I'm actually a member of a Facebook group called Teachers Throwing Out Grades. That may sound ridiculous, but I assure you it is not a movement advanced by educators who are wanting to do less work. It is, in fact, a movement advanced by educators who want to do more meaningful work. Their aim is to offer feedback that is more standards-based, that is more reflective of what students can actually do. That approach appeals to me at a philosophical level. The irony is that my grading system this year is more traditional than it's been in years.
Basically, I have told all my students that I would be willing for everyone to have an A in math--but they have to earn it. And they earn it by demonstrating to me that they have achieved mastery of each standard we study. I offer my support in many ways. I break each standard into parts and provide opportunities for students to learn and to practice. I communicate daily with families who wish to reinforce their child's learning at home. I give plenty of notice when an assessment is scheduled--and I make the assessment available to my students and their families in advance. I grade fairly. As I have explained in a previous post, perfection is not required to demonstrate mastery. The student who misses 1 out of 6 gets an A in my gradebook, even though 5/6 is technically an 83% rather than a 90%. And I offer an opportunity for students to retake an assessment if they are ever displeased with their result.
And yet I still have students who are failing. As a teacher, that absolutely kills me. That's not why I get up and come to work every morning. But some students are simply not demonstrating mastery of every standard. Their own effort certainly factors into that equation. Students absolutely must take advantage of the learning opportunities I place in front of them. And parent support is such a critical component--your children will not be successful without your involvement in the process.
You might think a student who earns 100% in math is not being challenged. But sometimes that student earns 100% after previously scoring a 50, 60, or 70%. The final grade is a result of their effort. Yet, sadly, I have observed that is the exception to the rule. More often than not, the students who choose to do a retake are the ones who are raising their scores from 80% to 90% or 90% to 100%. And I don't want to take anything away from those students. I admire the ones who say, "That is not my best work. I will not be satisfied until I do better." I just need your help, as parents, instilling that motivation, that drive, that work ethic in every student. Good grades are ripe for the picking in my class. Students just have to earn them.