Week 3: Navigating The "Grade Book" When There Are No Grades

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Two weeks in...

Tomorrow marks the beginning of the third week of school here in NYC.  It has been a funky couple weeks with only three days of school each week because of holidays.  This upcoming week is the same, two more holidays on Wednesday and Thursday- it has made the establishing of norms, front-loading and developing routine challenging, but like any good school we trudge forward and do the best we can.

Two weeks ago I told AP that they would not be receiving any numeric or alpha numeric grades on the daily work or projects.  That twice a year- during what will look more like an intersession you would see in college (January and June) students will have to do a Defense of Learning that is in the process of being developed.  I am a huge proponent of portfolios and of students having to speak as to WHY they have earned the score they did for the semester or year.  Now that it is connected to Mastery Based Learning, my hope is that this will provide students with especially useful data to support their arguments- because it is about them.

The juniors dove in head first.  There has been no push back and in the first assignment they were asked to do for me- "Defend you seat in AP Lang: Why do you deserve to be here?"  They were surprisingly reflective and used anecdotal evidence well to support their position.  The lack of proofreading, as always, is astonishing but that is something to work on.  For the most part this is a strong group and even the kids who will struggle more will grow and move forward.  That is the larger goal- always.

I also kicked off assertion journals.  This year I have had students create blogs where they will do informal writing and homework.  I am shared as an admin on every blog and the blogs are linked from our class website so everything is 100% transparent for each other.  In addition to the weekly writing response (with required word count) they also have to read three peer blogs and provide a GLOW and GROW.  While some of the feedback is much better than others, I need to give more parameters for feedback- the biggest being, and it almost always is- SAY WHY.  I find this is where the kids always struggle the most.  Explain why you have the opinion you do.  It's not enough to just say it.  That doesn't help me as a writer.  SAY WHY.  However, the thinking is growing and developing and I am excited to see how the use of blogging helps student learning this year.

The Grade Book...

At our school we use a program from Data-Cation called Skedula.  I have been using Skedula as a teacher for most of my career now and we have grown up together.  The thing I love about this company is that it was created by teachers who know and understand what teachers need.  They saw a problem and created a solution.  Peter from DataCation came to out school this past week to do a training and he and I were able to talk more 1:1 on my #TTOG and how to modify the platform for our needs.  Thankfully Starr Sackstein, a trailblazing NYC high school teacher had already done a ton of work and advocacy to make Skedula a platform that would work for her as she TTOG last year and documented the entire journey.  Peter was great help and I now have some structures in place for how to "grade" moving forward.  

This weekend I began the documentation of tracking skills.  It defiantly needs some refining on my part.  I need to make clearer links to the College Board learning objectives and how they are linked to the mastery standards so students understand what each standard entails.  It is all language I have written up, I just need to be more transparent and spend some time (WHEN DO I HAVE TIME?) looking at it with students.  

I'll have students check Pupil Path (the student/parent facing side of the grade book) to support them with reviewing their development on mastery.  I am not sure that it really provides enough information for a student and I can see where parents may be frustrated.  What is the balance between feedback in Skedula and feedback on the paper?  Work smart, Towne.  

I would love to hear from teachers about how they give feedback and document in a MBA setting!  Tell me what has worked for you?  What didn't work and what did you learn from it?  

I'm off and running- Look out week 3!  Here we come! 


  1. So glad you started to write about your journey :) Keep me posted


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