After Day One Of Finals

In a stack of papers called Grading.

  • Jan
  • 16
  • 2008

Grades are on my mind and weighing heavily.

My school uses School loop and I’ve been using their gradebook faithfully all semester long. I just realized that things aren’t organized in a way that lets me see patterns. Assignments are arranged by date and not by category. There’s no convenient report showing the percentage of students earning each grade. Even the breakdown of what a student is earning in each category is a few clicks away, tucked at the bottom of a page. It’s a great system for some, but it simply is not working for me.

There’s an option to download the School Loop gradebook. I needed to download it for some other reason, but once I started applying formulas to it, I saw disturbing trends that I feel like a complete failure for not having seen earlier. It’s too late for some of these kids and that’s my fault. There’s nothing I can do about it now except send out email letting them know what they did not turn in. Truthfully, they should already know all of this since School Loop puts my gradebook at their immediate disposal.

Here’s the truth: that sounds good in theory, but it’s horrible in practice.

Students don’t look at gradebooks the way teachers do. They look at the bottom line and go from there. “What’s my grade right now?” “How did I do on that last assignment?” “What’s my grade right now?” “How low can I score on that midterm and still pass?” “What’s my grade right now?” And weighting, while making for a more accurate grade in my eyes, makes it more complicated for the students to understand where their points are going. Maybe I need to develop a lesson around how to read a gradebook. Yikes…

So I’ve been here late the last two nights writing email to students (called “LoopMail” because it uses School Loop to send out to the students). Sadly, those students may or may not be in the habit of checking School Loop and may or may not be in the habit of checking email. Of the four students I saw today that I emailed yesterday, only one saw what I wrote ahead of time. I’ll tell you the count tomorrow.

These emails I’m writing are the things students need to do to raise their grade, most of them from an F to a passing grade. My F rate is depressingly high. My D rate is likewise troubling. My single solace is that some of those Fs are due to attendance (11% of Fs) or are radically below 50% (57% of Fs). I always thought that a student had to try awfully hard to earn less than 50% given that I assign 50% to all late work and never score any work lower than 50%, even if poorly done. Well, apparently it isn’t so difficult because a bulk of my Fs have done exactly that.

Now the big question: do I stop using School Loop for grades? I need to see these issues earlier than at the end of semester. The catch is that the grades are now back in my sole control, where I update online grades (PDFs for each period) just about every 3 weeks. Also, parents and other teachers don’t have access to student grades anywhere near as easily. I could continue with School Loop and find ways to make that data work for me. The catch here is that, while the grades are easier for the community of the concerned, I run the risk of not noticing habits until too late because the interface doesn’t give me what I need.

To be honest, now that I know what I need to do, I can just download the gradebook and paste the new numbers atop the old in a spreadsheet. Update those every time I enter new grades and I’ve got two gradebooks in place without much effort. It’s a bit more work, but I don’t think any formulas will get messed up. I plan to write an entry detailing all the formulas I use so that anyone else out there in a similar position can take advantage.

I’m sickened over how this semester has played out. I can’t shake that nagging feeling. You know the one I’m talking about, the big ogre looming over your shoulder in times like these.

Anyone else experiencing this kind of crisis? What are your grades telling you?


1. JackieB says:

[1/17/2008 - 7:38 am]

Well, my crisis is a bit different. I’m trying to overcome the “What is the minimum I have to do to pass?” mentality. Case in point: I have a student who has an 89% going in to the final. She asked if she could just skip the final and take a C for the course. I wanted to cry.

2. Todd says:

[1/23/2008 - 9:13 pm]

I had the same thing in one of my classes: a student with an A before finals who decided not to do the last few projects, ending the semester with a C.