Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Grades And Flight307: It's All About the Evidence

Hi folks,

This post is intended to be a reference for you to use when looking at your grades posted on PowerSchool.  I'm hoping it helps you understand the difference between MODE (the most frequent score & reliable trend) and MEAN (the average score) and why I use a combination of the two to determine your grades.

Here are a few key points to keep in mind.


1. EVERYTHING IS EVIDENCE.  Every activity we do in class, every graphic organizer you complete, every project, every blog post, every quiz, every paper.  It is all evidence of your learning, which means everything counts.

When I assess your achievement of a standard, it is based on the evidence you provide me.  Provide me piles of evidence and I can make a much better, much more accurate assessment of your understanding.  Complete most of the blog posts and show your classwork.   Complete the writing and media projects and revise them.

At the same time, if you don't provide me with very much evidence, I have to make an assessment based only on what I have.  You may be a fantastic writer and an excellent reader -- what evidence have you given me to show this is the case?  Only one blog post out of fourteen?  Only a rough draft of a paper?  If that's what you give me, that's what I have to use to make my professional judgement.

2.  YOU CAN SUBMIT WORK ALL QUARTER LONG.  I will accept evidence of your learning all the way up until the last day of the quarter.  (And sometimes even beyond that date depending on the circumstances and if you communicate with me.)

3. EVERYTHING IS REVISABLE/RETAKABLE.   Don't do well on a quiz?  Show me evidence of studying and I'll gladly provide another opportunity for you to demonstrate your knowledge.  Don't do great on an essay?  Revise it based on the feedback I've provided.  Complete a revision submission form so that I know exactly how you've developed this new draft. Same goes for projects.

4. WHAT'S THE STORY?  The whole point of grades to tell the story of how much you know.  (At least, that's how I see grades.) I want to tell the most accurate story possible and in order to do that, I need your evidence.  And I also need to know the story behind that evidence.  Was it your best effort?  When did you complete it?  What was going on at the time?  Is it really that you didn't try or was it that other things were going on that made that work unreliable evidence?  Communicate with me and help me tell your story.

Those are the three most important things to know.  Now . . . here's how the math works.


MODE.  Mode is the most frequent number that shows up in a set of numbers.

MEAN.  Mean is the average of the numbers in a set of numbers.  (Add 'em up, divide.)

Most of you have experience averages as the way of determining your grades.  I have to use averaging as well, but not until I've used mode.  Here's why.

If you look at Student A above, you can see the scores on his . . . oh . . . reading standard for the 1st quarter.  He didn't meet the standard on the first assessment, exceeded on the following three, and then didn't do the last one.

If I were using MEAN, averaging, he'd end up with a 73, Meets/Partially Meets.  This feels weird to me.

Here's the thing.  If I'm assigning meaningful reading assessments and this student has exceeded the standard three times?  Then that student likely knows how to read and thinking about reading in the ways that I need to assess.  In fact, if he has exceeded the standard three times?  That seems like pretty strong evidence that student is at least meeting the standard, and likely exceeding it.

I have to take a look at what exactly those assessments were and consider them. That zero?  Maybe it was a relative minor reading assessment? A blog post.  A graphic organizer.  Or perhaps it was part of a major project?  I have to think about these things when I assess your abilities.

And that's why I don't put zeroes in the book and I don't average them.  It leads to inaccurate stories.

If I use the MODE, however, then I see the most frequent score is a 100 and that tells me you are nailing it.  At least thats what the evidence suggests.

Sometimes, the average is accurate.  Student B shows that.  

And sometimes the story is more complicated as with Student C, who seemed to struggle at the beginning and then had one really strong assessment score and then lost it again.  If I were to average, that student would have a 75, meets/partially meets.

But that doesn't seem accurate as a story of the student's learning.  Most of the time the student struggled.  It was only a couple of times things seemed to click -- click in a big way -- but it didn't happen consistently.

I'm always going to use the evidence available to me to determine the most accurate reporting of your understanding and achievement.


When you load up your grades in PowerSchool you will see the only grades that "count" are the standards grades listed as due on the last day of the quarter.  These grades will go up and down over the quarter based on the evidence you provide me.

Where's that evidence?  It is all of the other assignments in the grade book: blog posts, written assessments, projects, vocab and such.  This also includes Habits of Mind.

Those individual assignments are all grayed out because if I don't put them in as "doesn't count," then PowerSchool will automatically average them.  And we know how I feel about averaging.   Instead what I have to do at various times over the quarter, is take a look at the evidence, figure out the MODE, and put that mode into the Standard Grade for the quarter.   Again, the may go up and down depending on the evidence provided.  Change the trend.  Change your grade.

Unfortunately, I have to average all of the standards grades together to get your quarter grade.  It pains me to have to do it and I don't have a choice until the school changes how it reports your learning.  (And that will be happening eventually, just not in 2015-2016.  It is part of the movement toward Proficiency Based Education and it has the chance to increase fairness and opportunity in our school in huge ways.)


So what does all of this mean?  Do your work.  Provide me the most accurate story of your knowledge and abilities.  

Having a bad night? Rough weekend?  That's okay.  If it's a minor assignment and you've provided lots of other evidence of learning, you may choose not to do it.   It won't hurt you.  Turn it in several weeks late?  That's okay.  You will be held accountable for the timeliness on Habits of Mind and can still fully demonstrate your learning for the other standards.

What if you don't provide enough evidence for me to see you have met the standards?  That has consequences as well.  I need to be able to see a trend in the data.

I know this is a lot of words.  I just wanted you to always have an explanation you can review, that you can share with your folks.

Most important things you can do?  Provide evidence.  Communicate with me.  

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