Saturday, December 17, 2011

Update: What Grades Mean in My Classroom

Last week I posted my beliefs about what grades mean in my classroom.  On Monday I made my beliefs public to the math department at my school.  As I shared each belief and explained how I was implementing it in my math classroom I was flooded with so many feelings.

My first feeling was fear.  Although I have been at my current school for 8 years and have a wonderful rapport with my fellow teachers, the grading debate in our school is a hot topic with many sides and emotions embedded.  I was fearful that after sharing my beliefs I would lose respect from my colleagues.  As I began to share my beliefs, the seven other math teachers listened intently and respectfully and the fear quickly turned to relief. 

The feeling of relief was a result of letting my colleagues in on what is going on in my classroom as far as implementing standards based grading.  I have been breaking agreements that our department made about grades and although my administrators were well aware of what I was doing I still felt like I was cheating and lying.  Part of the reason I had decided to "come clean" with my department was a result of parent comments to my fellow math teachers which caused them to wonder about what was going on in my classroom.  I was relieved to get my grading policy off my chest by sharing my beliefs.  I was also relieved at the response, my colleagues listened intently and we began a meaningful discussion about grading.  

The next feeling I felt was appreciation.  As we discussed and questioned, I realized we are all in very different places in our beliefs about grading.  However, as a department, we could appreciate where each individual was on the continuum of what grading meant in their classroom.  An example was a comment a fellow math teacher made to a parent about my grading based on standards and her grading based on completion.  Knowing that she is okay with where I am and also okay with where she is allows for appreciation.  It is also the foundation for the next step of moving more teachers towards standards based grading.

Again I am going to mention the  ASCD Article by Susan Brookhart.  She states,

"All opinions need to be heard, and people's right to hold them should be affirmed.  Educators will be much more receptive to new ideas - even those that challenge their own opinions - that come from colleagues who understand where they stand and why."

This is so key in the grading discussion!

The final feeling I am experiencing is acceptance.  The standards based grading conversation is so tough.  I admire my administrators for taking it on.  I accept the fact that it is a journey and it will be a long one.  I realize that as a staff we need to take baby steps.  As someone who is fully vested in helping facilitate the change, I need to be patient, listen to concerns and share resources.  I need to accept the fact that I am still learning and stumbling in my implementation and that I need to seek out help and advice.

For those of you working to implement standards based grading, JUMP and share with your colleagues.  Get a copy of the November issue of ASCD's Educational Leadership on Effective Grading Polices.

Stay the Course!  As difficult as it is to work to implement standards based grading, it has completely changed the conversations and attitudes and learning in my classroom.

I'll keep you updated with our ongoing conversations and the struggles I encounter as I learn to implement standards based grading.


  1. Great post! I made the jump four years ago as a lone ranger. Now all of our math classes are using SBG and our ELA teachers are set to begin in January. The conversations continue and it's a learning process for us all. I applaud your efforts! I'd love to share resources with you. Here's a link to my Live Binder. I've added your blog to it as well. Thanks!

  2. Forgot to include the link...