When I set my professional goals for the 2014-15 school year, I wanted to rewrite all of my rubrics to reflect a direct correlation to CCSS. I did. I have these beautiful charts for my students to follow as they complete their book projects that align each skill to a CCSS at a level 2, level 3, or level 4. You know the drill – below grade level, at, or above.
This year my goal was to pitch them all and stop grading. Well, I didn’t exactly pitch them but I did remove the numbers. For each standard, I have a detailed explanation of what a typical 5th graders should be able to complete. And that’s it. When I return their work there are no numbers, no grades. Instead, I write a paragraph to each student about their project and what I see that they need to work on. They get my paragraph and then return it with what they think they would like to work on. And so it goes, for each book project, every month of the year.
I just handed back their 5th project last week. Each student now has a total of 5 paragraphs. They can see what their goals were for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th projects and based on my feedback for the 5th, they set a goal for the 6th.
Today, I finally got ‘the note’ from a parent. “I keep asking K what grade she got on her project but she says that all she gets back is a paragraph.”
I took a deep breath and fired off an email explaining and justifying my system. “We have found with lots of experience that when we give grades on projects like this, the kids look at the grade and then compare themselves to their classmates and all learning stops there. Instead we give comments and after each project the students set goals for the next project. We then circle back and circle back. Our goal is for each writer/learner to identify their own strengths and also choose student specific goals to work on. We have seen how this is what actually promotes growth in learning.” I hesitantly pressed the ‘send’ button.
And this is what I got back: “Love that answer- very helpful and agree with that route.”
It looks different for parents and it looks different for kids but it is working. My students don’t talk about grades or ask for them or compare them. But they can all tell you exactly what their goal is for their next project. For some it is writing in complete sentences and using punctuation correctly. For some it is trying to use more complex transitional phrases. And for some, it is to write a cohesive 5 paragraph essay using direct quotes from a source. Each and every one is working toward being a better writer and reader based on where they were before. Shouldn’t that be the way it is with learning?