There’s been a lot of talk lately on all the art related Facebook groups I am a part of. I mean, it is a subject art teachers discuss a lot, but in the past few weeks the conversation has been longer and more engaging. We have been discussing grades vs. assessment, participation vs. engagement, eliminating grades all together, how the high school GPA would be affected, is it even possible to not give a grade at the high school level, and much more. It is enough to make your head explode…and it’s beginning to make mine explode.
Grading and assessment is always on my radar. I wrote about my assessment model in this post earlier this year. I even presented on the model at the AOE 2016 Winter Conference stating how we as teachers need to grade less on compliance and instead create meaningful assessment. So it is easy to understand why all this talk about grading has caused the wheels in my head to go into overdrive. I began to look closely at what I am currently doing, what it means, and how could I change it? I wish it was as simple as deciding I won’t grade anymore, but because there are so many facets to all this, it’s not. In this current education model we are in, as a high school teacher with parents that expect grades, colleges that look at GPA to determine a student’s acceptance to their school, a UIL board that requires passing grades to play and compete, and students who are motivated by them, I HAVE to provide a grade.
Currently I give a mixture of completion grades and grades(numbers that are perhaps arbitrarily assigned) that reflect artistic behavior/growth assessments. I find that the assessment feedback is important to my students and their artistic growth. I want to continue to provide that to them, but I hate that I have to translate that feedback into a numerical grade. However, the assessments boil down to only doling out a few grades…many less than the amount my district “requires”. That’s where the completion grades come in. But, do those grades really show anything other than the fact that a student completed an assignment?
And then all the “WHAT IFS….?” start to walk in. What if I pushed? How far could I go? What if I just stopped caring and gave everyone a 100–what would that do to my classes and the “importance” of them? What if I gave the minimum amount of grades I get away with giving, would I get a stern talking to? Would all this change the student input/output in my classes?
I don’t have the answers. I have been creating some sketchnotes to work out my thoughts. I am on a mission to figure this out before next August when school starts again. Yes I know that is 7 months away, but this isn’t an easy issue. Like I said, there are so many facets I have to take into account: district requirements, local admin expectations, parent expectations, student motivation, UIL guidelines, coaches needs, pass to play, meaningful grades, assessment v. completion, and ultimately, what I believe the purpose of the grade in my class should be. That is the ultimate question that I just can’t answer………….yet.