On experimentation and grading

I did something this quarter that you normally can’t do in schools, and that’s using my students to perform an experiment. I have two honors Algebra classes, and I decided early in the 3rd quarter that I was going to grade most of their assignments simply on completion. In other words, I wasn’t going to go through any of them question by question and decide, okay, this one is a 9/10, or this is a 7/10, or whatever. Turned it in, and it looks like you tried? 10/10. Didn’t turn it in? 0/10. Same late work policy as the rest of my classes; ie, if it gets turned in it gets graded and I don’t care how “late” it is.

One would think, that if the only grades that were possible outside of tests were either zeroes or A+, that would really skew grades toward failing or high-A grades, and with a group of honors kids, generally more predisposed than others to turn in work, one would expect to see higher grades across the board.

One would be wrong. This policy barely moved grades at all. Most of the kids whose grades changed also turned in more work. There was no skew to the extremes, because kids inclined to failing assignments also don’t turn in a lot of work, and the amount of work kids turn in is really damn close to the scores they get on the assignments they turn in. Find me a kid who turns in every single assignment on time and I’ll show you a kid getting an A. Damn near every time.

Tests, of course, are a great leveler, and one other thing I have to pay attention to is whether test grades are plummeting, which might also be a side effect of this policy. Once kids figure out they don’t necessarily have to work super hard on classwork, because missing a question or two isn’t going to hurt their grades, maybe they don’t learn as well and that shows on the tests? All I can say is I didn’t see it, and I was paying pretty close attention. I might take one of my regular ed classes next quarter and see how well this policy works; I’m not going to try and apply it to everybody, though, at least not until I’m certain what kind of effect it’s having, and I don’t have remotely enough evidence for that right now.

(Reminder: all grading is arbitrary. Yes, all grading, even the system you have in mind right now.)

Third quarter ended today. Two weeks to Spring Break, about a month to ILEARN, and then that’s year 19 done and dusted. Amazing how fast the year has flown by since I changed schools. Just amazing.

Quick note tonight

It’s not like I’ve been writing at length lately, but I had two hours of parent/teacher conferences tonight, not as the teacher but as the parent, and while none of my kid’s teachers had anything especially surprising or bad to say about him, shit, that was exhausting.

I have had a number of post ideas rattling around in my head this week that haven’t made it to the screen yet, and honest to God as I’m sitting here right now the only one I can remember is one I definitely don’t want to write tonight. The Algebra kids did not do well on their test today, which took me quite a lot by surprise, and I’ve completely rearranged the next few days as a result; I’m giving them the test back ungraded on Friday and we’re going to go over every single question as a group, and next Thursday they’re going to take another test. It’s going to be the same as this one, but with the numbers changed; I am hoping with a couple of extra days of preparation and with absolutely no ambiguity about what they’re getting into I will see a better result. The rest of my classes will spend tomorrow either frantically trying to bring their grades up on what may as well be the last day of the quarter or demonstrating why they have the grades that they have. Hopefully more of the former than the latter; we’ll see.


A lot of my assignments are done through Google Forms, which has the advantage of a wide variety of ways for me to ask questions and auto-grading. I ask the kids to take a screenshot of their score at the end and upload it to Canvas, and then I use Canvas’ SpeedGrader feature to basically just copy the grades and then it syncs them with the grade book. Last year I had to go through student by student (which was still faster than it sounds) and put the grades directly into the grade book so I looked at each individual score report as I was doing it. This year (or, at least, since I started at my new school midway through November) I haven’t interacted with the actual Form all that often because they’ve uploaded the screenshots and I just work with that.

Until today, when I noted that this student had reported a score of 24/24 even though I had screwed up three of the questions. Two of them did not have right answers posted, which means it was literally impossible for any student to have gotten a grade higher than 22/24 on this assignment before I fixed it– and I just fixed it a few minutes ago. Which means my good friend here most certainly did not have the 24/24 he reports here.

I went and looked at his actual score in the Forms document. 0. He’d just gone through and put random letters in as his answers and then– skillfully, I’ll admit– edited his screenshot to show a perfect score. And I’ve zoomed in on that image and that replacement is clean. Part of me is actually proud of him. I’d have noticed this eventually of course but he’s gotten away with it at least a few times.

Tomorrow I shall flay him, and display his skin outside my classroom as a warning to future miscreants.

But not until he shows me exactly how he’s doing this.

In which assessment is stupid

My kids– most of them, anyway– took a test today, and I cannot for the life of me decide whether I have made a massive error in entering this career. On one hand, way more of them failed than should have; I was pretty confident going into today, and my raw pass rates and scores were … not good.

On the other hand, we use a pretest/posttest model, and out of the seventy some kids who took the test today and who I have pre-test scores for (a bunch of them will have to test tomorrow for one reason or another) all but, like, five improved their scores. Not one of them was above 33% on the pretest– not surprising, given that they hadn’t been taught the material– and while there were a lot of failures there weren’t many kids under that mark. So … that’s progress, right? Of a kind, at least?

What if I told you that the kid who skipped my class nine days out of ten during the first semester and has been here every day during the second got a 90% on the test, was given a gold star sticker for her efforts, and when I saw her in the hall a few minutes later was wearing said sticker on her face? Because, I tell you what, I’m going to be grooving on that feeling for a week or two.

Meanwhile, I’ve been sitting at my desk grading and recording test data for, like, two and a half hours, so I think I’ll go interact with my family for a bit before everyone goes to bed.

One day

One day, I will write a coherent and interesting blog post. I was hoping that day would be today, after several days of bleh.

But after driving home from Chicago and spending … what, two? let’s go with two– hours grading, all I want to do is dissolve into a puddle in front of my PS5 right now.

We did go to the Lego store on the way home from Cary and I managed to get out of there without demolishing my bank account, so that’s good. It’s a really neat store. I mean, you can already kinda imagine what’s in there, but still. If I buy much more Lego I’m going to have to invest in a storage and display solution of some sort and that’s not happening, Goddammit, so we aren’t buying any more expensive sets for a while.

(Thank God they didn’t have the huge Star Destroyer set in stock, so I didn’t have to decide not to buy it. I think it’s discontinued by now.)

While I’m kvetching: does anyone think this is legit?