Pressure vs. Good Information

I was recently quoted by reporter Steve Friess of USA Today on a pretty narrow grading issue. He seemed well-informed about the idea of a mathematical safety net because the gap between 0 and 59 is so huge, that giving a zero in a 100 point scale is tantamount to psychological assault and battery. He was even familiar with Doug Reeves’s opinion on the matter.

I gave him my view on the subject of standards-based grading and our district’s position on that matter, not the single issue that is the subject of this USA Today article.

Although my super superintendent, and the assistant superintendent in charge of curriculum, instruction, and operations, were not upset by the quote, I was mildly disappointed, although I acknowledge that reporters, especially those individuals working for a large metropolitan — or worse — a national newspaper, typically work under a lot of pressure.

To be frank, I was more concerned with the reactions of district teachers, and I e-mailed the union president, a highly competent individual, with the following:

I read the USA Today article on a particular grading issue in today’s paper, and was disappointed with the scope — basically a single issue that is only a band-aid approach in a much larger and more complex discussion on standards-based grading. My quote was inaccurate and out of context…I was not talking to the reporter about implementing the grading safety net the article speaks of, but of secondary standards-based grading in general. (Strategy III, Specific Result 1, Action Step 3: Develop and implement a secondary school standards-linked grading and reporting process. — HSD 1J Strategic Plan 2006-2011.)

A more accurate quote would have been, “We will not implement any grading strategy as a top-down mandate. I hope to see standards-based grading rolled out within a couple of years after we have had a thorough discussion with teachers and administrators, and they all have a chance to be educated to the proposition.”

I’m surprised that, according to the article, that other school districts would try to take an easy way out with regard to assessment integrity, and any district that fails to at least strive for teacher buy-in via professional development opportunities and other avenues of discourse probably deserves to fail at the process.

I’m pleased that the subject is surfacing in the national media…just wish it could be more…accurate and informing.

It’s worth noting as a post-script, that when I was in high school (post Civil War, 1958-1962) in Farmingdale, NY, 60 was the lowest grade a teacher could put in their grade book. (Don’t ask me just how I know, okay?) So it’s not a new idea, is it? I need to find out if it was a state thing, or a local district rule.

BTW, someone referred Mr. Friess to me, and he read this blog post. It’s probably my own fault that he wasn’t picking up on what I said about the broader picture. The pressure didn’t allow him the time to read more.

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3 thoughts on “Pressure vs. Good Information

  1. I suppose that is the nice thing about blogging. It is your voice and your space…and very little opportunity to misquote yourself. 🙂

    Next time I talk to a reporter, I’ll take the questions and say, “Give me ten minutes and you can find the answers on my blog!” 🙂 –Hugh

  2. When I saw this reported in the news, you immediately came to mind. I read a short clip that was a summary of this article, so I hadn’t realized that you were actually quoted in it!

    I love the fact that you reached out to your union person. I wish that leaders on both sides would do this sort of thing more often. After all, we are there for the same reason, right?

    You’re 100% right on, Ms. Teacher. And that union president gets it too. We are there for the students. 🙂 –Hugh

  3. Sir – my school is in the midst of grading wars. Could you please post links to pertinent research.

    Dan, rather than wear out my keyboard, let me suggest that you get your hands on the first book, How to Grade for Learning, listed in my Bibliography page at the bottom of this blog masthead. Ken O’Connor gives an excellent roundup of relevant research and opinion articles that support standards-based grading. He also includes a more succinct biblio in his book A Repair Kit for Grading: Fifteen Fixes for Broken Grades. Click on the titles on the Bibliography page for purveyors of the books.

    I hope your district admin has provided ample discussion and professional development prior to moving to SBG. Grading wars can be avoided if teachers are engaged in the conversation and can be open-minded and “professional.” 😉 –Hugh

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