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Some thoughts on grading and The School to Prison Pipeline

December 11, 2011

Grading is the pits!

Not to put too fine a point on it, but for me at least, it is the absolute worst part of teaching.  I suffer with the essays and the interpretation of what in the hell some kids are trying to say and the myriad errors and the rewrites… particularly the rewrites that aren’t rewrites.  Those are the worst.  You read the whole thing only to find that the only thing they bothered to change were the spelling errors!

Also, fairness is a huge worry.  If you consider that every young person has their own special blend of pre-existing skill, home support (or lack there of), and effort it becomes very hard to see the students with more home support, more pre-existing skill but little effort walking away with higher grades than students who make huge efforts and have greater struggles.  Not fair! The balance between scaffolding both work and expectations to suit each learner and still meeting standards and benchmarks is very delicate and occasionally makes me dizzy!

I’m finally to the bottom of this pile of essays and was able to send out prelim. grade reports to the 11th grade advisors.  There were some excellent rewrites and some almost-no-work-involved rewrites along with a few really confusing choices…  Sigh!

I love them, I cherish them, but still I feel deeply depressed about how little most of them listen to what I say in class, or even what I write on their papers.  It can really feel like they are trying to do the least work possible instead of learn.  Actually, it’s not all of them, but that is most definitely what MANY or maybe even MOST of them are doing.  Sigh again!

This all tracks back to my host of feelings about the mandated nature of the educational system.  I’m really not a fan.  Don’t get me wrong, I think it is the duty of a good government to provide support and education for all students, I just don’t think that the system we currently have in place is working.

We had an ASM (all school meeting/assembly) on Friday about the School to Prison Pipeline with some very inspiring speakers. They  spoke eloquently about their experiences being funneled from Middle/High School into Juvenile Hall into prison.  They had both served 20+ years, to emerge blinking and fearful into a world they knew little about, having basically grown up in jail.  The kids were pretty receptive.  One of my favorite parts was when the main speaker said, “Prison looks a lot like this, a lot of brown and black people and a couple of whites.” The speakers stressed how investing in education is the best way out of bad situations, out of poverty and out of danger.

I agree, it’s just that I wish the road out was less thorny for our students.  I wish that the system was built to suit them instead of middle class white students.  I wish I could say that they would be judged on their merit and their work instead of on their scores on some stupid test.  Ahhh, there lies the rub!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 12, 2011 7:24 am

    I also don’t like the rewrites-that-aren’t-rewrites. Maybe we need to require that students not only conference with us but also make known what changes they made in their new draft.

    • December 18, 2011 5:51 pm

      YES! Kathleen and I were just talking about the need to make English grading more sustainable. The conference model seems like a strong contender for me. The trick seems to be getting your lessons set up so that you can have individual time with students.

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