Classrooms: Grading For Compliance, Or For Quality?

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There’s an ongoing debate about the different grading scales used by different schools (and teachers).  Here’s another related question:  should teachers grade students based on their compliance with class
rules — turning homework in on time, all the time — or on the quality
of the work that they do?  That’s the question in this weekend’s New
York Times piece claiming that “standards-based grading” is on the rise
in Illinois as well as in other parts of the country (A’s for Good Behavior). 
What do you think?  Is there too much compliance-based grading in
Chicago classrooms, and are its effects nefarious, or is it OK or even a
good thing to reward kids for doing what they’re told as much as for
mastering materials?


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  • At Foreman HS, as a part of PARR, we were strongly encouraged to to give compliance grades and reprimanded when we refused because compliance does not reflect knowledge.

  • It didn't sound like these grades were based on knowledge of material -- they were based on test results. I don't consider those to be the same thing. There's enough focus on testing as it is. I certainly don't my child's education shaped primarily by his performance on tests alone, or to further encourage schools to dumb down education to focus on testable "facts" rather than to encourage actual thinking, interpretation, critical thinking, and all those things that don't neatly fit into a testable format. On the other hand, I don't like the idea of grades in general (at least for elementary school students) and CPS's focus on grades at that level is rather discouraging for this future CPS parent.

  • Good thing we're not talking about college, then. I've never understood this "well, they do it college so they'd better get used to it now" attitude used to justify certain things in the K-12 years. Especially since most quality college courses don't meet every day, don't require much homework (or at least don't check it), and give the students a lot of freedom. College grades are usually based on a couple of exams and a couple of papers (depending on type of class), NOT a bunch of busywork. Besides, these kids aren't in college yet, so it's all sort of beside the point.

  • I think there's room for both. Compliance is important. If the student goes on to college, there will be expectations of homework and papers done on time and to spec. If the child doesn't go to college, but joins the military, he will be expected to be compliant. The same is true of the workforce. Information mastery is important but not as important as producing citizens who will be able to take their place in society when they graduate. Mastery of specific information isn't as important (once one gets beyond arithmetic and reading ability) to me as the ability to learn by reading a text, experimentation, instruction, etc.

    As an employer I want 2 things in my employees. The ability to learn new things and compliance with the law and with my business's rules and regs. If I tell the employee to come in at 8:30am, I expect them to be there at that time most of the time (I'm not an ogre I do understand bad weather and traffic accidents). If I tell them to go to the storeroom and do an inventory, I expect them to do that. If my new employee does not know basic science or how to configure an instrument, that's not a show stopper for me because this is why I provide training.

  • Although some credit should be given to compliance, the majority obviously needs to be given to quality. In the real world, do companies pay people to follow the rules or for results? Well, actually they probably pay based on both; however the first should be a given but the second is invaluable. Our schools need to do a better job of preparing students for the consequences and rewards of what happens in the real world. Whether you like it or not, results are what really matters.

    Clay Boggess

  • The article refers primarily to test results as evidence of "mastery," however; is that really the direction we want to go? I'm not a teacher, but I will say right now that it's NOT the way I want my child to learn. Tests have their time and place, but a test-oriented education leaves out too many other variables. And I don't believe that good test scores necessarily means mastery of material, or can even count as a true result. Not a meaningful result, anyway.

  • No, unfortunately we're barely hanging on to the 4 employees we have. The economy may be growing, and I will admit it isn't as goshawful as it was last year, but not like it was a couple years back!

  • The code of conduct is more for behavior, e.g. not cutting in line, not cheating, not fighting...

    Compliance is things like completing and turning in homework and papers on time, participating in group sessions and work projects.

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