“Please, Sir, May I Have a 90?” Pt. II

You may have read through other blogs and commentary idea regarding grades below 50. Contemporary thinking is that grades below 50 should not be entered because it will be too difficult for the student to bring her grade back up. Consequently, that student will cease to try because she now has this massive obstacle in her way, and the juice may not appear to be worth the squeeze.

But if a student doesn’t do an assignment, shouldn’t he get a 0?

Teachers everywhere

If we’re thinking that percentages are an appropriate way to monitor student growth, then sure. But percentages are not useful in monitoring student growth.

The reality is that a 50 is no different from a 0–they’re both failing grades. If we think about these grades with meaning attached, we could do something like this:

50 = Student did not attempt
51-65 = Student work did not illustrate mastery
66-75 = Student work approaching mastery
76-85 = Student work illustrates partial mastery
86-100 = Student work illustrates mastery

Here, scores are tied directly to specific meaning and, consequently, the percentage has less power.

This is kind of like PARCC or NJSLA score results though, isn’t it?

You, probably

There are tons of things that you can criticize standardized tests for, but I’m not sure this is one of them.

For the 2019-2020 school year, I am going to be trying out a different point-based system. It’s still connected to percentages though. It has to be because that’s how our gradebook is managed. Each point goes toward their marking period portfolio.

In the Units of Study there are bends within each unit, and each bend is made up of several sessions. I’m thinking about doing something like this:

Here, students have 33 available points that they can earn during this unit. Essays are worth as many points as there are sessions that precede it. Throughout this unit, I’m not going to ask for 33 points of data though. Instead, I might ask for, say, 27. Out of 27 points, 17 of those will be final essay submissions. Thus, 10 points would be dedicated toward other point opportunities. A student may decide then to submit her work for “Editing All You Know” or “Adopting an Essayist’s Tone,” for example.

Thus, it should be easily attainable for a student to demonstrate mastery, especially since each lesson addresses so many different NJ standards. For example, the first lesson of the first bend of the Literary Essay unit addresses the following standards:


Thus, a student can use this lesson as an opportunity to demonstrate mastery of these standards, which is really what we should base their grade on, shouldn’t it be? Furthermore, if they don’t meet one of these standards in this lesson, surely a subsequent lesson will have just as many standards, many of which will likely be the same. So should we not encourage students to pick their best work to show us?

Numerous studies have shown that giving students choice in the work that they submit can yield positive academic outcomes. Yet, many of us hold onto the idea that students should do, and will benefit, from every assignment given to them when there’s not necessarily that support.

NJ Student Learning Standards

Further Reading

Hanewicz, C., Platt, A., & Arendt, A. (2017). Creating a Learner-Centered Teaching Environment Using Student Choice in Assignments. Distance Education38(3), 273–287.

Pretorius, L., van Mourik, G. P., & Barratt, C. (2017). Student Choice and Higher-Order Thinking: Using a Novel Flexible Assessment Regime Combined with Critical Thinking Activities to Encourage the Development of Higher Order Thinking. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education29(2), 389–401.

Scott, C. M., & Glaze, N. (2017). Homework Policy and Student Choice: Findings from a Montessori Charter School. Journal of Montessori Research3(2), 1–18. 

Streicher, C. (2018, January 1). The Effects of Student Choice of Passage Topic on Reading PerformanceProQuest LLC. ProQuest LLC.

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