October 19, 2014
Drop That "Busy Work" Like It's Hot

So here is the skinny on grading and assessment. I must first admit, it is something that we constantly have to work on in my building. Do the assignments that we ask our students to complete in our classrooms have a purpose? If the answer is no – then stop assigning them – like, now.

There are several areas that we should focus on when bringing purposeful assessment to your building:

Drop the Zero

100-point grading scales are mathematically inaccurate – it is a fact. We must stop the use of the zero in our buildings immediately. The zero holds six times more weight than any other grade that we can assign students. Use of the zero in our grading practices could potentially eliminate a student’s chances of passing a course in the first semester. This is what I refer to as the Grading Abyss. It is a pitfall, that when students fall into it, they will act a fool in your class as they have no mathematical chance of passing your course – even with a 100%.

Laws of Averaging State: 0% + 100% = 100%; when we divide that by 2, we get 50%. A failing grade. Bummer.

Read more about dropping the use of the zero here.

Are Your Grades Polluted?

Do you know why we grade students? You should.

Grades, at least at the middle and secondary levels, are about student proficiency with the standards that we teach. Anything else that we grade students on – other than proficiency on the standards – pollutes your grades. Say, if you grade students on participation (subjective) or behavior (subjective) – the grade becomes a reflection of much more than the student’s proficiency on the standards you are teaching. Parents when they see an A or a D on a progress report would not know whether the students are proficient on the standards, or are just a compliant student in your class.

Your grades are polluted. You can read more about grading pollution here.

Meaningful Feedback

Grading for completion? C’mon… you know you’ve done it. I was guilty of it during my early years in the classroom.

If we assign students work, we owe it to them to provide them with meaningful feedback. Checking (and assigning grades) for completion is nothing but “busy work”. Our students know that and they are on to us.

What if we grade for completion, but a student actually doesn’t have a clue about what they are talking about. Hypothetically one could pass a student that knows nothing about the content area that we are teaching them in. Again, bummer. We would be guilty of contributing to just passing students on.

If you assign work – provide your students with meaningful feedback.

In schools across this country, we must tighten up our grading and assessment practices. The ability to assign grades comes with a lot of power. With great power, comes great responsibility.

If we haphazardly assign grades and award credit without reason, we are going to produce students that are not proficient in any areas. On the other end, we are also failing hundreds of thousands of students every year based on what? This question is especially important when we reflect on the reasons for the 1.2 million high school dropouts that we encounter each year in the United States.

So, I ask that as you begin the new school year that you look hard and redefine assessment in your classroom, schoolhouse, or district. Go forth and do great things.

August 6, 2014
Welcoming our Newest Colleagues: Letter to A Beginning Teacher

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Filed under: Education 
June 8, 2013

adventuresinlearning:

Listening Session at Unboundary.m4v (by Bo Adams)

Five days to provide this experience for more students for more young people. Every 500 dollars raised allows us to travel to one community and give 8-20 young people a chance to have their voice and ideas heard. If you seen the video of the students after the session, you can see their transformation and their own belief in their capacity to positively change education.

Click here to donate $5-25 dollars http://bit.ly/15IE8P6

We are now up to about 45 listening sessions requested by communities and young people around the country, but without additional funds we will only be able to do about 10-15 of them.

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Filed under: Education 
May 20, 2013
Cooperative Catalyst | Changing Education as We Speak

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Filed under: Education 
May 19, 2013
A Thin Line Beyond Silence and Voice

A few days ago, David Loitz, Imagining Learning’s Seed Steward, posted a rough cut of a new film he is making about the Voices of the young people (and some of the adults) who have been involved in Listening Sessions. In watching it, in listening to those…

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May 10, 2013
Positive Spaces for Engaging Young People’s Voice.

Positive Spaces for Engaging Young People’s Voice.

Today a video of student Jeff Bliss, a sophomore at Duncanville High School in Texas, went viral fast. In the video below we are privy to Bliss passionately speaking his truth. He knows that learning is more than packets to fill out, more than passively…

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May 10, 2013
Positive Spaces for Engaging Young People’s Voice.

Today a video of student Jeff Bliss, a sophomore at Duncanville High School in Texas, went viral fast. In the video below we are privy to Bliss passionately speaking his truth. He knows that learning is more than packets to fill out, more than passively…

View Post

April 8, 2013
Cooperative Catalyst | Changing Education as We Speak

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Filed under: Education 
April 4, 2013
Join @goodIDEAfolks + @coopcatalyst in 15 mins for Tonight’s #IDEAedChat: Topic Alternatives to Standardized Testing #EDU

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Filed under: Education 
April 4, 2013
Letters to Michelle Obama (Guest Post by Christopher Chase)
If you’re a teacher, student or parent with children in American public schools then you probably have some first hand knowledge of the problems that have been caused by well-meaning but inflexible “No child left behind” policies and the new emphasis on “one-size-fits-all” common core standards. It’s not that all aspects of these initiatives are unwise, but certain parts definitely are.
Our idea is to encourage teachers, parents and students around the United States to write personal letters and mail them in May (not by e-mail) to Michelle Obama, telling her of your experiences and concerns with how high-stakes testing and other reforms are affecting those who actually spend their days on the front line, in our nation’s classrooms. As Nancy Carlsson-Paige described the current situation:
“As a professor of education, an educator of teachers, and someone who creates curriculum, I see the harm education reform is causing children — the disappearance of play, creativity, and the arts from our schools. Evaluation is now driving curriculum, and curriculum is being reduced to something mechanistic. This isn’t real learning.”
Educators like Dr. Carlsson-Page and Diane Ravitch have spoken out for years now, but for some reason their explanations have not been heard and understood by President Obama. He’s a very busy man, with a lot of issues on his plate. But he and Michelle are parents as well, with young daughters in school.
Which is why we thought an effective strategy might be for people from all over the Nation to write to Michelle Obama and let her know what is REALLY going on. As someone who spends time visiting schools, she should be able to quickly grasp these issues once she sits down, reads a few letters and really learns about the effect these policies have had.
Moreover, as First Lady she may be in the best position to help influence education policy. Once she “gets it” she can then explain the “uncomfortable” details of the issue to the President. One or two meaningful conversations between the two of them in the White House could lead to some big changes.
So, if you agree with this idea, we hope you will consider sharing your personal story with her. Let Michelle (and her staff) know what you’ve observed, as a parent, educator or student. Also, as parents and teachers, we can discuss this issue with our children and encourage them to write as well, expressing their unique point of view.
Isn’t this what “critical thinking skills” and participatory democracy are all about – finding a way for our leaders to hear (and be guided by) the voices and wisdom of the people, all the people, even the children?
Thanks for considering this idea and sharing it with others.
“There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” ~Victor Hugo
Send your letter to:
Ms. Michelle Obama The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, DC 20500
Source (The Art of Learning)

Letters to Michelle Obama (Guest Post by Christopher Chase)

If you’re a teacher, student or parent with children in American public schools then you probably have some first hand knowledge of the problems that have been caused by well-meaning but inflexible “No child left behind” policies and the new emphasis on “one-size-fits-all” common core standards. It’s not that all aspects of these initiatives are unwise, but certain parts definitely are.

Our idea is to encourage teachers, parents and students around the United States to write personal letters and mail them in May (not by e-mail) to Michelle Obama, telling her of your experiences and concerns with how high-stakes testing and other reforms are affecting those who actually spend their days on the front line, in our nation’s classrooms. As Nancy Carlsson-Paige described the current situation:

“As a professor of education, an educator of teachers, and someone who creates curriculum, I see the harm education reform is causing children — the disappearance of play, creativity, and the arts from our schools. Evaluation is now driving curriculum, and curriculum is being reduced to something mechanistic. This isn’t real learning.”

Educators like Dr. Carlsson-Page and Diane Ravitch have spoken out for years now, but for some reason their explanations have not been heard and understood by President Obama. He’s a very busy man, with a lot of issues on his plate. But he and Michelle are parents as well, with young daughters in school.

Which is why we thought an effective strategy might be for people from all over the Nation to write to Michelle Obama and let her know what is REALLY going on. As someone who spends time visiting schools, she should be able to quickly grasp these issues once she sits down, reads a few letters and really learns about the effect these policies have had.

Moreover, as First Lady she may be in the best position to help influence education policy. Once she “gets it” she can then explain the “uncomfortable” details of the issue to the President. One or two meaningful conversations between the two of them in the White House could lead to some big changes.

So, if you agree with this idea, we hope you will consider sharing your personal story with her. Let Michelle (and her staff) know what you’ve observed, as a parent, educator or student. Also, as parents and teachers, we can discuss this issue with our children and encourage them to write as well, expressing their unique point of view.

Isn’t this what “critical thinking skills” and participatory democracy are all about – finding a way for our leaders to hear (and be guided by) the voices and wisdom of the people, all the people, even the children?

Thanks for considering this idea and sharing it with others.

“There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” ~Victor Hugo

Send your letter to:

Ms. Michelle Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Source (The Art of Learning)

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Filed under: Education Obama 
February 11, 2013
Grades « Cooperative Catalyst

Grades Limit My Learning

Originally posted as a guest post. Justin is a member of the Cooperative Catalyst We all stress ourselves out to memorize the formulas. We all have had that cram night before the final. We all BS homework at the last second so as not to “get a zero”. We all use Spark Notes. We all … Continue reading »

Abolish Grades!

This post was originally published on Education Nation’s The Learning Curve blog. Nikhil Goyal is a 17-year old author of One Size Does Not Fit All: A Student’s Assessment of School to be published in the September 2012. He has been featured in the New York Times, NBC, Huffington Post, and Edutopia. His email is … Continue reading »

Zero? No zero? How about just getting rid of grades altogether?

There’s a raging debate in my province about zero-grading policies. A teacher bucked his school division’s orders to not give out zeroes, was suspended because of his defiance, and now the people of Alberta are rallying around him as a folk hero. I’ve been watching this debate with something close to bemusement. Educational research is … Continue reading »

It’s time we hold tests and grades accountable

On my blog for the love of learning, I recently wrote a post called assessment simplified and it received the following comment: I think we have to be really careful to assess based on criteria and not just what looks “cool” in the classroom. If as teachers we are not willing to teach and assess curriculum, then … Continue reading »

what about grades

as posted on the faq on be you. what about grades We hope this clears up some assumptions about grades…… Above is James Bach‘s highschool transcript. (Read more in his book Buccaneer-Scholar.) Here’s how his book reads on the pages describing his grades (This is a lot  – James gave me permission to pirate … Continue reading »

Grades: Education’s Snake-Oil Currency

The idea of abolishing grading from school tends to invoke a kind of fear in teachers and parents. One of the most common fears includes this: If I don’t give a grade, why would students learn or do anything I ask them? To this fear, I have tended to quote Alfie Kohn from his article … Continue reading »

Learning to Think and Question (By Student Christian Isaac)

The way we chastise or praise students at schools today is two laughs beyond hysterical. We’ve been raised to think that the most intelligent students are the ones who turn in their homework on time and fill in all the blanks on their notes. Society has gone so far, and has been so emaciated by … Continue reading »



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Filed under: Education Grades 
January 30, 2013
Cooperative Catalyst

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Filed under: education 
January 14, 2013
Cooperative Catalyst

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Filed under: education 
January 4, 2013
(via (TRIGGER WARNING) It’s Time to Have a Conversation About Personal Responsibility, Rape, and Public Schools!)
America has a social climate where when rape occurs, the victim undergoes public attack, and when it comes to the offender, there is usually offender worshipping, weak punishment, or offender protection. That attitude toward rape has unfortunately grown as generations of children enter the public school system in a society where sex is idealized and glorified and rape is trivialized and everyone is eager to teach girls not to get raped but hesitant to teach boys not to rape. However, since 2002, 23 school districts across the nation have had some type of relation to a sexual assault, most often at the school district’s school. Moreover, while each story was different and some were more heinous than others were, most if not all shared common themes where school officials refuse to either acknowledge or acknowledge with limitation. So, is it time to have that conversation about rape and the public school?
Click to read the whole post

(via (TRIGGER WARNING) It’s Time to Have a Conversation About Personal Responsibility, Rape, and Public Schools!)

America has a social climate where when rape occurs, the victim undergoes public attack, and when it comes to the offender, there is usually offender worshipping, weak punishment, or offender protection. That attitude toward rape has unfortunately grown as generations of children enter the public school system in a society where sex is idealized and glorified and rape is trivialized and everyone is eager to teach girls not to get raped but hesitant to teach boys not to rape. However, since 2002, 23 school districts across the nation have had some type of relation to a sexual assault, most often at the school district’s school. Moreover, while each story was different and some were more heinous than others were, most if not all shared common themes where school officials refuse to either acknowledge or acknowledge with limitation. So, is it time to have that conversation about rape and the public school?

Click to read the whole post

January 3, 2013
Cooperative Catalyst

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Filed under: Education