Should students be allowed to argue for a higher grade?

@MrBrettClark 1 Comments

I had a student one time who failed my Pre-Algebra class with a 59.3% for the semester.  He stood at my desk, with his first clinched, asking me to round his grade up to a D for the semester so he wouldn't have to re-take Pre-Algebra.  I didn't budge, and I had that same student again the next year.  This time he finished with a C.

I am glad I didn't round his grade up, because he needed another round of Pre-Algebra.  However, I wonder now if he needed another year of Pre-Algebra.  What if I had given him the chance to learn from his mistakes the very moment he made them, instead of a year later?  What if I had given him the chance to try again on every failed summative assessment?  Instead, the moment he failed, we were moving on and accepting his failure.

Honestly, how many of us understand something the first time we try it?  Right now I am trying to teach my son how to tie his shoes, and doing a terrible job at it.  He makes his loops too big, or he makes them too small.  He gets his fingers all tangled up and leaves his laces in a knot.  Eventually he'll get it, and if he was in my "shoe-tying" class, he'd get an F because his previous failures would, more than likely, outweigh his current success.

Does that feel wrong to anyone else but me?  So, I ask again, should students be allowed to argue for a higher grade?

I say, no, but they should be allowed the opportunity to provide evidence that they have learned from their mistakes and mastered a standard they once struggled with. Just like people are allowed to take the drivers test as many times as they need to, or a CPA is given years to pass all the test it takes to earn that title.  I had classmates who took the PRAXIS II exam multiple times before passing and then given their teaching license.  I have already had over 20 typos in this blog, but many of them you'll never see because I was allowed to replace my mistakes. 

What am I proposing? (Of course, this isn't an original idea of mine.  You can find research from Stiggins, Reaves, and other assessment experts on the issue.)  A student at any time should be allowed to have the opportunity to replace any graded assignment with another assignment that covers the same material.  I know this sounds like a lot of work for the teacher, but only because we teachers have the tendency to assign more homework and grades than what are necessary.  However,I'll have to discuss that sentence at another time.

In the meantime, lets give every student that walks in our classrooms the opportunity to learn from their mistakes.  This way, instead of trying to argue for a higher grade, or earn some irrational extra credit, they will work on their areas of need. 

Does this sound like something you could use in your class or would want to see in your child's class?

Here are a few quotes from some experts. The last one might be my favorite.

“While high grades provide a small amount of motivation for some students, low grades do not motive students to do better. In fact they usually lead to withdrawal.” (Rick Wormeli)

“In order for a grade to be a valid mechanism for feedback and instructional planning, we cannot let the number of attempts to learn concepts and skills significantly influence the grade as an accurate indicator of mastery.” (Rick Wormeli)

“Healthy attitude for a teacher: Any grade below a C is always temporary.” (Doug Reeves)

“Are we interested more in holding students accountable or making sure they learn? Some accountability measures become ‘learn or I will hurt you’ measures.” (Nancy Doda/Rick Wormeli)

1 comment:

  1. I agree with the idea. Mastery of the topic is our goal, not the grade. Your angry student waited a little late to call you on his grade. Students must take responsibility for their learning. Teachers are there to assist, but ultimately it is the student who has to step up. Not sure many college classes that will allow a student to retake tests multiple times. If we are preparing these students for the future, we must make them responsible for their own learning.