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Rubrics to Marks

December 1, 2011

It has been a busy couple of months getting settled into a new position as a middle school teacher. This past two weeks has been especially busy as the second set of report cards for the year is being prepared to be sent out. The first set of reports did not seem nearly as hard to construct as they were interim reports and designed more to highlight potential issues and strengths in student learning. This set of reports has a different flavour to them. Why? This time marks must be included.

What is it about marks? All of the students in my class want to know what they “got.” The main question they ask is “did I get an A?” I think I would ask the same thing if I were in their position. Indeed I think I did every time I took a course. I am not so sure that this is the question to ask however.

It seems to me the real question is “do I understand the mathematics?”. After all unless the only goal is to complete the course there is a rather high probability that the topic covered will come up in successive mathematics courses or (heaven forbid) in a situation outside of school.

This brings me to assessment and report cards. In one section of the report students are identified as “not yet meeting, approaching, meeting or exceeding expectations” based on the learning outcomes. This is consistent with the learning happening in my classroom as I have been using rubrics to do most assessments for the year. Students are given the rubric when the task is assigned and are explained the expectations both verbally and in print. I have moved away from a mark based on either a percent or letter grade. I have instead talked about student performance based on the learning outcomes.

Yet each student must also be assigned a grade as per the Student Progress Report Order (This Ministerial order guides reporting within British Columbia). The question I have been grappling with is how these two are liked. Don’t get me wrong I do think there is a correlation between the two but I am not sure it is as easy as saying you are meeting all of the expectations so you get an “X” on your report card. I believe that a student should meet all/most of learning outcomes to be a “B” student. Likewise I think a student should meet/exceed all of the learning outcomes to be an “A” student. So where does a student who has achieved a meeting expectations on all of the learning outcomes fit? Is s/he an “A” or a “B” student? Is there a consistent way to determine this? Is there a need for letter grades when the focus is on student learning? Are others struggling with this question?

One Comment leave one →
  1. Denise Flick permalink
    December 5, 2011 12:02 pm

    I looked at assigning letter grades a bit differently. First of all, in math especially, I believed that a student should have an understanding of all the learning outcomes covered. If not I would assign an “I” and continue to work on the key understandings during the next term.
    I assigned an “A” to students who demonstrated excellent understanding of the majority of the learning outcomes, a “B” to those who had very good understanding, a “C+” to those who had good understanding etc. I really took to heart the explanation of the letter grades that are on the report card envelope.
    When I looked back at my mark book which was full of anecdotal comments and rubric placements – the assigning of a letter grade was not too difficult.
    I do wish that letter grades would disappear. It is terrible what we have to communicate to kids.

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