Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Marking period disconnects

The "are grades good or are they bad" argument is for a different day. In general I have no problem with giving out grades. At the end of the day its a form of feedback. What I do have a problem with is the schedule with which we give them out.

Here in New York City at the elementary level we have three marking periods. Teachers have to submit them for review prior to Parent Teacher Conferences when the report cards are handed out. Cluster teachers such as myself (Art, Gym, Music, etc) have to submit them to the classroom teachers even earlier...

Students fist day of school: 9/9/13

1st marking period grades due 10/18/13

Yes. I had to submit grades barely a month after school started. I see students once a week. For some classes I had 5 sessions before grades were due. A few classes, due to events/field trips/holidays, I had 3 or 4 sessions.

I had to submit full, "end of marking period," grades for 600 students after 5 periods of instruction.

Parent-Teacher conferences: 11/14/13

Yes, you read that right. Grades due 5 weeks after school begins. Report cards distributed almost 4 weeks after that. By the time I meeting with parents I've had an additional 4-5 class session with every student. Always makes for interesting conversations.

2nd marking period grades due: 2/14/14

Ok, not so bad. This second marking period gives me from mid-October to mid-February to work with students and get an accurate picture of skills, ability, understanding, and so forth. It's my favorite chunk of time since we can cover a lot of ground and create a lot of original material.

Parent-Teacher conferences: 3/11/14

Again, almost a month between submitting of grades and the report cards being given out. Not a huge issue but at the same time it can create a bit of a disconnect between what is on the report card and what is discussed with parents.

3rd marking period grades due: 5/23/14

Last day of school: 6/26/14

Report cards are given out the last day of school. One month after I am require to submit grades.

I get there needs to be a gap in between submission deadlines and report card distribution dates, but I always struggle with the length of the gaps. A month is a long time. At at the end of the year I always hope for more opportunities for students to refine, revise, and complete their projects. Not always possible before grades are due.

And lets not forget about standardized testing

Mid-April we have the New York State English Language Arts test. We basically shut the school down for 3 days to do all the testing. The the Math test. Then NYSELAT (for ELL students). Then the 4th grade Science test... You get the picture.

My biggest struggle is that I need to plan projects to conclude in May. Sometime I need to plan projects & lessons to end even earlier. Depending on the calendar, once April hits, between Spring Break and testing, it's possible to lose the better part of the month to these other, non pedagogical, pursuits.

So, what's my point?

My point? Honestly? Probably just venting a bit. Like I said, I get the need for gaps between grade submissions and release. I understand we can't wait until the last day calculate grades. I get it. I suppose my point is I wish there was a way for the process to be more streamlined and efficient. As close to real-time as possible. A month between grade submission and parent conferences seems like too much to me. Submitting year-end grades on May 23rd seems to negate a sold 2-3 weeks of potential progress.

Maybe it's just me... 

Maybe I'm off base. I suppose I have to put it out there, to teh interwebs, to see if my perspective is rational or maybe I'm the one that's bananas...

#contemplative #reflection

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