Being a teacher: Grading fairly

A little Peruvian boy coming to deliver a puppy at my feet.

 

While I hesitate to post this, I’m genuinely interested in what other people have to say – particularly other teachers. When I first began teaching I would grade all the tests of my students as uniformly as possible. This came from the belief before I was a teacher that this was the fairest thing to do. Now having just a bit more time under my belt and in my second round of classes, I began to notice a big change in my grading process. Grading is modified depending on the student: While one student diligently comes to every class, working hard to understand the material but still struggling, another only comes sporadically and fails to take the classes seriously when present. I’d find myself marking the former’s test more easily while being harsher with the latter. One can’t deny that personal opinion plays into this: I really enjoy the student who struggles and don’t want her to feel discouraged. The other girl’s flippant attitude and space cadet ways annoy me to no end. Another example regards my best students. My first instinct when they make silly mistakes is to go easy on them: They know the material, this is just an instance where they slipped up. And then I decide they will be far less careless the next time around if I take off more points than less.

**A clarification that I wrote below in the comments: I probably should have clarified that the maximum points are all the same – if a struggling student differentiated correctly between “do” and “does” but didn’t conjugate the verb correctly I might take off a point out of 2 instead of all. If my best student did that I might take off the whole 2! Don’t know if that makes sense.

I’m still not sure if this practice is all right, but I’m happy to hear your evaluation – thanks!! Admittedly I didn’t even think about the idea that it’s a disservice to other students. I feel that because some of my struggling students work just as hard as some of my best but it comes less easy to them, they deserve the recognition when they’re on the right track. Some of my students got in the 70s on the last test – a grade range that I balked at before I started teaching. But I was really excited for them, because I could see the basic concepts were beginning to sink in. The number didn’t really matter so much as they were getting there! For me, their tests were great!**

Tiene Pulgas

Upon depositing the puppy at my feet, both children solemnly warned me 'Tiene pulgas' (It has fleas.). I really wasn't sure what was cuter.

When I first began to observe this new process, basically a unique mental calculus for every student, I was horrified. As mentioned previously, before I began teaching I believed that assignments and tests should be graded as uniformly as possible. To some extent, one could say this is the very rigid, black and white view of a person who never taught before. At the same time I wonder if this is the kind of slippery slope that leads to things like low marks for things such as political disagreement (As an ESL teacher, nothing I think I’ll have to worry about.). In addition, this does factor in my personal opinions just as much as it does the habits and abilities of each student. While somewhat less horrified by the realization of the change in my method of grading, I´m still ambivalent about it and interested in what other people have to say.

  • Aunt Kathy

    very intersting Erin – this sounds just like your thinking – send this to Jenn if you haven’t already (jennw46@hotmail.com) I’m curious to see what she has to say.  You are truly amazing for doing this Erin, I hope you come home to us soon with a firm,solid plan of action that you have always been very capable of achieving!  Love Aunt Kathy

    • http://www.erin-orourke-com/ Erin

      Thanks Aunt Kathy – I appreciate the comment and the support! I really miss home, but I´m not sure when I’ll be back. I sent this along to Jenn. Take care, I miss you!

  • Risa Goren

    It’s difficult for me to answer this because I feel that your teaching world is vastly different than mine. With the struggling kids, you are encouraged to differentiate instruction, but I am not sure exactly what your case is here. I think that without a system of identifying the students who need the most help or who might be facing a LD of some sort, you are doing what is most likely best for your students. Yet, in the case of my classrooms, I would never do that because there is a system in place to identify and classify struggling students. I differentiate instruction and assess in as many ways as possible, but when it comes to the straight up tests, those are high stakes and cannot be altered. All students are held to the same testing standard, so I would be doing a disservice to my students if I graded on any sort of sliding scale. It’s a reality of teaching in the USA right now. But, it seems like you are thinking and being reflective and doing the best you can for your students for what you’ve been given, so I would suggest you continue to go with your gut feeling. 

    • http://www.erin-orourke.com Erin O’Rourke

      Hey Risa – thanks for the comment. That’s fascinating, I didn’t even think about the fact that most grading occurs in a highly controlled environment. Luckily it’s pretty easy for me to identify struggling students given my classes average about 7 people each. I probably should have clarified that the maximum points are all the same – if a struggling student differentiated correctly between “do” and “does” but didn’t conjugate the verb correctly I might take off a point out of 2 instead of all. If my best student did that I might take off the whole 2! Don’t know if that makes sense.

      I’m still not sure if this practice is all right, but I’m happy to hear your evaluation – thanks!! Admittedly I didn’t even think about the idea that it’s a disservice to other students. I feel that because some of my struggling students work just as hard as some of my best but it comes less easy to them, they deserve the recognition when they’re on the right track. Some of my students got in the 70s on the last test – a grade range that I balked at before I started teaching. But I was really excited for them, because I could see the basic concepts were beginning to sink in. The number didn’t really matter so much as they were getting there! For me, their tests were great!