Mastering the Grading System: What Every Parent Should Know
- Monday, May 10, 2010
While the high school years certainly require increased growth in content exposure and understanding, the focus must now be adjusted to include quality of performance and a comparative evaluation of the amount of content explored within a specified time frame. Grades that are recorded on high school transcripts should reflect both mastery of material and the character issues that influence achievement (e.g., punctuality, thoroughness, enthusiasm, resourcefulness, creativity, attitude, etc.).
Many home educators fail to recognize the importance of this transition and continue to practice the "mastery learning" evaluation philosophy throughout the teen years, thus taking extended periods of time to achieve an "all-A" report card and doing their children serious harm by failing to train them for the "real world," where the schedule is not "all about them." Some practical suggestions for avoiding this trap include policies such as a letter grade per day reduction if a project is completed late or no extension to study another day for an examination because "life has been a bit chaotic here at home lately."
4. The more specific your course or project objectives are, the more accurate and consistent your grades will be.
No doubt, all of us are familiar with this warning: "If you aim at nothing, you will surely hit it." In the evaluation realm, we might change the statement to say, "If we don't know where we're going, how shall we know if we have arrived?" If the project descriptions in your daily or weekly lesson plans are limited to phrases such as "Cover pp. 148-165" or "Write a book report" or "Finish Chapter 5," you will not be equipped to discern the level of success your child has achieved. Instead, you will have locked yourself into a position of checking off the assignment with a "Pass/Fail" evaluation that indicates little more than the fact that the material has been read. Unless you specify up front some details about the degree of success you require to earn an "A" with reference to comprehension, synthesis, analysis, communication, etc., you will have no yardstick to measure the comparative "B" or "C" grade.
Remember the days when you were a student. If you cared about your grades at all, it was very important to you that your teachers clearly identify their expectations. Your children are not much different. Take the time to list the goals for each project on index cards, and review the assignment thoroughly with your student at the outset. Then ask your student to keep a time log on the back of the cards as he works to fulfill the goals. The card should be returned to you with the completed project so that it can become part of the permanent record file that you will use to determine final grades and ultimately to prepare high school transcripts.
When you list the goals for any project or course, be sure to use behavioral terms so that the student knows what he/she is supposed to do to demonstrate that learning has taken place. For example, a course in "Child Development" that is completed for high school credit might include some of these objectives:
- Commit to one school year of assisting the teacher in the Beginner Department of our church's Sunday School.
- Arrive 30 minutes early every Sunday to greet children as they arrive, and play appropriate games with them.
- Participate in Sunday School activities as directed by teachers.
- Assist with cleanup.
Detailed objectives for specific activities or segments in the course might be written like this:
- Listen to assigned workshops in child development, and outline the content.
- Add to your outline examples of these principles as you have observed them at work in children's lives.
- Choose one principle to implement in your Sunday School "lab" experience.
- Write a summary report about the results.
Yet another project example could look like this:
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