It's been a really long time since I've blogged or tweeted, like almost six months. Thanks to both of you who missed me. Part of the reason is I've been working a second part time job for a major electronics retailer. State budget cuts and frozen salaries combined with a continually rising cost of living have made this a necessity.
Like any retailer, the holidays are a major source of revenue. In my particular department, we make somewhere in the neighborhood of two-thirds of our annual revenue between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Black Friday is a big deal for us. I sold a lot of stuff that day.
I am not paid on commission but my personal sales are tracked. On Black Friday, each person in the department had an assigned goal of approximately $30,000 in sales. Keep in mind I'm not selling cars but consumer electronics. That's a pretty high goal. On the following Monday I checked our tracking system to see my totals. To be honest I was pretty excited to see just how much I sold. Due to a glitch in programming, not all the data was properly assigned. In my own estimation I knew I had exceeded the goals for all three days of Black Friday weekend, but nothing was there to show it. I was bummed. Despite knowing I do not receive any commission or special recognition for my individual sales, I wanted to know. Then I had one of those "oh great wise one share your wisdom with me" moments of clarity - this is how my students feel about grades.
This is my second year using a standards based grading system. Assignments receive a score between 1 and 4, depending on the level of mastery they have shown. At the end of the grading period I conference with each student and we assign a similar score for their overall progress. I then convert this to a typical 100 point based grade to satisfy local requirements. I tracked with my students from 6th grade to 7th so this system is nothing new. However, this year I'm teaching math, a tested subject. The kids don't really care about grades but their parents do. Every time I send home a progress report with ones, twos, threes, and fours I have to answer the question, "What's my child's grade?" These numbers are important because so many people measure everything by them.
So, what exactly did I learn about grading from working retail?
- despite the lofty ideals of working /learning for the sake of simply doing so, we all want to see some fruit for our efforts
- when you are being assessed on your work/learning, everyone wants it to be a meaningful assessment. Don't just give me a set of exercises to do, connect them to something. Do they really assess my learning OR my ability to recreate rote tasks?
The task for me now is to find a way to address and apply both of these lessons. What suggestions do you have?