Friday, December 10, 2010

Trust first, true assessment second

Saskatchewan has the roughriders, and now they have the “rougheducation” policy.  On Tuesday December 7, CBC wrote the article LATE SCHOOL WORK WILL MEAN LOWER MARKS, MINSTER CONFRIMS.  The article begins with

 The minister of education says she is preparing a province wide grading policy that will require teachers to deduct marks if students don't do their work.”

I truly hope all educators are as disgusted as I am.
Their minister of education, Donna Harpauer, exclaimed,
at least five or six school divisions don't deduct marks for bad behavior”. 
I was wondering, why don’t ALL the divisions not deduct marks for bad behavior?
Her solution is a provincial wide policy that will require teachers to deduct marks if students don’t complete their work on time.  I agree that schools should be a place where responsibility is addressed, but where in the mandated outcomes, does it express that schools should be grading such responsibility?  In fact, when you start grading on ideas outside of the mandated outcomes, is that not malpractice? 
When we start putting grades on tasks it actually decreases the potential learning that is possible.  The most insightful piece of research in the field of motivational psychology is that the more people are rewarded for doing something, they more they tend to lose interest in the actual task.  Also, by deducting marks for last assignments, the grade is distorting what it actually should represent; what outcomes have the students learned.
As teachers, we need to be trusted that we will assess properly and appropriately.  I believe that these “blanket mandates” actually destroy the trusts this trust.  In my school, I truly do feel my opinion is valued and true innovation is approved and endorsed.  Once a teacher truly feels trusted that he/she is allowed to endeavor on new educational roads, without criticism and reproach, we will start to see assessment practices that are actually validated


  1. I think this is a prime example as to why Politicians, particularly ones with no education experience, should not be making decisions for schools.

  2. Interesting that the Sask. ministry went this direction. You know what the top 3 complaints are by employers of youth these days? 1. They can't read (lieracy). 2. They can't make change (math). 3. They aren't punctual (behavioral). I agree that while these are definitely skills needed for youth entering the work force, I agree that they have no place in my assessment practices. I guess part of the question becomes do we assess behavior and assign a grade for it? If every school had an attendance/punctuality mark for students I bet employers would be more interested in that data than whether they the student can determine the distance from a point to a line conceptually.

  3. According to "What Do Employers Really Want? Top Skills and Values Employers Seek from Job-Seekers", and research paper from Hansen and Hansen, both Ph. D...
    Employability skills and personal values are the critical tools and traits you need to succeed in the workplace -- and they are all elements that you can learn, cultivate, develop, and maintain over your lifetime. Once you have identified the sought-after skills and values and assessed the degree to which you possess, them remember to document them and market them (in your resume, cover letter, and interview answers) for job-search success.

  4. It's about trust indeed. I agree - we can't get to the transformation we are looking for in education, and the positive results for kids without trust. We need to trust the teachers' expertise, and teachers need to trust the community; the parents and administrators will be their allies in advocating what is best for kids.

  5. Here is an interesting fact, I am not sure what the stats are at Hunting Hills as they have the same policy, but a high school in Saskatoon does not have bells to signify the beginning or ending of classes or schools. They simply have clocks all programmed to the same time and have the teachers use the clocks and the students monitor things this way as well. They actually have the least amount of lates or absences in their school division. I know it's not late assignments, but it correlates well.
    I am super disappointed in Saskatchewan but I don't think the STF will allow that policy to go through period.