Are Colleges Dictating How We Record Student Learnings

Why do we continue to use grades to record student understanding?  What does a letter tell us about a student’s understanding?  Or does the letter represent understanding at all?  Many of us are guilty of recording things in a grade book just because the student did the work.  It had nothing to do with how much the student understood or was able to do.  There are also students who refused to do the work, but could demonstrate that they understood the material and scrape by with a D or a C.  Are we recording behaviors or learnings?  Should we be recording the two together as one letter grade.

I feel as though behaviors are extremely important in the work place, and so is the knowledge.  I propose we create/use a student information system that will allow us to record the two separately.  Not as a grade, but as a recording of whether we have demonstrated that behavior or proved proficient in the learning.  The system has to allow for parents, students, teachers, and colleges to know exactly what the student has learned/mastered and what behaviors the student has exuded.  If we were to go to a competency based learning system and allowed for time to be the variable and learning to be the constant, what would be the point in recording levels of understanding?  Would a binary system of meets or doesn’t meet make the most sense for everyone involved?  What would be the repercussions of creating such a recording system when students began to apply for college admittance and scholarships?

I recently began calling colleges to find out what they would do if a student came to them without a GPA or class rank.  They told me that they would have to develop a class rank by taking into account the classes the student took and their ACT/SAT score.  By having that information, they can plug the data into an equation that generates a “class rank” for them.  They then use that to decide if the student will be admitted and what scholarships if any the student will be rewarded with.  I was told that there are a few scholarships the student would miss out on because of the lack of a GPA, but that they were few and the majority are rewarded from class rank, the classes they took, and ACT/SAT scores.

How are we going to omit grades completely until the colleges learn to find better ways of classifying their incoming students?  It’s easy to see that grades don’t make sense in a Competency-Based Learning System, how do we insure that by going to this, colleges aren’t going to deny them the same opportunities everyone else gets?


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  1. #1 by Science Teaching Resources on August 4, 2012 - 7:34 am

    You bring up a great point. In discussing changing the way I do grades for my classes with my principal, one thing he always challenges me with is, “But this is what they’ll face in colleges. Why would we change that?”

    Although he’s given me the go-ahead anyway, this is something that universities need to be aware of – and that we should be aware that they ARE NOT aware of.. haha.

    • #2 by joshngriffith on August 6, 2012 - 10:22 pm

      Thank you for reading my blog. I would love to hear what kind of grading you are planning for your class. My plan is to call even more colleges this year to broaden my research on this.

      • #3 by Science Teaching Resources on August 7, 2012 - 9:23 am

        Sure! I’m moving toward a more Standards Based Grading, focusing on making feedback central in my classroom. I’m thinking about moving toward a 4 or 5 point system thats built around key concepts (standards), rather than percentages – in order to provide students with a better idea of what they’ve learned.

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