“When I think about my school experience, I think of multiple choice and true-false and fill-in-the-blank. I think of a score at the top of the page. What kind of feedback is that?”
I’m currently sitting in the back of a Standards-Based Grading meeting with parents/community and teachers at Forest City Middle School. Some parents are arguing that Standards-Based Grading has changed the way the school system has run for years, and changed it negatively.
“I have big concerns about homework and handing it in on time,” says a parent, “Kids are not required to hand in homework at all…or even on time. Well, I don’t know of any job that you’re going to do in the future where you’re not going to be required to be there on time.” He has a point here.
A teacher responds, speaking to different family situations. Perhaps families will have busy nights, perhaps not all students have the same opportunities. “We expect students to be in school for eight hours and then go home and complete another four hours,” says this teacher, “Research shows that homework does not lead to academic success…It leads to habits of success. This is not the same thing.”
One of the biggest differences between past curriculum and Standards-Based Grading is this idea of homework. With Standards-Based, homework isn’t graded, which has its positives and negatives. With homework not being a necessary component, students are able to work in class and have one-on-one work and feedback with teachers. On the other hand, without homework, there isn’t the out-of-class responsibility, ownership, and independence.
I can understand both sides. In my personal experience, I see that with Standards-Based Grading, I have the opportunity to push students to complete assignments more fully and deeply than before. This is expanding, not limiting! However, there is a loss of ownership in regard to out-of-class work, with students not necessarily being required to complete assignments on time.
As I listen in, I feel that the focus of this new grading system is communication and having students reach farther than they have before. However, I feel that this will continue to be a challenging aspect of the curriculum and Forest City Middle School in general. I really do see both sides–the parent frustration and the teacher confusion and push for a change. All in all, I feel that change will always come with conflict. This isn’t an easy change, but there’s nothing wrong with trying something new, especially at the middle school level.
“We’re not just teaching to memorize anymore. We’re teaching for understanding.” This is what one teacher said as she left the meeting, and I think it stuck with me the most. Change is good, and perhaps this new grading system is change in the right direction. We can only hope.