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Student Voice Should Determine Progress Report Grades

Second-semester progress reports are coming due and that means it's time to once again formally solicit student feedback about their learning.

Although we are in constant contact through reflections and informal formative feedback, this time of year provokes the need for something a little more comprehensive.

This year it crept up on us, so I'm trying something a little different. Usually, there would be two weeks' worth of full student conferences ensuring we see eye to eye, quite literally on what they believe they have learned and what I have seen from submitted work and participation in a plethora of different activities and conversations. Constantly adjusting what has happened in the past and trying out new ideas to better inform everyone involved, there is a regular rethinking of how these conversations can be more functional and productive.

So I took an old Google form for self-assessment, adjusted it slightly, and sent it out to the students giving them a little less than a week to complete it (class time or at home), and then I will review what they wrote.

In the past, all students met with me after they completed the form, but in the interest of time this year, we will be doing it differently.

If students are thorough enough on the form, I will submit their chosen grade as their progress report grade with a little feedback in an email. If there are some things written that require further clarification, first I will submit an email looking for written clarification. If I am still not clear or they haven't submitted a form at all, a formal conference will be scheduled and I will sit with the student to hear them make their case for their learning. By giving students multiple opportunities to talk about what they've learned, they have a voice in the process that I couldn't give them if I just went to a grade book and plopped down a grade that is the average of submitted work so far.

The arbitrary nature of grades always complicates this process and inspires and encourages me further to continue to push to change this system. Report cards and progress reports as they currently stand do a terrible disservice to most students and to their parents who would like to help their children be more successful.

Communication about learning is extremely nuanced and if we allow these terrible reporting methods to continue, we ensure that some will succeed and others will give up or rebel against it because they will feel like they have no other choice.

Although education is supposed to ensure democracy on some level, the system treats different kids inconsistently really separating the haves and have nots - and those who don't mind being complicit. We have the power to change this dynamic, at least in our own spaces by giving kids a voice in the process.

How can we give students a voice that matters in their learning to ensure all are getting what they need? Please share

*This post originally ran on my EducationWeek Teacher blog in March 2016

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