CHANGEd: What if we buried the zero? 60-60-60 #26

Zeroes in school grading are interesting practices. When schools shifted from letter grading (A-B-C-D-E/F) to number grading with percentages, an interesting thing happened statistically because of misalignment of the categorical stages. A zero in an average can have a disastrous effect. What’s more, how exactly does a zero communicate to youth the powerful lessons of responsibility? It seems more reasonable to teach responsibility by insisting that the work be done and providing feedback on that work, not by recording a zero and moving on. In the “real world,” I’ve never experienced a boss telling me, “Oh, you didn’t get the work done by the deadline? I’ll just record a zero; don’t bother doing the work now, as the deadline has passed.”

What if we insisted on responsibility? What if we used scoring to measure learning, rather than to “punish?” What if we held a funeral for bad practice and buried the zero? R.I.P.

CHANGEd: What if…60-60-60 Project Explained

CHANGEd: What if we used karate belts instead of averages? 60-60-60 #25

I’m thinking of signing up my younger son for karate. I interviewed a sensei recently. He’s a grey belt. I explained that I had never heard of a grey belt. The sensei explained that his sensei master believed in averaging. While he had achieved black belt, he had started at white belt, so his master awarded him a grey belt. The sensei said it is really affecting his dojo.

Okay, I made up the story above, but I love when Guskey, Stiggins, Marzano, the DuFours and others talk about grey belts. When learning, aren’t we supposed to start as novices and grow to great understanding? Why do we continue to penalize for that natural progression with start-to-finish averaging? Why don’t we award “black belts” more in school? What if we used “karate belts” instead of averages?

CHANGEd: What if…60-60-60 Project Explained

CHANGEd: What if we disaggregated the single score? 60-60-60 #24

Imagine climbing into your car, turning the ignition, and seeing a single number on the dashboard. Baked into that solitary number is your gasoline gauge, speedometer, oil gauge, RPMs, trip counter, etc. The engineers simply programmed some formula or average to get a single number to your dash. We’d be in a mess!

Why do so many schools continue to use a single number for a course grade or report card? Why do we bake in effort, participation, homework, quizzes, tests, projects, collaboration, etc.? What if we disaggregated the single score and utilized a more detailed dashboard?!

CHANGEd: What if…60-60-60 Project Explained

CHANGEd: What if we used letter grades instead of the 100-pt scale (if we must use grades)? 60-60-60 #23

In deeply studying assessment during the past decade, I have worked with many of the gurus. All explain the research problem of sending assessment samples to educators for scoring and receiving results that range an enormous spectrum. Same paper or test can receive range of 30-100 on 100-pt scale. Interestingly, math teachers tend to span the greatest spectrum because of practice of partial credit.

With a four to six point scale, though, quality descriptors or standards can be prepared and agreed upon prior to assessment. Reliability and validity of scoring skyrockets with well-understood, tighter scales. And can we really discern among an 83, and 85, and an 87? (Dare you to write quality descriptors for a full 100-pt scale!) Computing made 100-pt averaging vogue, but maybe this is a case of “we can, but should we?”

If you’re not into a grading revolution, perhaps we could use criterion-referenced A-B-C-D-F (not norm referenced). Several experts recommend A-B-C-NY (“Not Yet”). Or we could use the first letter of certain criterion-referenced categories, or we could use 1-4 or 1-6. As Guskey explains, there are advantages and disadvantages to any scoring/grading system, but I do hope we move further and further away from the 100-pt, average-based system.

What’s next?
60-60-60 #24: What if we disaggregated the single score?

60-60-60 #25: What if we used karate belts instead of averages?

CHANGEd: What if…60-60-60 Project Explained

CHANGEd: What if we assessed more and graded less? 60-60-60 #22

What if we assessed more, graded less?

Would spirits sore that learning’s ongoing, really endless?

Do big red numbers atop a page

Signal “Guess that’s done, now I can leave that stage?”

Would dollops of feedback more likely make us stretch?

Or shall we continue memory training to perfect simple games of fetch?

Is assessment really lots of tests that mostly come at the end?

Or could it be less destination and more calibration for traveling interesting bends?

by Bo Adams in a fit of poetic risk, knowing full well he is not yet the poet he one day will be!

CHANGEd: What if…60-60-60 Project Explained