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Grading Regrets

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Dear former students,

I started teaching at a fantastic public school. A really big one. One where the staff genuinely cared about the kids, standardized testing be damned. There were a lot of “at-risk” kids and ELL kids and minority-group kids, and the staff really tried to help out each individual. So I tried to do my part, with my neat little syllabus and all of my classroom rules.

And I hated grading.

Now, that’s not very significant. I don’t know any teachers who enjoy grading. But besides the monotony of searching through papers and lots of green ink (red ink’s not my thing), what I really hated was assigning those letter grades at the end of the term. And the biggest reason it ticked me off was that for the kids who really worked their hardest and the kids who just didn’t care, that letter grade often looked the same. It sucks. It really bothered me. And I wanted to reward massive effort, but I just didn’t know how.

But also, I didn’t know how to reward effort while keeping a this-is-the-proficiency-of-the-student-in-science intact for transcripts. Those similar-looking letter grades that meant very different things made me angry and frustrated, and there was more than one evening spent stomping around my apartment, aggravated and impotent. I wanted to add notes to all of the grades explaining the difference between this C-grade and that C-grade. And even if I did know what to do, that first year of teaching is all about survival, and I couldn’t find the time.

I’m so sorry.

At least I didn’t grade the way the Malcolm in the Middle teacher did, with a forced curve and fractional points.

Still, there must be a better way. I want to change!

I’ve been researching Standards Based Grading, and it sounds a lot more like something I’m comfortable with. I’ve read some Marzano and this and this and this and this.

I know it won’t help you, my former students, but hopefully I’ll be able to grow from it.

Thank you for teaching me.


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