Scales are better than percent.
I like to think in fluid systems and right now the greatest barrier to educational change is our reliance on software that focuses supporting a report card that requires a percent. Whatever deconstructed factor model we develop, the percent report card will keep the systems from innovating. Let’s look at a percent: That is 100 decision making and feedback points. And really, what exactly is the difference between an 85% and an 87%? In the gap between the two is too narrow to communicate area of significant growth is needed before the work is “Outstanding”.
More and more, I am attracted to Marzano’s “Grading” and the Power Formula where a 4, 5, or 6 scale is used to ‘grade’ very specific learning targets. The only piece of software I have seen so far is EASYGRADE PRO. Using a scale creates a common language of communication and allows an educator to tie the scale to a clear rubric. Here, the learning targets or outcomes can be clearly measured. By using a percent, the grading is smerged and conceals both opportunities to extend and opportunities for practice. A percent is taking a rich multidimensional experience and flattening it to a narrow ‘gist’.
There is a strong culture around obtaining final percents to the point where educational assessment seems dysfunctional. We should not define a student and their future by their grade. I know some of my former students are highly successful in their chosen career but when I speak with them they see themselves as poor students. Yet, they are experts in their current field. Others who achieved A’s did not go on to something expected. Such a definitive assessment of a percent is too often used define a developing person. I tell my students, never let a grade define who they are or who they will become.
Using percentages creates a culture focused with bell curves, and that one percent that moves a person from B to A honours. Principals end up reporting to the board who question them and then pressure trickles down on teachers to change their grades or to grade on a curve. The last time I checked, class composition is not based on a curve. When I was engaged in my learning, I really didn’t care about the grade. I was measuring the nerdy fun factor.
I will come up with a design for a new reporting system in another post.