Thursday, November 8, 2012

Report Cards, What do They Represent?

As I review about 250 report cards tonight, I can't but help wonder do they represent what they should? To be quite frank, I'm not feeling very good about this.

When we give grades, what are we trying to say? That this grade represents their subject knowledge and understanding. Or does this grade represent a topic that a student struggled with for weeks but now understands thoroughly, but can't overcome a 30 and a 40 from earlier tests?

When I started teaching I admit to being a hard ass. A student earned what they earned and that was final! My God what an idiot I was...

I used to give zeros....
What did that prove? Who was I helping? (Or was I just being lazy!)

My 8th grade daughter currently has a B in one subject instead of an A. Why? because she is missing some homework assignments.

Wait, what? She has an A for tests, quizzes, and classwork, so she has shown that she knows and understands the content. The missing homework, does this take away from her knowledge, her understanding?

I was in a Tweet Chat a few weeks and someone proposed eliminating grades entirely. I had never given it much thought before, but the comment was made by a person I respect. I have given it some thought and  I concur. A key question  for me is if you get you license on the first time or the tenth time, does it look any different? Are your tests averaged together? No, each road test (opportunity) gives you a chance to demonstrate your knowledge and show that you have mastery of the subject matter.

 Let's measure end knowledge and understanding, not the process of learning.

How could we replace grades? what should we use to measure knowledge and understanding? Would colleges accept such radical changes?

Thoughts, suggestions, ideas?


  1. Some great thoughts here Phil! I have struggled with many of these same questions as well. Many of the members of my PLN would be surprised by the fact that I was a struggling learner (well at least according to my grades). I was actually pretty bright, but absolutely hated homework and quite often chose not to do it. I had other things. I loved to study in a group. Loved good discussions with teachers, and loved listening to smart people talk. But I hated doing homework, especially things that just seemed like busy work, and man did it affect my grades. Did my grades reflect my knowledge, well maybe the grades on my tests, but not the grades on my report card. I still remember my high school guidance counselor telling me that I should probably aim for a community college or just think of going into the armed forces. No college would want me and that he wasn't sure I was ready for that level of work. I guess it just goes to show, that a report card doesn't always report true knowledge or ability. And maybe everyone needs to remember that not everyone learns in the same way or at the same pace, even though our system tries to make it appear that they should. I am not sure I have all the right answers for your questions, but I sure know some wrong answers. Keep asking the same great questions here. They are important!