Sunday, January 5, 2014

Final Thoughts on the Book.....

     Grading....the more I read the more confused I get....

           I agree with many of the "fixes" that this book discusses are important in our classrooms.  I have already made some changes in my classroom such as not giving a zero for any assignment or test.  Now I expect the student to re-do the assignment if necessary, and they do not have the option of taking the lower grade or simply not doing the work.  One of the biggest questions I have is how to apply this to band lessons.  Presently my 7th-12th band students need to take three private lessons a quarter to receive an A in that category of their overall grade.  If they don't take any of the lessons they receive a low D for that category but not an F even though they didn't do any of the work.  If I gave them an F they would flunk for the quarter since the category is weighted as 80% of their grade.

     I've been thinking about how I'm going to grade next year and how I should go about changing my system.  Do I make the three lessons mandatory?  If they don't get them done can I give the student an incomplete on their report card until they do?  If I'm going to do assess my students fairly and be able to make several formative assessment comparisons throughout the school year, I would need to see all of my students the same amount of time.  I can't fairly track their progress if I see some of my students for three lessons in a quarter and some of them not at all.  These lessons are only 15 minutes a piece so they are not a lot of time.  However, the students would have to make sure that they organized their time accordingly so they would finish them in the allotted time.  I would say presently 85% of my students get all three of their lessons done each quarter but 15% either don't finish all three of their lessons or don't take any lessons at all.

     I was reading another book on grading at the same time I was reading this one.  The other book I read was written specifically for music teachers and is called "Grading For Musical Excellence" by Paul Kimpton and Ann Kimpton.  I was hoping by the time I finished that book I would have all of the answers on how I would grade next year, but I'm still uncertain.  One statement that I strongly agree with from that book is the following:

"Few directors (if any) can hear every single mistake and evaluate individuals fairly solely from the podium."

I simply can not fairly assess them without hearing them individually.  Furthermore, if I see all of them for an equal amount of time, the students and I could set individual goals for the year and discuss their progress from lesson to lesson.  .......But.......if these lessons are mandatory will I have students drop out of band?  Will their parents not understand why they the lessons are mandatory and be upset if their child receives an incomplete grade in band?

     The second biggest question I have with changing my grading system is if it is fair to use differentiated grading with my students.  All of them will be playing the same songs in band but of course not all of their parts are at the same difficulty level.  Also, I would not use the same etudes or solos with every student in private lessons.  I would want to start at the level that they are presently at and challenge them to the next level.  However, my students are not going to be reaching the same level of proficiency at the same time.  Does that mean that a student who sits fourth chair in my trumpet section should still receive a "developing" score at the end of the year if they can not play the same etude as my principal trumpet player?........even if they have progressed greatly throughout the year?  Or......could I give my fourth chair trumpet player a "proficient" grade because he reached his individual goals that we had set out for him at the beginning of the school year?

     I would love to hear comments/opinions on these issues that I'm battling with......mandatory lessons?.....differentiated grading? 

Friday, November 8, 2013

A Repair Kit For Grading - Chapter 1 & 2

Fix1:  Don't include student behaviors (effort, participation, adherence to class rules, etc.) in grades; include only achievement.  

     Do I understand the point the author is making with this "Fix"?  Yes, I do.  However, when it comes to my subject area, I can not wrap my head around it completely.  The majority of my classes are performance based, and if there is not equal effort given by every student..... the whole group suffers.  Why can't there be a part of their overall grade that deals with effort/participation?  I certainly can't evaluate them if they are sitting in their chair during rehearsal and not putting forth an effort.  

     It is my job as a music teacher to make sure that my students can play their parts successfully as individuals as well as in the ensemble. If they come to their mandatory private lessons, I can easily assess how they are doing on their instrument, but what if I only see them in class?  Sure, I could have each student play a small part of a piece alone during rehearsal and grade them on that small "snapshot" of the material we are covering.....but how accurate would that be?  Plus, the rest of the students are not actively participating in class while they wait for their turn.  

     In my class it is difficult to have all of the kids take an assessment at the same time and be certain that I am evaluating them successfully.  If I have several students playing the same part, am I always 100% sure which student is playing the wrong note or didn't play the articulations correctly?......of course not.  I don't have the option to look at a hardcopy of their assessment like some classes are able to do.

     The other part of this equation that I have difficulty with is what about the student that chooses to participate in band, world drumming etc. but will never be a dynamite player.  They work hard and put forth more effort than most, but struggle to perform at a higher level.  In standards based grading will they stay as a "developing" student but not be given any credit for how hard they work to accomplish "developing"?

     I would be able to follow "Fix 1" much easier in a class like Music Appreciation where my assessments are usually done on paper.  I like the idea of standards based grading and that I would be able to show the parents and students where their strengths and weaknesses are easily.  But, I fear that some of my students that are in my program may not stick with it if they are assessed solely on their "ability/talent".  

     Isn't it a part of my job to include many students at different levels and help them to feel successful in the music that we create as a group?  What if their level of playing is not a "3" or a "4"?  Does that mean that they will never be successful?  They may never reach that level of playing but being a part of the ensemble could help them appreciate music at a higher level for the rest of their life.  I think that part of  my job is just as important and that will never be measured by standards based grading.