The Summer of Now and Next

Summer 2017 reading


Among one of the too many edu-blogs that I read I recently come across a photo of a teacher who prints out what she is currently learning and tapes it to the door frame on the outside of her classroom so her students can see it when they walk in.

I first came across the idea of encouraging others (teachers, administrators, etc.) to observe a teacher just for the sake of getting feedback from Robert Kaplinsky. He started the #Observeme (click to see his blog post about it) campaign where he posts a few goals outside his classroom and invites others in to see if those goals are being met while he is teaching. (Check out the hashtag on Twitter to see what teachers are doing).

I like that idea. It needs to happen this year for me.


So, what’s new?

I’ve invested a lot of my professional reading this summer to a fairly interesting idea. It is very much a “so far” type of idea. As in, here’s what I’ve read/thought about and tried so far. It’s a bit similar to the “not yet” concept I like to repeat – almost as a mantra – to students. You haven’t learned something “yet.” Or, when I am coaching whatever sport I happen to be at any one time (soccer, basketball, baseball), I encourage the athletes to keep trying a new idea or a new move and that it will take time to learn it.  


So, how does a gradeless class sound?

Going Gradeless. This idea has me very excited with some uncertainty. Gradeless doesn’t mean not giving any grades as every teacher has to, in the least, assign a grade for every progress report. Per our teacher contract, a grade needs to be assigned 3 times a semester.

What going gradeless means is a fairly radical shift from grading, which is fraught with of all sorts of issues, to learning.

By the way:

  1. There’s grading issues at Harvard
  2. The median grade at Harvard is an A-.
  3. More Harvard: “In 1969, 7 percent of undergraduates had grades of A- or higher in contrast to 41 percent now(So, there’s more smart students at Harvard now?)
  4. Lastly, but not a Harvard note, is this: grade inflation is just not at college. As SAT scores continue to drop, the average high school GPA in the USA: 3.38. (So, more students are doing HW more often, with better results?)


What is learning and how do you measure it?

This is the hard part, but this is where the radical shift in education needs to go. This is, hopefully, at the heart of many conversations between among teachers, and between teachers, students and their families (or, at least where the conversations need to be).

A gradeless classroom will focus on learning. The exciting thing, to me (natch), is that going gradeless asks a lot out of the students. This is that “rigor” thing that education strives for. A gradeless classroom asks that students argue for their grades. But before students think “I’m great at arguing” or “I hate confrontation” that’s not what it is about. This means students:

  1. Have to understand the standards.  
  2. Identify how and where, specifically, they have met those standards throughout the semester, or where (on a continuum) they fall in their attempts to meet the standards.

As this is still a fairly new concept to me, I’ve come to terms with just how much more I’ll need to read, discuss (also with students) and learn about before I’m comfortable making the complete switch.


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