Learning about Grading from the Baljeatles

The BEST part of my day, y'all, starts at about 4:30 every day.  That's when my daughter and I cuddle up on the couch with a cold glass of apple juice and our iPad to watch a quick show together.  It's really the only time that she and I have alone with one another — and I love it. 

Recently, we've gotten hooked on the madcap adventures of Phineas and Ferb.  Not only do I love the complete spirit of adventure and experimentation that defines the boys, I love the great music tracks that fill each episode. 

Yesterday, I stumbled on this bit starring Baljeet, a brilliant-yet-painfully-high-strung kid who can't ever seem to relax — especially when it comes to making good grades in school:

(see lyrics here)

 

What's completely crazy is that I've probably taught about a million Baljeet's in my day — kids who weren't interested in any experience that wasn't graded.  And that's frightening because when grades become more important than learning, kids suffer. 

Not only do the Baljeets in our classrooms carry around the stress that comes with constantly trying to make the next Honor Roll, they fail to develop the kind of natural inquisitiveness that leads to intellectual persistence. 

Worse yet, when right-wing #edpolicy wonks push for crappy practices that reward and punish schools with letter grades, TEACHERS give up on natural curiosity, too. 

Who has time for impossible-to-measure traits like curiosity when your school is about to be publicly shamed because your kids can't regurgitate the right facts on the right state-mandated exams?

When are we going to cultivate a culture of wonder in our schools? 

When will we create learning spaces where asking — and then being able to answer — questions of deep personal interest is valued and respected AT LEAST as much as making As?

And when are we going to FINALLY realize that blunt grading practices — for students, teachers AND schools — do little to encourage the kinds of innovative thinking that we all KNOW defines the most successful members of any knowledge-driven workforce?

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Related Radical Reads:

@shareski's Right: My Students CAN Assess Themselves

A Student's Take on Self Assessment

Reminder: Mastery and Performance are NOT the Same Thing

 

 

 

 

5 comments

  1. ginnyp

    To Joan: percentages is the way I think we should be going. And exactly for the reason you point out: “Ok, you made a B with your 85. But you missed 15% of what I taught.” And while I’m at it, I’d love to end the grade inflation – what if 50%, a medium grade, were a C? And if 100% truly equaled perfection which pretty no student would ever obtain (and hence an “A” equivalent could be an 80 or 85).
    Parents are worse than kids for the vast majority of my students. I compiled a booklet of emails from just one parent who was determined that his/her child handed in every paper, or should make up tests whenever he had a chance to review the material, so he “could make honor roll.” What kind of “honor” is that?
    Bill, I took a look at the ALEC blog. What bunch of garbage. It partly answers my question, “Where are all these stupid ideas coming from – certainly not the teachers or even administrators?”

  2. Michelle Baldwin

    Love Phineas & Ferb… and since my kids are all grown up, I watch it by myself.
    It is astounding to me the number of heated discussions that begin around the subject of grades. Grades were never devised to do anything other than rank and sort… they have nothing to do with promoting learning. So why are they still in place?
    Our school doesn’t “do” grades at all. It’s been a learning curve for students, but they have really taken charge of their learning and being reflective about their learning (SO important!)… all due to the fact that they’re getting meaningful feedback, rather than numbers or letters that really don’t mean anything.
    Great post, Bill! (and 4:30?? Wow.)

  3. Joan

    Amen. A number of my students don’t care about the honor roll. Still the same sad consequences. We teachers feel like we have to grade everything or else the students don’t see the point of doing the learning activity or doing it well. “Is this going to be graded?” is a common mantra. How’s that for motivation?
    I am contemplating grading everything on percentages. “OK you mastered 80% now what are we going to do about the other 20?” Tie standards in (which fell in the 20) and give more time to master those. Let the grade book determine letter grades if the students want.