That seems to be the main thrust of the new grading policy. A big thing, for me at least, is the policy on what is and is not acceptable for participation. I had been doing precisely the thing that the DOE seems to loath—granting a participation grade at the end of each marking period. I essentially gave a positive grade for students who raised their hands and were active all the time, a negative grade for those who spent most of the time sleeping, and various degrees in between for others.
Now here’s the thing—DOE gives an example that you give credit each day when a student brings a pencil and notebook. That is, of course, measurable. It’s also idiotic, as it’s a preposterously low standard. I think the reason they gave that example was because it was very easy for them to think of. And thus, we part ways. I actually think about grades a lot. To me, bringing a pencil is only a marginal step above breathing.
But they don’t need to think about it. They just need to sit in air-conditioned offices and tell us what to do. Why bother considering the real lives of lowly teachers, let alone the students they ostensibly serve? Treat everyone the same.
So if someone places a student in my class, tells me she has a 70 IQ, and the girl looks appears so fragile that if you touched her she would break, well, rules are rules. If she doesn’t participate each and every day, screw her, she gets zero. If one of my students is from a country where they have classes of 50, if she’s been taught all her life to sit down and shut up, if she’s so painfully shy that she actually trembles when you ask her a question, give her a zero. Everything is black and white in the ivory towers of the DOE.
Your opinion cannot be quantified. Let’s say you teach strings. Let’s say one of your students comes in and plays a beautiful piece, with perfect vibrato. She makes you feel as though you have reached nirvana. I come in and scratch out something that sounds like I’m strangling a cat.
But we’ve both brought in our violins and cases, and how the hell are you gonna prove she plays better than me? Is it on the rubric? And who’s to say I didn’t find my own piece to be breathtakingly beautiful? Who the hell are you to judge me without a rubric? And if you do have one, and you tell me how badly I played, maybe I’ll just report your ass under Chancellor’s Regulation A-421, verbal abuse. You made me feel bad. So screw you too.
After all, the supervisors are using rubrics. They come in with that Danielson thing and check boxes. These boxes contain the evidence. Plus they have notes. So who cares if the notes came from the voices in their heads and nothing they say actually happened? I’ve seen supervisors outright make stuff up.
So is that the solution to this ridiculous rule? Do we lie and say that students who didn’t participate did?
I have a disagreement with my co-teacher over what volunteering means. For her, it’s, “Did you raise your hand and get up and do something?” For me, it’s you, you, and you. Thank you for volunteering. I usually do that and call on everyone. Should they get less credit because I forced them to? Or should I wait and hope for the best? Here's another manner in which I part ways with the DOE--I'm willing to negotiate or discuss it. I don't just say, "Here's how we do it. If you don't like it, screw you." Because that's not how you work productively here on Planet Earth.
Here’s what I think—I think if you’re a teacher you should have discretion. I think it’s ridiculous that everyone must be graded the same without exception. I think what’s excellent for me may be so-so for you. What if you’re the person who plays that violin like an angel? Do you seriously believe the Department of Education won’t place you in a class with a cat strangling, off-key person who can’t spit out a tune to save his life?
Oh, and your self-contained class must be held to the same standard as the gen. ed. class. The fact that there are only 15 kids is the accommodation. That’s it. The fact that the Regents exam holds them to a lower standard doesn’t mean you can because screw you. And screw the kid too. It’s no problem for the DOE, which is impeccable in treating everyone fairly.
And that class with the push-in ESL teacher? The one where everyone is learning about the Civil War for 40 minutes a day and the ESL students are supposed to be concurrently learning English? Too bad the native kids only need to learn about the Civil War. You need to learn both, in the same time, because screw you. NY State says that’s how we have to teach it and that’s the way it is. So screw you, and screw your students too, because you have to be fair but we don’t.
That’s what the new grading policy looks like to me so far.
Views expressed herein are solely those of the author or authors, and do not reflect views of my employers, the United Federation of Teachers, the MORE Caucus or any other union caucus.
Stories herein containing unnamed or invented characters are works of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.