Please Don't Ask Me About Your Grade

This week, a student came up to me just before class started and said: “Can I see my average?”

I said, “No.”

He looked at me stunned. We stared at each other for several seconds, neither of us entirely sure what to do. He had asked an honest question. I had given him an honest response.

Finally, he broke the silence (and our little staring contest), “Really?”

“Yes,” I said. “You just received your mid-semester grade report a week ago. I doubt anything’s changed. Let’s focus on what we need to do today: write a thesis statement for Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis that will really knock my socks off.”

He nodded and then went to his seat to wait for class to start.

This sort of interaction is not uncommon in my classroom. I hate grades. Everyone knows it. I tell students that. I tell parents. I tell other teachers. I’m not a fan. This interaction got me thinking about the way that grades, for the most part, are simply statistics without context.

Statistics without context are not good, y’all. As we head toward this Tuesday, Election Day, we should all be wary of statistics: polls and polling averages and keys to the presidency and the odds of the U.S. Senate flipping and how many state house seats your side needs to do this, that or the other. Without a whole mess of context, without really knowing what you're talking about, you can get yourself into trouble.

Beware statistics without context.

Check out my article below as I think through the opacity of grade reports and the value of parent-teacher conferences in their place.

This Week on ROOTED

Statistics Without Context: On the Opacity of Grade Reports and the Value of Parent Conferences
Grade reports, usually, are statistics without context. I open a grade report and see a series of letters and numbers, but what do they actually mean?

From Around the Web

An odd collection this week: the evils of email, the necessity of roadmapping anti-racist work, an old piece about reading education, and some thoughts on stone carving. Check out what we’ve been reading from around the web!

how email became work
This is the Sunday edition of Culture Study — the newsletter from Anne Helen Petersen, which you can read about here. If you like it and want more like it in your inbox, consider subscribing. There was a time when your inbox was filled with actual delights. When you would eagerly look forward to che…
An Antiracist Roadmap for Discussing Tough Topics in Class
This long-term strategy for guiding conversations on topics like racism requires prep work to ensure that the classroom is truly inclusive of all students.
Why American Students Haven’t Gotten Better at Reading in 20 Years
Schools usually focus on teaching comprehension skills instead of general knowledge—even though education researchers know better.
The Stone Carver in an Age of Computer Screens - Study Hacks - Cal Newport
A reader recently pointed me toward a short video titled “A Continuous Shape.” It profiles Anna Rubincam, a stone carver from South London who works alone out

Favorite Tweet This Week

The link in this tweet as a whole mess of resources. Check 'em out!