Tuesday, March 17, 2009

More grade musings

In my other post of the day, I spoke about grading and talked about the emphasis on process or knowledge. I do agree with JD that focusing entirely on one or the other is probably less effective that a measured blend. I'll second his comment that "knowledge is key to passing" with an anecdote ...

A student dropped in. This is spring break and he was talking about his college and courses and "how it was all going." He had taken everything available while in high school and had gotten decent grades (Bs and As) in math. Spring of Junior year, he took the SAT and scored below 500 on the math. Then he showed up in my calculus class senior year. I had mentioned that, though it wasn't a deal-killer, a sub-500 score on the math should indicate that perhaps calculus wasn't the best placement. He insisted on staying - he'd gotten good grades all his life. Guidance repeated the statement with dramatic gasps of indignation that I was perhaps being "elitist" or something.

He failed. Everything. Limits were a horror story and derivatives were a chore. The limit form of the derivative was a perfect storm of frustration. He muddled through the year, withdrawing mid-year but Guidance said to keep attending to get whatever he could.

Flash forward to this year: College placement: pre-calculus. grade in pre-calculus: 92

How in the hell did this kid get As and Bs all his career and show up in senior year so deficient in algebra that the power rule is an enigma? I have my guess: group work and off-kilter grade proportions. Tests worth 60 points and homeworks worth 15. And that homework was group work and collaborative learning.

Teachers shouldn't dress on the SAT guidon, but you have to at least be cognizant of the correlation between your grades and standardized tests. If you find that your grades don't match up with states tests or SATs or APs, you must consider the reasons carefully. An "excellent" student (95%) in algebra II should not be getting a 400 on the SAT math without SOMEONE saying "hummm." If we teachers don't want the bigwigs to do this, we need to do it first.

Just sayin'.

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