The Teachers' Scrounge

News and comments from the world of public education. A middle school math teacher shared what he learned today.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Are All Failures Equal?

Here we go again... the debate with NO research behind it: Should grades range from 0 to 100 or 0 to 70?

Rick Wormeli's viewpoint is stated in a little web-blurb. It begins with a quote: "We don't really need a gradiation [sic] of failure...It's the difference between 'you failed' or 'you really, really, super-sonic failed."[sic]

My gut response is: do we need gradation of passing grades? Is there a difference between 69.6 and 100? Absolutely! Is there a difference between 0 and 50? Absolutely!

We know everyone has different abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. It is often useful to measure that. Would we hire a math teacher who is moderately proficient in most areas but knows absolutely nothing about proportions? When I evaluate that teacher's volume of knowledge, do I rate that as a 0 or a 50? How does that compare to a candidate who is moderately proficient in most areas but a little "iffy" on proportions. Big difference.

Look, Rick is a proponent of allowing students to retest over and over and over to gain full credit. If you allow that, then there is (in my opinion) ABSOLUTELY no reason for capping low grades at a 50. If you are allowing a kiddo to bring that 0 back up to a 50, 70, or 100, then why not record the 0 initially?

Of course, I have a better idea... let's actually do some research on this before we argue about it any more!

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