I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

No Zero Grading, Part II

Like a loop of the commercial for the Samsung Galaxy III-- “The Next Big Thing is Already Here”—I’m being told that the “next big thing in grading for fairness and to help struggling students” is already here/has been here in some Escambia County Florida schools. 

 If it is, I want to know about it yet I’m told by administrators that it is not being practiced here. In a recent conversation with a high-level school administrator, I was told “Teachers have latitude in assigning grades, you know that-- but the emphasis is on getting the student to do assignments, getting the students and the parents engaged to do the work.”  

Well, that sounds good, but are we also recommending teachers give kids that refuse to do work no grade lower than a 50?

I hope not.

Other districts are, though. 

“The Fairfax County schools administration is considering sweeping changes to the grading system for middle school and high school classes that could help struggling students keep their grades up. In a message sent to thousands of teachers Tuesday, Deputy Superintendent Steven Lockard detailed a series of proposals under consideration to revamp how teachers hand out grades to students and to standardize exam scores across the county.. The majority of the changes Lockard outlined in his message to teachers would aim to create consistency in how students are graded and give those struggling in classes more opportunities to improve their scores. Under the new system, student grades could be calculated partly on classroom effort as well as test scores. Experts say the proposals are similar to changes instituted in school districts across the country. Education consultant and grading expert Ken O’Connor said movements to standardize grading systems are picking up steam. He also said that giving students a zero is “morally and ethically wrong.” “As 

soon as a kid gets even one zero, they have no chance of success,” O’Connor said, noting that the student has to then achieve perfect results to recover academically.”

And my immediate concern is that if we are telling students you can get no less than a 50, are we not dumbing down the rigor?  Are we not also taking a huge amount of discretion away from teachers?  What are we saying to the “C” students in our district that are trying as hard as they can and struggling to do “C” work legitimately, when they look over their shoulder and see others sleeping through class, not doing any class work, not doing any homework and "Christmas treeing" tests, but then miraculously squeaking by with a 60 at the end of the year---due to the fact that the lack of work ethic carried no real consequences?

Everybody is a winner!
This just seems like another scheme to socially engineer equitable outcomes, regardless of inputs.  This seems like back-door social promotion. Everybody is a winner!  This does nothing beneficial for students long-term,
something given away for free (passing grades not earned) is of no lasting long-term value.

I truly hope to God this practice is not occurring anywhere in our school district.  Looks like I’m going to have to ask some more administrators some more specific questions….looks like this will be a discussion item for the board.  Meanwhile, I’m being told that this sort of a scheme  is/has been an accepted practice here at some charter schools and at some traditional schools. 

From some anonymous comments recently  posted  to this blog:

“Mr Bergosh- I previously posted anonymously on one of your prior blog entries regarding my concerns and that all charter schools in the county need to be looked at. This is the exact issue that has been happening at my children's school. They are earning a 100 on assignments as long as something is written on the paper. Per the teacher "assignments are not graded for accuracy, only for participation". The teachers reasoning, she cannot grade that many papers every day! I have expressed my concerns, especially when my children are making a 100 on every homework assignment and then D or F on tests! They are receiving no feedback on their assignments and in my opinion are being set up for failure! Not to mention parents have no resources to help TEACH their children at home like books- those do not come home with them!”

“Sorry to say that this has been going on in THIS County. Not quite sure about this particular school year, but this has been going on in very recent school years. Instead of being firm with the discipline, they allow chaos to run wild, which of course takes away from class and learning time. If they would get the discipline straight then they wouldn't have to do this. They're just passing kids through to get them out to the next grade, and so on and so on. Everybody ignores the big pink elephant in the room to protect themselves. They fawn over and bootlick administrators to an oblivion. No zero grading has been happening already in Escambia county and it makes the bad kids further feel like they can get away with anything. They don't have to work hard because they know they'll at least get a 50. Hell, it makes them act even worse than before. I felt strange when they made me do it. If a kid has an average of 30 in your class, they'll ask why is this kids average a 30, likes its your fault that the kid isn't doing his work. Something must be wrong with the teacher if the kid has an average of 30.”

“Both schools required teachers to do everything I've read about in your post.  The District has all the evidence they need for this as they host the grades from FOCUS. Teachers routinely change the final grade from the average to meet the expectations of the Principal. The Principal always cites "downtown", retention issues, discipline, or really anything you can think of, as the reason for any impropriety such as this. I taught for fifteen years and it was always so. Those who taught longer were always on hand to assure me that things had always been this way but had "just gotten worse." It made me sick and I identify with your comments. I really hope you can make a difference. The citizens of Escambia County deserve the truth and they deserve better for themselves and their children. They need and deserve leadership in education and the best education their tax money can buy. As bad as the pay is in education, there are too many people in it for the money. Sounds crazy I know, but it is true. We need better screening.”

“every time grades were due she would send out an email too remind us to raise grades to 50% for failing ESE students and then add up to 9% for good behavior, etc to "give them a fighting chance". She sent this email out every 9 weeks. Apparently this is way more common than we knew. Sad.”


Charter School Mom said...

Thank you for bringing this to light! It is unfortunate that I feel like I am on a crusade to obtain a fair (earned) grade , not one that is handed to them! My ultimate goal is to make sure my children are receiving an adequate education and obtaining the knowledge to move forward. Thus far, I am not seeing this happen with what is in place at their school.

Jeff Bergosh said...

Charter School Mom-I recommend you speak to the principal of the school to voice your concerns. If it is as bad as you describe, I'd have a hard time believing the principal is going along with this. If the principal won't do anything to address your concern, then I would call the charter school's board--ask them for the chairman's contact info. If that gets you nowhere, then call our school district at 469-6130 and tell them what is going on. If we give grades away we are not doing kids any favors, in my opinion. Speak out and you can make a difference!

Charter School Mom said...

After seeking resources through the school district, I was referred back to the Principal. We conferenced and I was told I was not the only parent that has voiced concern regarding this. She acted shocked and assured that this was not how this school operated. Although at an earlier conference with an Assistant several months prior, my concerns of not grading assignments (in a specific subject) were confirmed. This time I was promised change, and to date the only change that has occurred is the Homework label in Focus now says Homework/Participation. I guess a way of justifying the 100's. The problem seems to only be specific in one subject, at least for my children. I will reach out to the Principal again and see what happens!

Anonymous said...

I agree with ya on this one Jeff. To help struggling students, there is a degree of latitude in actual assignments. For example, we should count some grades for effort even if all the answers are wrong, which is what I do with most classwork. I think the best way to help struggling students is keeping expectations high but ensuring you create a safe and nurturing classroom environment where students feel like they belong and are supported. The next big thing in education is providing emotional supports. As you like to point out, many kids come from dysfunctional families. Given they lack emotional needs, we need to create supportive environments where those needs are being filled, not kick them out since they just can't seem to get their act together and teachers have no clue a kid they send to ISS over and over again has been raped. Sometimes, we only see the misbehavior in a child, and not the whole person.

It's not easy being a teacher, but being in the business of basically assisting in the development of children is never easy.

Jeff Bergosh said...

Anon 4-11 2:18--There is not much daylight between your position and mine; I believe it to be ESSENTIAL that teachers have the latitude to provide supports for students who are struggling, but trying. For example, if a student TRIES and completes an entire assignment yet gets none of the answers right, nobody would disagree with helping that student earn a higher grade by re-doing/correcting that work. What I am talking about is teachers being forced to give nothing less than a 50% even if the students "Christmas Tree" tests, sleep through class, do not do the assignments, and are not participating at all in class. Teachers MUST be able to give an accurate grade to such students, after exhausting all efforts to help, engage parents, etc. It should never be dictated to teachers or STRONGLY SUGGESTED by higher up educational bureaucrats in suits, because this is akin to strong-arming. Teachers in some instances may feel under duress when they are receiving such suggestions, and this simply is not right and here is where, in my opinion, a board of education can step in with good policy to help teachers. I am bringing such a policy proposal to a series of meetings this week. It will mirror a Texas law that was passed in 2010 that essentially says that teachers have latitude in grading and teachers are encouraged to help struggling students at their discretion--however the law also specifies that NO TEACHER shall be forced to raise grades to an artificial minimum score of 50, 60, 70 or any number by administrators. I'm thinking we DESPERATELY need this protection for teachers here locally, so I'm bringing this :)

Anonymous said...

I guess its getting to the point where your first question to a member of leadership in a school is "will you mind if this conversation is recorded"....