Saturday, May 4, 2013

Making The Grade

Until recently, my kids didn’t get grades.

They went to a school that specializes in learning differences. That school, tellingly, did not grade because many of its students had been so battered by the practice at regular schools.

Then, my kids mainstreamed.

They did figure this whole grade thing out and I think they had an easier time doing so because they first experienced grades as teens and not at a more tender age.

They saw that grades have very little to do with learning about the subjects. Or about your worth or intelligence. What grades did teach them is how to do what you need to do to get by.

“Grading for completion” is when the teacher gives a 100 for doing the homework at all, whether correctly or not. “They just look for writing, Ma,” says my daughter. “They don’t even read it.”

Then, there are the easy, grade-raising projects. (Teachers don’t want failing grades any more than students do.) Around our house, these assignments are known as “low-hanging fruit.”

“Test corrections” are when kids can raise a test grade by looking up the answers they got wrong and handing those in.

My kids have learned to pay attention to rubrics. Rubrics list concrete requirements, such as that every paragraph contains a certain number of sentences, which teachers check off when grading papers. My kids, who have thankfully already learned about being interesting, clear and entertaining writers, learned that writing a paper for school wasn’t about any of that. Since teachers don’t appear to read them, my kids write school papers to satisfy the rubric and get the grade, not to make sense.

I’m hoping my kids are learning something useful from this. Maybe about recognizing and fulfilling requirements?

Or is that wishful thinking?

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