Ok, so apparently the Georgia Senate is looking at passing a piece of legislation - Bill 364. To read it in full, visit: http://www1.legis.ga.gov/legis/2011_12/versions/sb364_As_introduced_LC_33_4469_2.htm
The Assembly is opposed to ‘standards based achievement’, ‘formative assessment’ and ‘assessment for learning’ (page 3). Here is what most leapt off the page for me regarding GA Senate Bill 364…
The General Assembly finds: “The assessment focus is on equal outcomes for all students, referred to as mastery of minimal standards, in which students can take as long as they need through the school year to meet standards without incurring grading penalties, and further, it removes grade averaging for all students, with the sole outcome based focus on meeting standards”
Now, I may not be well-versed in Georgia politics and as a foreigner I obviously do not have the my finger on the pulse of the educational issues there. I have read this bill in its entirety, but there may be more local sides to this debate. Qualifiers aside, I do have a few thoughts on this bill.
First, I would think that mastery of minimal standards would be a good thing, regardless of the political jurisdiction. If I am misguided on that, I hope that someone will enlighten me.
Secondly, as an educator who has taken on some non-traditional grading and assessment methods, I have never stated nor implied that one of my students can ‘take as long as he/she need’. Rather, I have endevoured to put intervention systems in place to support learners who do not get work in. For that matter, maybe I should try to allow a student whatever time they need, but perhaps not as much time as they want. Even that may be questionable…
I think across the board, we need to accept that general human conditions exist in every sector of society – including schools. I know a few adults who procrastinate as well, but who will deliver great pieces of work when pressed to do so. If we measure their understanding and ability according to a set of learning outcomes - they would score very high. If the measure is their ability to meet a deadline, it would perhaps be quite low. Arguably, placing grading penalties on work that is late will not get I, nor the educators in Georgia, the data that is most helpful. I have come to believe that including late penalties only obscures the results in my gradebook. Penalties, if required, are most effective when they come as close as possible to dealing with the real issue – in this case it is time. I have always recognised that some students need to put in more time in order to get things done, and thankfully in the past few years I have stopped penalizing them academically for it. Homework rooms, academic support blocks and work completion sessions often socially ‘sting’ students who would rather socialize with friends at lunch or after school, but introducing these interventions tends to result in more work completion. If we allow students to get work in ‘whenever they feel like it’ we can anticipate that they will act like many people do; they will stretch it to the last minute. Sound Grading practices need not fall into this vague and limitless trap of apathy. Many students need guidelines and a set of corresponding consequences if they are not followed. I know that applying behavioural consequences to behavioural infractions not only works better than academic penalties, but doing so still allows me to accumulate grading data that is a measure of learning outcomes.
Furthermore, schools are increasingly asked to take on the role of the ‘judicious parent’ and in many cases the table in the classroom is the replacement of the kitchen table in years past. Mentoring, coaching and indeed parenting is about working with students, not incessantly grading and ranking them.
In my experience, people who champion the case against AFL and Sound Grading by arguing that students can ‘do whatever they want whenever they want’ have lost sight of the real issue. Students need and expect guidelines and support – regardless of the task. The real quest for me as an educator is to find the line between measuring academic merit and modeling behavioural norms.
I hope this determination does not fall into the realm of legislation.