Dallas rules

Dallas teachers are angry about new district-wide rules that require teachers to accept late homework without penalty, ignore homework grades that lower a student’s semester grade and give retests to students who fail.

Superintendent Michael Hinojosa says, “We want to make sure that students are mastering the content [of their classes] and not just failing busy work.”

If homework is just busy work, why require it at all?

Dallas wants to reduce the 20 percent ninth-grade failure rate.

Dr. Hinojosa cited new research that determined ninth-graders who are flunking two or more classes in their first six weeks of high school are almost doomed to become dropouts.

“Our mission is not to fail kids,” he said. “Our mission is to make sure they get it, and we believe that effort creates ability.”

Do you get more effort by letting students off for not doing homework?

Teachers say students fail because they start high school with poor reading skills.

Last year, Dallas told teachers not to give a grade lower than 50 for any grading period, so students who fail can hope to bring up their grade for the year in the next semester.

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Comments

  1. As much as I love the job, I think I’d quit. If failing the student is not an option, then the classroom environment and the teacher’s hard work are worthless. No, thank you. That’s why I refuse to teach the remedial English class at the small university I work at.

    By the way, have the powers-that-be in this district thought about the future consequences of this policy? Somehow, I doubt it.

  2. Bob Diethrich says:

    Actually the “no less than a 50 for a six weeks” is not an uncommon practice, and, while I blanch at the other idiotic policies mentioned here, I have come to accept the “50 rule” as a good thing. Every kid is entitled to a lousy six weeks of his life, especially at the elementary and middle school levels, but that should not totally mess up his academic career. Kid goes into the tank for whatever reason, drug problem, messy divorce, abuse and earns a 20 for a six weeks. Well he then needs to get 100s in the next two six weeks to pass for the semester. I don’t mind cutting some slack in that direction with the 50. And if he or she gets another 50 for less than 50 work, then it is really, really unlikely he or she will pass the course with a 70.

  3. I’m glad that California education code makes the teacher the final arbiter of grades, notwithstanding obvious malfeasance or miscalculation. School boards *can* overturn grades, but they cannot compel teachers to do so.

  4. I wonder what the consequences would be if the teachers handed in necessary paperwork late? I’m a college prof and I fight the “late work” thing all the time – it is kind of a burden on the instructor to grade someone’s assignment three weeks after the rest of the class.

    And in the “real world,” paperwork needs to be done on time. Anyone try submitting their tax forms on April 16? How’d that work out for you?

    And “failing is not an option” is just stupid. In other words, school is now taxpayer-funded babysitting, and an education got worth even less.

    I’m with holly – if I were a teacher in Dallas, I’d probably quit. Or at least look for another school district to work in.

  5. No child gets left behind if you never, you know, go anywhere.

  6. Dallas sounds a lot like the district I teach in, and I would venture to say that the main reason for this and the other student-friendly rules lie in the names Hinojosa and Garza. Shame on me, but I do agree with the “50 rule” if for no other reason than that class management gets shot to hell if you eliminate students from passing midpoint through the semester. There are other ways than the “50 rule” to give under-achieving kids hope. For example, I give every student a set number of free points (buffer zone) at the beginning of the semester that they can either waste away or keep for extra-credit if they turn in all or most of their work at an acceptable level by semester end. In a district like mine you never know how much personal trauma a kid is going through due to divorce, a parent shacking up (shack-up honeys are usually viewed as interlopers by kids), one or both parents or sibling(s) being in jail and a whole host of other debilitating circumstances that were relatively rare before America underwent its sea-change of embracing moral relativism, alternative lifestyles, victimhood, massive immigration, multiculturalism, feminism and defining deviancy downward. Better to give the benefit of the doubt than uniformly bring down the hammer.

  7. We grade students to prove that we’re doing our job. Grades would not be necessary in an uncoerced, unsubsidized education environment.

    The current system, which pives to teachers the power to grade students, places teachers in a clear conflict of interest.

  8. Margo/Mom says:

    “We grade students to prove that we’re doing our job. Grades would not be necessary in an uncoerced, unsubsidized education environment.”

    Huh! Silly me, I always thought that grades were the means by which teachers communicated to parents how much their kids were learning. Can’t see what the level of subsidy has to do with that. I would point out, however, that without the subsidy a good many teachers would be doing other kids of work. I suppose any businesses that would still hire Americans would be saddled with some higher cost of employee training as well.

    Personally, I am in favor of dumping letter grades for something that better approaches communication. But if we are to continue to limit our assessments to the point scale, I am in favor of sticking to just those things that indicate learning of content. So–I don’t have a problem with retakes on tests–in the end it tends to accomplish what we want–learning, even if some take longer. I am also pretty unimpressed by downgrading late assignments. It just confuses what is being communicated. It also encourages blowing off, rather than completing assignments that are late.

    I made my daughter actually complete a high school term paper, even though it was going to be late and her teacher refused to give her a grade. I also got in touch with the principal and insisted that the teacher take the time–before she left on vacation–to read and provide the assessment that she would have provided if it were on time. I had a hard time convincing him that the grade wasn’t the issue–but the learning was. And my daughter really needed to know that her work was competent and worth doing. She still failed the course and had to take it over–but I thought it was very important to stress completion, even if late.

  9. “Dr. Hinojosa cited new research that determined ninth-graders who are flunking two or more classes in their first six weeks of high school are almost doomed to become dropouts.”

    I suspect that we have confusion between correlation and causality. Changing the grading standards to non-fail those students in the first six weeks won’t improve the dropout rate.

    I’d suggest keeping the standards, identifying those students as quickly as possible and getting specific help for them. Or, if they are really “doomed”, flunk them out of school sooner and work on the students with a chance.

  10. I’d ban all grading on homework, personally. And I think California’s rules about teachers being the final arbiter are horrible.

  11. Walter, that’s what I thought the first time I read it. They are operating on a false/assumed sense of cause and affect. Because students flunked two or more classes and become dropouts, does NOT mean that the actual causes for why they drop out have gone away just because they suddenly aren’t flunking anymore. If the only thing that changes is whether they are passing a class or not, but no approach to work or learning has changed, in the end what have you really done? Just lowered the standard.

  12. “Our mission is not to fail kids,” he said. “Our mission is to make sure they get it, and we believe that effort creates ability.”

    Wow. I wonder what dream land Dr. Hinojosa is living in. In addition to totally missing the causation of kids who fail the first six weeks of 9th grade, he totally misses the concept that effort and ability aren’t at all correlated.

    For example, I can put copious amounts of effort into trying to read Greek, but without guidance and information of some sort, that effort will be wasted. When I get the information I need to direct my effort effectively, I can start learning.

    At that point, the amount of effort need varies by individual. Some will need very little to gain the ability, some will need much. If one plotted the amount of effort each individual student in the sample needed to expend to achieve the same goal, it the plot would show no correlation.

    Knowledge and abilities lead to other knowledge and abilities. Individuals learn how much effort they need to bridge the gap between what they know and what they want to know. Where the education system fails students is not making sure students know what they need to before trying to pile more on top of it.

    Why do students who fail the first six weeks of high school drop out so often? Most likely because the gap between what they know and what they’re being taught requires an impossible amount of effort to bridge.

  13. Dr. Hinojosa must be smoking swamp weed, due to the fact in the real world (which academics isn’t, folks), people get fired for NOT showing up to work on time, not completing assignments on time, and not following instructions. The fact that this man has a Ph.D makes the degree itself even more of a joke, in private business if you don’t produce a profit, you GO OUT OF BUSINESS, but I forgot, Dr. Hinojosa can simply suck on the public teat of tax dollars for more funding for his worthless ideas.

    I wonder how many of these so called students would last in a real job requiring some self-discipline (not very long, i’d imagine).

  14. Bill, I’m not saying he’s right, but that would be the whole point of what he’s trying to do or accomplish, it’s just a stupid way to do it…
    Generally dropouts do poorly in the private sector. They DON’T hold down a job well or make money. Failure in school for many translates into “real life”.

    Quincy is right too, in the sense that the problem isn’t ninth grade, but starts much earlier. If they can’t bridge the gap from what they know to what is expected, they aren’t going to succeed either. A good education system would take each kid, where they are at, and move them forward from that point, each kid at his or her ability level and speed. Instead we treat all kids the same and expect them to learn the same, even when we KNOW that they don’t learn that way.

  15. I’m sort of sympathetic to the homework grade shouldn’t matter if the test grades are good.

    Of course the problem is, if the students realize the homework doesn’t matter they won’t do it, and most won’t learn.

    Homework is enforced practice.

  16. If I was a teacher, I would just give a bunch of take home tests.

  17. David Cohen says:

    While the management style is open to criticism, the basic idea put forth in Dallas is not a product of “smoking weed” – it is consistent with some basic principles of assessment and educational psychology. First of all, regarding the 100-point scale, there’s not actually 100 of anything in most cases. It’s a scale that we use to communicate a judgment/assessment of quality. We assign meaning to numbers like 95, 85, 75, and 65, and those of us in schools have a pretty good idea what those mean. We do not assign much or any meaning to 45, 35, 25, etc. So why do they exist if they serve neither to count nor to measure? If 50 already equals F, why do we need five lower levels of F? It’s like including negative numbers on a 1-5 scale. So, that’s why I’m not grading on a 100-point scale anymore -it’s just not very logical. I’m now using 0-4, and I’m measuring the level of work the student can complete on that scale, rather than a certain number of tasks or questions.

    Now, from an ed. psych. point of view, as a general principle, couldn’t we agree that a system that motivates students is preferable to a system that does the opposite? I’m not talking about watering down standards or only teaching for self-esteem. Anyone who knows me will tell you I have very high academic standards for all my students. But looking back to the original item at hand, we won’t get ninth graders to embrace so-called “real world” rules if we enforce those rules on children as harshly as we do on adults. Likewise, we won’t motivate students to develop an interest in academic content if we convince them through punishment that we care more about timeliness than about intellect. I’m not saying we don’t care about timeliness, but if our grading betrays our priorities, it simply does not lead to learning for certain students.

    So how do we approach this? The underlying problem – I discovered the hard way in over a decade of teaching – is that when I give a single grade for an assignment and take a late penalty, I have no way of later distinguishing between A-level work turned in really late, compared to D-level work that was on time. Now, I record separate grades. At the end of the term, there’s a formula for arriving at one letter grade, but leading up to that time, at least the student, parents, and I can see what’s what.

    The balance that teachers try to strike, especially in high schools, is between grading academic skills/content and grading student/”life” skills (note-taking, time management, etc.). Most of us teach and grade both, but there are many different approaches and opinions about how to derive a single letter grade that accounts for all of that. Obviously, the single letter grade is inadequate as long as there’s no consistency about what it means. But for now, since we’re stuck with it, at least we can aim for consistency within a school or district. Seems to me the Dallas approach is saying that the self-management issues can’t trump skills/content performance in grades. As much as I would bristle at having a policy like that handed down from above rather than built by consensus, I agree with the priorities.

    Anyone interested in this issue should consult the work of Robert Marzano, in particular “Classroom Assessment and Grading that Work.”

  18. ucladavid says:

    Here is the one where most of you missed,
    “•High school teachers who fail more than 20 percent of their students will need to develop a professional improvement plan and will be monitored by their principals. For middle school the rate is 15 percent; for elementary it’s 10 percent.”

    Last year I had at least 1/3 of the students fail 2 of my classes, and 3 classes where only 2 kids failed it. In other teachers’ classes at my school, they had at least half of the kids failing in their classes because they weren’t doing the work. Why do the students fail? Because their grades don’t count in middle school and there are no consequences for the kids failing. Don’t dismiss my school as a “bad” school; my school is a California Distinguised School.

  19. David Cohen said:

    “…it is consistent with some basic principles of assessment and educational psychology…”

    ‘Nuff said.

    “…there’s not actually 100 of anything in most cases…”

    Surely this be satire?

    Et cetera, et cetera…

  20. Ragnarok –

    David actually has a point about the lack of utility of 1-50 on the current 1-100 scale. 0 is often used, but 1-50 usually contain very little meaning. It seems like the right answer to this is not to set 50 as the 0, but to break apart timeliness grading and content grading.

    One number 0-100 should reflect the quality of the content. Another number, say, 0-10, should reflect timeliness. 10 for turned in on time, 9 for one day after, etc. all the way down to 0. Now the content average should be just for assignments turned in, so a 0 for total failure content would be added in as a 0/100 while a 0 for not turned in would be 0/0.

    That way the question of “Is the kid getting the subject” can be easily assessed. Then, the timeliness score could be calculated to tell how well the kid was doing in the time/effort management department.

    Just my two cents.

  21. And on Hinojosa’s connection to the reality of the situation for kids who fail immediately on entry to high school, he might as well be smoking weed because his position seems to totally ignore the fact that educational deficits students bring with them are the most likely cause of failure at the high school level. Instead he pins it on lack of effort.

    Man, a Ph.D in education must be some pretty good ganja.

  22. David Cohen says:

    Ragnarok –

    Hardly satire, but your knee-jerk rejection of something you apparently don’t understand seems like a parody of the typical ignorant blog commenter. If you’re not that ignorant, why don’t you either explain your critique of what I presented, or actually learn something about the topic?

  23. David Cohen says:

    Quincy –

    Thanks for a more nuanced response. If you’d actually use 1-100 in a meaningful way, go for it. It might vary quite a bit by subject area and age of students. As a high school English teacher grading essays, I never used to go lower than 50 on grading an essay, because as I explained above, I wasn’t counting anything, just using numbers as code for A, B, C, etc. However, when students failed to turn anything in, I gave zeroes. The consequences are pretty severe though – as I said before, it’s like saying the gap between a no paper and a truly awful paper is the same size gap between truly awful and truly outstanding. It just doesn’t make sense. The effects are pretty severe. With one zero, a student needs seven consecutive 85s just to get back to a 74 average. How is 74 an accurate representation of seven straight 85s and one missing? It may be an accurate numerical/mathematical representation, but it’s not reflective of the skills and habits of a student who can produce that level of work that consistently. In fact, even with 14 straight 85s, the student still hasn’t cracked an 80 average if there was one zero. (Obviously, you wouldn’t expect to see that kind of performance in a real-world example. You’d expect improvement. Still, it’s a very revealing example to say that 14 Bs and a zero won’t get you a B- on the 100 point scale).

    There’s a whole history of how schools starting using this scale, and it has to do with Army intake tests, not actual educational goals/purposes. Just because it’s been around a long time doesn’t mean there’s no better way. I’m glad I figured that out finally. Again, I highly recommend Marzano’s book (see comment above).

  24. Maybe we need to assign two grades… one for knowledge and one for presentation.

    It seems that education is designed for two primary purposes – to provide students with knowledge and higher order thinking skill and to give them structure for being successful in adulthood.

    A student who demonstrates knowledge of material but doesn’t do so properly (failing to turn in things on time, sloppiness, extraneous work, etc.) can’t really be measured by a single scale.

  25. David –

    In my system, for content, 7 Bs (85/100) and 1 missing (0/0) still averages out to 85, because the missing assignment carries no weight for content. That means any 0 that actually makes it in the grade is reflective of an assignment that was turned in but so far off the mark that the content earned the 0. Secondary scores for timeliness and presentation (and anything else deemed necessary) are calculated separately. Then, the final grade is determined by examining the averages of each.

    Metrics in the business world rarely produce a single number that totally quantifies one’s work, yet that’s exactly what teachers do with the traditional single score system. It leads to an information deficit that makes them less effective at judging students.

  26. Eh, I didn’t notice your post earlier Quincy… you did a better job of explaining my point of view.

  27. Quoth David Cohen:

    “If you’re not that ignorant, why don’t you either explain your critique of what I presented, or actually learn something about the topic?”

    Ahh, commentary from on high.

    I thought the matter was quite trivially obvious, but apparently not to you. So…

    Not all failing grades are the same. The grading should differentiate between someone who absolutely, totally, completely flunks (turns in a blank paper, for example) and a student who makes an effort but can’t quite make the cut.

    That’s why a flat 50% is pointless. Clear now?

  28. Eh, distinguishing between performance and effort is why we have grade comments. For example, a D or F with the comment “Fails to turn work in on time” or “Fails to turn work in” should be blatantly obvious to all but the most clueless that the issue lies in the area of effort.

    In any case, a student pulling down a D or F grade with such comments is a student whose parents need to be meeting with the teachers. Unfortunately, such students usually come with parents who have ready-made excuses and blame available, or else the parents don’t care to get involved.

    Adding more complexity to the grading system isn’t needed (and I do not support the premise of the original post, either) because the information is there, available, and if the parent truly cares, can be easily obtained from a meeting with the teacher or teachers involved.

  29. ricki: And in the “real world,” paperwork needs to be done on time. Anyone try submitting their tax forms on April 16? How’d that work out for you?

    Not to nitpick, but you can get an automatic six-month extension to file your tax forms, just by asking.

  30. David Cohen says:

    Quincy –

    It looks like we’re totally on the same page. If you look back at my original post, I talked about doing the same thing you’re describing. I may have just arrived at the change more recently than you.

    Ragnarok –

    I have no trouble understanding what you’re saying. It’s the other way around. When you talk about 50% you reiterate the problem. Is it actually a percent? Is it half of something? Were there 100 at some point but now there are 50? In some cases yes, but here, if we’re just talking about translating letter grades into numbers, then no. We have a 5-level scale – A, B, C, D, F – relying in most cases on only the upper half of a 100-point numerical conversion. Your claim that grading should distinguish different types of F’s is a non-sequitor. It doesn’t follow from your premise – with which I might agree – that we must use the traditional and flawed system to accomplish the goal of distinguishing one F from another. In point of fact, I think I demonstrated pretty clearly that the traditional system and use of zeroes can seriously distort our assessments of students’ overall skills and work. If you think that a student with 14 B’s in 15 attempts deserves a C, (and it works with 14 A’s and one zero gets you a B), then just admit you like that kind of punishment in a grading system.

  31. What if, instead of infinite retakes, a student were allowed a certain number of retakes, period, per year? Kind of like a mulligan in golf. (We all have bad days, after all… especially teenagers in high school.)

    As for the “lowest grade a 50” rule, I can live with that, as it’s still failing, but still gives the student a mathematical chance of pulling their grade back up to passing next six weeks / quarter / semester. If they can find the internal motivation to care, that is.

    The homework rules are ridiculous, though. And making dozens of parent phone calls every day? Sounds like the administrators making the teachers do part of their job for them…

  32. Andy Freeman says:

    > If 50 already equals F, why do we need five lower levels of F? It’s like including negative numbers on a 1-5 scale.

    No, it’s not. It’s recognizing that there’s no point in distinguishing 25 from 45.

    Why am I not surprised to see a “principles of educational psychology” argument from someone who doesn’t understand the difference between measure and meaning?

  33. David Cohen,

    The point is still that we should distinguish between a student who blows it and a student who barely fails. Using a flat 50% for both defeats that purpose.

    As for your argument that one could get 14 85s and 1 zero and wind up with a C, so what? If there are extenuating circumstances, take them into consideration. If not, perhaps one deserves the C+ (the actual score would be 79.33, btw).

    Verbiage is not a substitute for content.

    And BTW, if you must use Latin phrases, try to spell correctly. You’re a teacher, aren’t you? So we’re entitled to expect that much.

  34. It’s entertaining that people who seem to be hardliners about AYP performance and standardized testing as an effective measure of school performance are falling all over themselves to try to justify differentiating between “a student who blows it and a student who barely fails.”

    Methinks this reeks of making excuses instead of taking responsibility for their actions. Makes one wonder why they’re arguing for this differentiation. Could it be that they want to avoid the evil F for their child who’s screwing off?

    No excuses, chums.

  35. I do not agree with taking homework late for the same grade, but if your homework only counts 10-20%, it’s not going to make that much difference. I actually don’t take up homework in my math classes at all – the kids are responsible for doing it and checking it themselves. Homework in math is practice, practice that gets them ready for the performance on the quizzes and tests (any my homework only counts 10%). They must be held accountable for the homework, though; they have to turn it in on test day and are given a completion grade. Otherwise the parents would go ballistic.

    Retest – not as opposed to that, because some kids need a little longer to master material than others. The problem is the kids that abuse the system – who show up on test day not ready to take the test because they know they will get another shot.

    Dallas has had a lot of education problems for a long time (I used to live near there and have friends who teach there). It will take a long time to correct the problems that have been left from previous administrations. I believe that the dropout rate in Dallas is so high because the kids aren’t coming into high school prepared for high school curriculum. Twenty years ago, kids could take Fundamentals of Math, Consumer Math, and PreAlgebra, and walk out the door with a diploma. Today they are EXPECTED to be ready for Algebra I when they walk in to the 9th grade. Someone needs to be holding the elementary and middle schools more accountable, not try to fix the problems at the high school level.

  36. Joyce –

    I can see your point but don’t agree. There’s nothing hypocritical about being for both standardized tests and differentiated grades information if the purpose is knowing as much about student performance as possible.

    The fact is that the traditional lumping of content performance, presentation, timeliness, and everything else into a single number causes an unneeded information deficit. While a single letter grade with comments is all that may be necessary on a report card, it makes little sense from an information management to lump all these categories together earlier on in the process.

    I just don’t see the sense of tracking many categories of performance with a single number per assignment, even if it’s going into a single letter grade at the end. Anybody care to explain why a single number per assignment is more informative than category scores when internally tracking grades?

  37. A few things about timely work. Fundamentally, there is a time limit that can’t be ignored, the end of the semester. Six weeks is over a third of the way through. If you are failing at that point, it will take a heroic effort to pass the course, whether there is late credit or not.

    Learning the material roughly on schedule is part of the course. I have a friend who finally “got” Fourier transforms during the final, but he had been turning in his homework and grinding towards that understanding all semester.

    In my last year at Rice University, I had an electrical engineering professor who had a full time job in industry. There was no late credit, period, late work was worth zero points, but you could do unlimited extra credit work.

    We also graded our own homework as he went through the problems rapidly on the board, then alphabetized them as we handed them in. Being able to mark up your own homework and see your errors was extremely useful.

    At a university with excellent undergraduate teaching, he was one of my best professors. Unorthodox, but excellent.

  38. joycem said:

    “Could it be that they want to avoid the evil F for their child who’s screwing off?”

    My proposal would make it easier for a kid to flunk. Perhaps you misunderstood me?

  39. About distinguishing between 0% and 50%, on many tests, you can get 50% by guessing, so there is truly no difference between 50% and flipping a coin. Assigning meaning to anything below about 60% is on shaky ground, statistically speaking.

    Even on a non-T/F test, success rates below 50% mean that you have failed to grasp the material. If you understand exponents or quadratic equations, you’ll get them right more than half the time.

  40. I’m not a teacher, but I think this is still a bad idea. Students deserve better. The particular scale doesn’t matter. It’s easy to norm to 100 since we tend to think in percents, at least here in America. Setting an artificial floor to the scores deprives the student of an honest, accurate assessment of his performance. Forcing a teacher to keep his gradebook open indefinitely seem equally unfair. How is a teacher supposed to keep a class moving through material if he’s perpetually stuck administering old tests and grading long gone homework?

    Quincy, David, have you considered throwing out the, say, two lowest scores or maybe the lowest and highest scores, before generating the grade average? That would solve the problem of an outlier score unduly affecting the grade.

  41. OK, some folks are missing my point. I’m not in favor of maintaining discrete grades on different criteria because I want to keep kids from failing by cooking the books. I’m in favor of maintaining discrete grades because it allows me to better record the students’ progress and look for successes and failures as they happen.

    What does a 50% percent in a single grade tell you? The kid failed. Nothing more. What does a 70% on content, 25% on presentation, and a 0% on assignment timeliness tell you? Well, the kid’s got a general grasp of the content, but is severly lacking in organizational skills. Moreover, in a single score system, a 20% in the book might mean the assignment was hideously late, but well done, or it might mean that it was on time and incredibly off the mark. Break that same assignment out into a 20% for content and a 100% for timeliness and presentation, and you catch an outlier you may have missed otherwise.

    It’s about information, and using it to assess the state of students’ education. It’s not about masking failure through numbers, which *is* what the Dallas proposal is about.

  42. This school year is going to be Hell for the K-12 teachers in Dallas ISD. Don’t be surprised if >70% of them quit unless the rules are changed.

    They were already working 60 hour work weeks, underpaid, without support, and with customers (students and parents) that use them for scapegoats as much as their bosses do (administrators).

    Now their workload has been doubled, their only remaining disciplinary tool taken away (deadlines and grades), and they can look forward to making tens of thousands of phone calls and getting hung up on or cursed at thousands of times.

    And you thought your non-teaching job was bad.

  43. Andy Freeman says:

    We do seem to have agreement that the administration’s rule is bad for education.

    I hope that Dallas teachers work against it as vehemently as they work for pay raises.

  44. Now their workload has been doubled, their only remaining disciplinary tool taken away (deadlines and grades), and they can look forward to making tens of thousands of phone calls and getting hung up on or cursed at thousands of times.

    And that’s not even counting the number of times that the response to such a phone call is “¡No inglés!” Not being facetious here; what I just said was pointed out by a teacher who called in to a local radio station on Monday (I’m in the Dallas area myself, but, thankfully, not part of DISD).

  45. Quincy, you might get a reputation as a radical if you keep promoting ideas like multidimensional assessments!

    Seriously, it’s a good idea at least during the year to help students with the areas they need strengthening. At the end of the year, though, you have to come up with a judgement whether a student passes or not. You have to combine those scores again into one and compare that one score to some measure of pass/fail or A/B/C/D/F. You don’t really get around the problem you so cogently describe. You just delay it.

  46. They need to set up a teachers suicide prevention hotline in Dallas ISD, now. They’re going to need it.

  47. I teach in a district that is heading in this very same direction. I was lucky enough to attend a very thorough training that explained this philosophy. It’s called “Assessment FOR Learning.”

    I am very interested to know (the article and this post did not address it) if the students MUST do the work that IS assigned and no zeros mean that the student must come in for tutoring/d-hall to get it done.

    We have instituted a similar policy at our high school and I am very proud to say, it worked for me! Hard to believe, huh? The theory behind assessing for learning is that the students must do all the work. There are no more “Give me a zero, dude!” attitudes. It makes a difference.

    To reassess a test or paper, the student must come in for tutoring, have all homework finished and can only score as high as an 85 for the reassessment 2nd exam at our school.

    We also do the “Comp 50” as it is called. This eliminates the student who scores a 30 the first six week’s period of the semester and has already flunked. What a discipline problem those kids are!

    Just 2 cents worth from a teacher who is lucky enough to have read up on the theory, sat in classrooms and had it instructed to me, and has been able to put it into place and watch it work.

    For more information search google for Ken O’Connor “Grading for Learning” (a great book) or Rick Stiggins “Assessment for Learning.”

  48. David Cohen says:

    Steve asked:

    “Quincy, David, have you considered throwing out the, say, two lowest scores or maybe the lowest and highest scores, before generating the grade average? That would solve the problem of an outlier score unduly affecting the grade.”

    Yes – I used to drop the lowest score from the items that were most frequent and least “valuable.” If we had twelve quizzes in the semester, the top 11 scores are sufficient to reach a grade.

    The beauty of the new system is you don’t have to throw anything out. Throwing one out was a compensation for a flaw or bias in averaging. When you’re not averaging, you don’t need to throw things out.

  49. At the end of the year, though, you have to come up with a judgement whether a student passes or not. You have to combine those scores again into one and compare that one score to some measure of pass/fail or A/B/C/D/F. You don’t really get around the problem you so cogently describe. You just delay it.

    Or, if you’re looking to use discretion to grade accurately, instead of throwing together a bunch of scores without considering progress, strengths and weaknesses, and performance relative to class learning goals, you don’t have a problem because you recorded all the information you need to make such an assessment along the way. It’s a case of work up front saving time and effort later on.

    And yes, I would be classified as a radical because my ideas of assessment come from software project management, not ed school.

  50. David Cohen says:

    I wrote:> If 50 already equals F, why do we need five lower levels of F? It’s like including negative numbers on a 1-5 scale.

    Andy replied:
    No, it’s not. It’s recognizing that there’s no point in distinguishing 25 from 45.

    Why am I not surprised to see a “principles of educational psychology” argument from someone who doesn’t understand the difference between measure and meaning?

    — I understand the difference, thank you. I know these ideas are challenging for certain people, and so I’ll forgive your insult, and instead ask why you’re gung-ho to argue for a system that dedicates half of its scale to a difference that is not worth distinguishing. If it’s not worth distinguishing, but the effect of it is to inhibit student motivation and diminish the potential impact of any change in their progress, it actual decreases learning. I hope that ideas like “motivation” and “learning” aren’t too psychological or too “edu-jargon” for your taste.

    Ragnorak writes:
    >The point is still that we should distinguish between a student who blows it and a student who barely fails. Using a flat 50% for both defeats that purpose.

    — Every time you use “%” you miss my point. Most of the time in grading it’s not really measuring an actual percentage of anything.

    >As for your argument that one could get 14 85s and 1 zero and wind up with a C, so what? If there are extenuating circumstances, take them into consideration. If not, perhaps one deserves the C+ (the actual score would be 79.33, btw).

    — So you’re not really disagreeing with me, just saying that you think one slip in 14 tries – for a student – should result in a particularly harsh consequence. You believe in harsher consequences than I do, that’s all. I think a grade should reflect skills and learning more than (but NOT to the exclusion of) work habits.

    >Verbiage is not a substitute for content.
    — I’ve been accused of many things, but not for lack of content. I think I’ve gone into more detail and careful explanation and support than you, at least.

    >And BTW, if you must use Latin phrases, try to spell correctly. You’re a teacher, aren’t you? So we’re entitled to expect that much.
    — You caught me. A typographical error. Good one! Score for Ragnorak! We’re entitled to expect perfect typography on blogs. You’re absolutely right.