentary on the grading system.

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