At this year’s Association of Middle Level Educators (AMLE) annual conference, Rick Wormeli made a statement that has been swirling around in my head since I heard it. He said, “Quit mathifying grades.” While the wording is less than “standard English,” the sentiment is valuable. In the context of mastery learning or standards-based learning, what is the role of grades? Should they represent only how well the students have mastered the standards? I think so (as do a contingent of educators). Just search #ttogchat or #sblchat on Twitter to find conversations and support for ensuring that grades actually represent a student’s progress on the journey to standards mastery. That’s a huge subject that I’m not ready to tackle in my school or in this blog. However, I have one idea to propose that would lead to less “mathifying” of my grades.
What if I divide my next test into three categories? The first category represents the lower levels of Bloom’s taxonomy. If students successfully complete this part of the test, they demonstrate the basic content knowledge from this unit. This also represents the lowest level of standards mastery that I will accept. If a student doesn’t complete this portion of the test successfully, he/she will be working through remediation and testing again later. I would equate success at this level with the letter grade C.
The second level of the test represents application of the material from the first level. If students know the content and can apply it to new situations, then they have a deeper understanding than those who know but can’t apply. Success on this portion of the test would be equated with the letter grade B.
The final level of the test is still forming in my mind. I’m considering some kind of synthesis/creating task that would represent the top level of Bloom’s taxonomy and would highlight the deepest understanding of the content being tested. Success on this part of the test would equate to the letter grade A.
After giving this test, there would be only 4 grades: A, B, C, or retry. Those grades would give a more accurate representation of the level of each student’s mastery of the content rather than being the result of some mathematical formula that I devised for scoring the test. These grades would also be more predictive of the student’s scores on a standardized test that requires application of the content.
Thoughts? Suggestions? Let’s continue this conversation in the comments.