This week’s post offer one way to handle end-of-quarter grades in a classroom that functions without grades. Tuesday’s post discussed the portfolio template and how to set everything up. Wednesday’s post handled reflective analogies. Today’s post deals with the final component of the portfolio: the grade evaluation essay. As I said earlier, I removed grades, quizzes, and tests from my classroom three quarters ago. The end-of-quarter grade my district requires is the only time I have to input something into the electronic gradebook.
After getting settled in with the warm-up, students discuss what an A, B, and C look like and sound like in our English class. At first the students stick to superficial ideas: sitting up, paying attention, completing every assignment, etc. They’ve internalized the language of what’s expected of them (essentially obedience) over years of repetition. I have to push them to move beyond the surface, to focus on our English class specifically. I list all of the different types of assignments and discussions we’ve had over the nine weeks. This is hard.
After each group has cobbled together a decent enough list, they write their findings on big pieces of chart paper around the room. There are six total: “An A looks like,” “An A sounds like,” etc.
Then I tell them it’s time they compose their two paragraph grade evaluation. The paragraphs go into their Q1 Portfolio Google Slide presentations. The first slide is essentially “what grade do you deserve and why?” The second slide asks students to come up with a wishlist for quarter two and write me a personal note about how everything went. You’ll see I reiterate the need for specificity by including two simple “Do this/not that!” examples on the slide.
After spending the next day polishing up their drafts, students are done. I meet with each of them over a four days to hear them summarize their portfolio work and pontificate on next steps. If I agree with their grade (which I do 99% of the time), I immediately put it into the grade book.
Students aren’t used to this. Or, at least, the students I teach aren’t. It requires of them (and you) a pretty big leap of faith. You’re asking them to flip on circuits long rendered dormant by external systems of punishment and reward. Some of them discuss feeling guilty. They don’t know how to balance their desire for honesty with the contingencies of parents, family members, honor rolls, etc. This post, however, isn’t the place for a deeper discussion into assessment ethics and professional judgement.
Hopefully you found something to add to your own practice or at least to think about. Thanks for reading!