Saturday, February 25, 2012

MYP Grades

I know this seems obvious, but I am a big proponent of giving very realistic grades and very specific feedback. In the MYP, final class grades are given on a scale of 7. To me, this is how I view different levels:
MYP levelsHow I see the student
level 7A student has demonstrated both conceptual and technical fluency in all topic areas. They can approach new situations with independence and confidence. For a student in level 7, I pinpoint areas where they can still create further goals for themselves, so that they understand that a grade of 7 is not an end-all.
level 6A student has demonstrated technical fluency in all skills learned during the semester, but sometimes cannot see the bigger picture and therefore misapplies skills. The difference between a level-6 and a level-7 student can also be their level of independence in approaching new situations.
level 5A student demonstrates a "normal" achievement in their grade, with an ability to independently perform maybe 75% to 80% of all of the skills and a reasonable ability to articulate the big ideas.
level 4A student has working knowledge of a vast majority of the topics but needs frequent help to get through the nitty gritty algebra of those problems. A level 4 student demonstrates procedural issues mostly, coupled with small conceptual issues.
level 3A student has serious gaps/misconceptions in one third or one half of the key areas. Typically, a level 3 student has not taken the responsibility to seek help outside of class to address those major areas of weakness.
level 2A student only demonstrate some small pockets of effort, very inconsistently, throughout the semester, and has also poor mastery across the board with the content topics.
level 1A student basically sat around and did practically nothing (even after various conversations with students and parents), did not turn in most assignments, and has a poor understanding across the board with all topics.

For me, thinking about grades like this has been very liberating. I don't feel the need to nickel and dime kids on particular assignments, although I still record and look at all of their grades when making this determination.

In this sense, the grading encompasses both their learning habits and their academic performance, which I believe go hand-in-hand to indicate a child's success. In the MYP, by the way, this breaks down further into 4 different grading criteria: Knowledge and Understanding (for example, quizzes and test grades); Communication in Mathematics (for example, clarity of explanations in writing, and appropriate use of symbols and sufficiency of work shown); Modeling in Mathematics (for example, labs and patterns investigations that take a student from data to equation to predictions/generalization to explanations); and Reflections in Mathematics (for example, does the student complete test corrections regularly to reflect on and learn from their mistakes? After a lab, do they provide a complete error analysis to reflect on sources of inaccuracies in their data?). Those are criteria we look at when we determine whether a student is a 1 or a 7, but in general, their final grades still need to reflect where they stand, both academically and as a student who is still learning to learn.

It is important that you do not inflate grades in the middle school, because if you do (which unfortunately happens sometimes, because some teachers want to keep middle school chummy-feely like elementary school), you end up sending home the wrong signal that the student is doing "OK", and they end up in high school with both sub-par skills and study habits. Yikes. I find that when I have a clear framework of what different MYP grades mean to me (as I outlined above), I can more confidently assign grades and not have to feel bad one way or another for possibly inflating/deflating.

I also think that it is very important in an MYP program to have the same teacher for two-year rotations, because the goal of giving holistic grades is to provide opportunities for improvement. If you look at my impressions of the grade boundaries above, it is quite "easy" for the kids to move from one boundary to the next with some motivation and work. Transitioning students from teacher to teacher every year can be very disruptive in that process, and confusing in their attempt to grow as learners. Following a two-year rotation, it is my personal belief that going to a different teacher becomes beneficial, as the student learns to not rely too heavily on a single teacher's teaching style, and instead becomes more self-reliant.

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