Saturday, April 30, 2011

"Even our brightest students suffer with % point systems rather than #sbar"

I wrote my last post while sitting in my hotel room between "workshops" at the Colorado state FBLA conference, so I ran out of the room before throwing it onto Twitter. Then, two of my favorite edu-people out there did it for me, adding their own comments:

Then came:

Ever since the small discussion that ensued, in which I stated that I wasn't certain that students would really embrace this change, thoughts on these ideas have been bouncing around my head. And the more time I spend on this, the more certain I am that not everyone would be won over by the idea of SBAR.

Here's the two main reasons I can think of:

Reason 1: At first glance, it translates to more work and more accountability.

An example: I'm in a certain points-based class in which an assignment was supposed to be completed over spring break. It's a pretty important assignment--much of what we have done since then has revolved around it.

I have an "A" (insert eye-roll here) in this class.

And I never did this assignment.

We have accumulated enough points since then that the impact of this missing 25 points has been diluted. From looking at a grade sheet, you'd never know that I was anything but an exemplary worker.

Now, from the way I understand SBAR, there's no way I could pull that off.  My missing work wouldn't have been absorbed by everything else--and students know that. I've often heard someone say, "Oh, I already have all of the points, so it won't matter if I don't know what is going on for the rest of the year." (And that's almost a direct quotation.)

Because kids know that they can hide things they don't understand, many wouldn't want to give this up. After all, grades have become so important to many people (and I have to plead guilty) that often times we resort to "what gets me the best grade is going to be best."

Reason 2: It's new.

There. I said it. Students, at least around here and including myself, tend to be pretty conservative when it comes to massive changes. There was essentially unanimous disappointment ("Oh, man! That is so stupid!") about merging the high school and middle school. Even though it would make practical sense, many students do not want to merge the eight tiny school districts in a thirty-mile radius of La Junta. And multiple times this year, I've heard comments along the lines of, "I hate that new grading system of Ludwig's!" (Of course, then I typically jump in and ask why. I'm then often met with, "I actually have to work.")

The point is that, simply because we've been going along with this system for twelve or thirteen years, able to hide our weaknesses and our struggles, I don't think that we would embrace a change in the opposite direction.

Of course, I could be wrong. Let's hope so. 

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