Thursday, November 10, 2005

REPORT CARDS – Who is Failing Whom?

It’s that time of the year again when education grading periods end and report cards are sent home to parents. Some siblings in the same school but different grade levels are getting praised while others are getting grounded. How do you know that the “A” child is doing better than the “C” child? Because the teacher told you so, did you look at all the papers brought home? Did you compare grading scales? Do you care?

I can remember back in grade school (Catholic) when the pastor would pass out cards. You could tell he was coming because he smoked cigars and the halls would fill with smoke. Everyone would sit still and pray that they did not get lower than a “C” in any subject. Father would sit in the front of the room in a big chair and call us up one by one. One time the kid in front of me got a “D’ in geography. Father threw his card on the floor and told him to pick it up, when the kid bent over Father whacked him with his cane across the buttocks. Another time he kicked a kid in the butt as he bent over. He did not hit girls, just humiliated them until they cried.

Now, do you still believe in grades? Most of you know that I do not and I have written about it several times. How about “Report Cards?” Should they be standard across a school district? How about the country, after all when a child moves is it their fault if the grading system is different? What about the math teacher in my son’s high school who fails over 60% of her class on a regular basis while her counterpart gives “A’s and B’s.”

Some say so what, but when it comes to GPA and getting into a college why should a child be penalized because one teacher is too strict and one is too easy.

I have seen systems where 94 – 100 is an A, versus the old standard of 90 – 100 is an A. I have also seen report cards where below 70% is failing. WHO IS FAILING WHOM???

I have written before about calculating the Grade Point Average. If we have to have grades at least develop a fair system for how much effort a student puts in to learning as opposed to an "AVERAGE" which mathematically when used by itself (Should use measure of Central Tendency - Mean, Mode, Median and Range) is worthless. I say this because GPA by itself is a poor means of measuring one’s academic knowledge. In fact, the way a student's GPA is calculated depends on the school he/she attends. Averaging the GPA in my opinion is worthless. Why don't schools assign points per Grade ( A = 4, B =3, C = 2, and D=1). If you want a 5 for Honors or AP classes that is fine. Simply total up the final score 6 As, + 1 B = 27). The more points you have the better. This would also encourage more students to take more classes instead of the minimum in order to graduate. Is a student who takes 5 classes and gets all As (GPA = 4.0) doing more than the student who took 7 classes in the example above who would have a GPA of 3.8 under the current way of calculating GPA (27/7).

In some teachers opinion an excellent cannot be achieved because no one is perfect, where as others give them out like candy. Some parents will move to an easier district if their child is in sports, while others will even go across the country searching for the right match.

While I still don’t believe in grades (I say – you pass upon completed demonstration of applying your knowledge, if not, you are given additional learning until you do so, grades and grade levels are not important just learning) I know I am not going to see paradigm shift in education until we start seeing education as a basic fundamental right of all citizens. We must reduce the cost of education; we must respect our teachers and pay them a fair wage. We must keep politics and the governmental officials out of the decision-making. We must control the destiny of education.

So maybe the next best thing is to consider standardized report cards, at least it will start to create a more level playing field. The time has come to consider this change.


j-man said...

I feel that the problem with report cards is that it is a measure at the end of the process. Too many parents use this as their only gauge to how there child is doing in school. If parents keep a closer eye on the day-to-day work that their child is doing a report card at the end of a quarter or semester will only tell them what they already know. Also, by identifying problems before the end of a marking period the changes can be put into place to better the grade in the end.

The one thing that I would really like to see on all graded material (assignments and report cards) is the average score of the entire class. This way if your child gets a 72% on an assignment and the average score for the entire class was 84% you’ll know that your child is lacking and needs to study more. Conversely, if your child gets a 72% and the average score for the entire class was 70% you’ll know that it may be the teacher who needs to do a better job teaching the lessons.

qualityg says said...

Well stated j-man. Very thought provoking and creative. I like your suggestions.

qualityg says said...

P/S - If you really want an all around picture you may want to include the Mode and Median with the Average/Mean (Central Tendency).

Used alone the average can be misleading.


j-main said...

An average of the class grade I think most parents could grasp. Start talking "Mode and Median with the Average/Mean (Central Tendency)" and you've lost most the parents and teachers.

qualityg says said...

Pehaps, but providing wrong information using averages by themselves is worse.

Six kids in a class - 2 get a 100% on a test, 1 gets 90%, 1 gets 85%and 3 get 50%. The average = 75%. Without knowing the other numbers this is truly misleading.

Stating that your class carries a 75% percent average does not represent the 3 failing grades.

If you include the Mode and Median you get a complete picture.

The Median = 85% and the Mode = 50%

P/S - Parents may not get it, but the kids do, I'm seeing it being taught in the 5th grade.

qualityg says said...

Sorry, 7 kids in a class.