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Old 05-30-2011, 06:09 PM
 
316 posts, read 785,685 times
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Our student worked hard to maintain high grades for the last grading period. The last week of school, one grade dropped 4 points due to a 90 on a group project. We asked the school how this was mathematically possible. Weighting? Limited assignments? An error? We were told to "congratulate your child on a very fine job."

That misses the point. How much rights do parents have to visibility into their student's performance and the school's grading? How do students maximize grades and minimize surprises?

Right now, all we have for insight is an online grade site. We don't know how often it is updated. We don't know the reasons behind the grades. We don't see graded assignments or tests. We don't know what our student is doing from week to week in class other than what we see on homework.

It seems like grade-school education has become a black box which spits out grades.
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Old 05-30-2011, 09:11 PM
 
Location: WA
4,462 posts, read 5,830,716 times
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As a teacher I would give you the following advice.

1. If you have a question like this about grades first make informal contact with the teacher and just ask for an explanation. This isn't a question about "rights" at this point. You're just looking for an explanation and there is likely a very reasonable answer. Most schools use computerized gradebooks that do all the math.

2. Don't go over the teacher's head to the school administration unless you really feel like the teacher is being unreasonable or uncommunicative. I am always happy to chat with parents about grades and grading procedures and there is nothing hidden or obtuse about how we do things. But no one likes to have to respond to an administrator raising questions about classroom procedures or grades especially when the parent never tried to contact us with the question in the first place. That's just going to put the teacher on the defensive and get you a reputation at the school as one of the whining helicopter parents.

In any event, if you are talking about elementary school then you probably need to relax. It's good that your kids are high achievers but you really don't need to start worrying about your kid's GPA until high school.
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Old 05-30-2011, 09:52 PM
 
316 posts, read 785,685 times
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Thank you for your response. We did first contact the teacher but were told "that's a fine grade". No explanation. We then contacted the principal and got the above response about congratulating our child on a fine job. Again, no explanation. The message we got was that we weren't supposed to question grades. What we gleaned from our child is that there were probably very few grades to average, therefore a single grade made a large difference. Why were there so few grades? We aren't getting any response at this point, so we cannot ask.

Being in middle school, we are not worrying about scholarships yet. But high grades got our child into an advanced program in the fall. What worries us is going into a more challenging environment in the same school system with the same lack of visibility.
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Old 05-30-2011, 10:06 PM
 
784 posts, read 2,621,401 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by texasdiver View Post
you really don't need to start worrying about your kid's GPA until high school.
That may be the worst piece of advice I have heard this year, yes, even worse than that May 21st rapture prediction.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ausparent View Post
We don't see graded assignments or tests. We don't know what our student is doing from week to week in class other than what we see on homework.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DoGCIkcJ42E
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Old 05-31-2011, 06:23 AM
 
316 posts, read 785,685 times
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I should have been more clear. (Excellent video, by the way.) This middle school has a policy of not sending graded assignments and tests home until the grading period is over. It is a major change for us because the elementary school sent everything home every Friday.

We still have good communication with our child. But we have to ask about class work for each class every week. The school doesn't have enough text books so we don't see any materials other than homework assignments. The school says that it wants parents to be its partners in education. There must be a better way for parents to be engaged in their children's education.

As far as GPAs go, how much control is realistically possible? Will there always be some random factor at the school administrative level? Is a report card surprise a likelihood? We're increasingly concerned as we approach high school because we are going to need a scholarship.
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Old 05-31-2011, 11:29 AM
 
Location: WA
4,462 posts, read 5,830,716 times
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There are no national or state standards on things like grading policy so each district or school is going to have its own. It is highly unlikely that there is anything arbitrary about how semester grades are calculated as most schools use software that calculates the grades using pre-determined formulas.

For example, at my school district all classes from 1st - 12th (except AP classes) are graded according to the same formula. Daily grades (homework etc) are weighted 30%, Application grades (labs & projects) are weighted 30% and tests are weighted 40%. For each 6 week grading period all teachers are required to take a certain number of grades in each category. Your school may or may not have a set policy for grading. They might leave it up to the individual teachers. But in my case it is actually the school board that established these policies for the entire district (in response to parent complaints I think).

If your school has a grade policy then they should be able to communicate it with you. If they don't then your teacher should be able to communicate it to you. All of the gradebook software packages that schools use require that the teacher input all of these parameters before entering grades.

The policy of not sending graded material home is just weird. At the middle school level I would think that would be up to the individual teacher. Some teachers don't like to turn back graded material right away if other kids are still working on it to prevent copying. And some teachers who reuse the same material every year don't like to turn it back at all to prevent next year's kids from getting the completed assignments from friends or siblings who took the class the previous year. I would be curious to hear the rationale if indeed it is a school-wide policy.

As for GPA. The control is more in your child's hands not yours. There shouldn't really be any surprises or "random administrative factors" but there are often tests at the end of the grading period that can affect report cards at the last minute.

As for my comment about not worrying about GPA at the elementary school level. Frankly my district does not even keep GPA statistics until kids get to HS. They have an AB honor roll for intermediate and middle school kids but that's about it. That does not mean you do not need to worry about how your kid is doing in school. Of course you do. You just don't need to stress the actual numerical GPA. Grades are basically a signal to the parent about how their kid is doing. For things like entry into gifted programs they rely much more heavily on teacher recommendations than actual grades. An extremely bright kid who gets mediocre grades because he or she is bored is more of a candidate for gifted programs than a diligent student who works hard and gets good grades. Your district may be different but mine would never base placement into advanced or gifted programs simply on grades.

At the HS level GPA is, of course, used extensively to rank kids for scholarships and college admissions. So it becomes a big deal once you hit 9th grade.

Again, you are doing the right thing to find out exactly how the grading policies work at your school or district. Everyone school is different. I just don't think you need to be stressing the fact that your kid got a 90 on one assignment.
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Old 05-31-2011, 11:40 AM
 
28,900 posts, read 50,467,525 times
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What you have here is a school that is dodging accountability--the classic behavior of bureaucrats posing as educators. Only the village idiot would say that not sending work home for parental review is a good idea--or someone who has an agenda.

Here's the deal. If schools really believe all that pious claptrap they spout about parents being important to the education of the child, then that means the parents need to know what's going on with the classwork. It means being able to look at a test the child brings home and go over what the child missed. It means looking at the overall quality of the work and ensuring the child is being conscientious. Just as importantly, it means making sure that the quality of instruction is up to snuff.

What you have here instead is the equivalent of bowling with a curtain covering up the pins.

"You got three pins."
"Well, which three?"
"I'm not going to tell you."

None of this is helpful. Can any teacher who frequents this board explain this really awful policy in a way that actually makes sense?

If I were you, I'd drive over to the principal's office and camp out. Because this is no longer about grades, but rather about your ability to effectively monitor what goes on in the class. The school, under the guise of some vague policy, is trying to strip power from the hands of you, the parent. And if you cannot get the principal's ear, I'd go to the superintendent, followed by the school board. And I'd get some other parents involved along the way.
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Old 05-31-2011, 11:45 AM
 
28,900 posts, read 50,467,525 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by texasdiver View Post
There are no national or state standards on things like grading policy so each district or school is going to have its own. It is highly unlikely that there is anything arbitrary about how semester grades are calculated as most schools use software that calculates the grades using pre-determined formulas.

For example, at my school district all classes from 1st - 12th (except AP classes) are graded according to the same formula. Daily grades (homework etc) are weighted 30%, Application grades (labs & projects) are weighted 30% and tests are weighted 40%. For each 6 week grading period all teachers are required to take a certain number of grades in each category. Your school may or may not have a set policy for grading. They might leave it up to the individual teachers. But in my case it is actually the school board that established these policies for the entire district (in response to parent complaints I think).

If your school has a grade policy then they should be able to communicate it with you. If they don't then your teacher should be able to communicate it to you. All of the gradebook software packages that schools use require that the teacher input all of these parameters before entering grades.

The policy of not sending graded material home is just weird. At the middle school level I would think that would be up to the individual teacher. Some teachers don't like to turn back graded material right away if other kids are still working on it to prevent copying. And some teachers who reuse the same material every year don't like to turn it back at all to prevent next year's kids from getting the completed assignments from friends or siblings who took the class the previous year. I would be curious to hear the rationale if indeed it is a school-wide policy.

As for GPA. The control is more in your child's hands not yours. There shouldn't really be any surprises or "random administrative factors" but there are often tests at the end of the grading period that can affect report cards at the last minute.

As for my comment about not worrying about GPA at the elementary school level. Frankly my district does not even keep GPA statistics until kids get to HS. They have an AB honor roll for intermediate and middle school kids but that's about it. That does not mean you do not need to worry about how your kid is doing in school. Of course you do. You just don't need to stress the actual numerical GPA. Grades are basically a signal to the parent about how their kid is doing. For things like entry into gifted programs they rely much more heavily on teacher recommendations than actual grades. An extremely bright kid who gets mediocre grades because he or she is bored is more of a candidate for gifted programs than a diligent student who works hard and gets good grades. Your district may be different but mine would never base placement into advanced or gifted programs simply on grades.

At the HS level GPA is, of course, used extensively to rank kids for scholarships and college admissions. So it becomes a big deal once you hit 9th grade.

Again, you are doing the right thing to find out exactly how the grading policies work at your school or district. Everyone school is different. I just don't think you need to be stressing the fact that your kid got a 90 on one assignment.
I think you've missed the point entirely. The OP is trying to understand why she cannot see the work her child has done in school. I cannot imagine a defensible argument for it.
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Old 05-31-2011, 12:04 PM
 
Location: California
34,307 posts, read 37,805,888 times
Reputation: 31008
On a few occasions I requesting input from a teacher via email or official "grade check" I could request from the school office. This was in high school when I monitored the GPA for college reasons. Mostly though I just let things be and helped my kids handle things if they had a dispute. I don't believe parents should be allowed to micromanage the grading process from elementary up through HS and beyond. That would cripple an already broken system and even lead some to want to compare the work of their children with that of others and invade privacy. Don't laugh, I've seen it.
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Old 05-31-2011, 12:50 PM
 
Location: Central Texas
13,719 posts, read 28,168,427 times
Reputation: 9250
A student and parent should have a reasonable idea what is graded how and how much each category is worth. I'd be very disappointed if the teacher in question didn't tell the kids at the beginning of the semester that "tests are one third of your grade, homework is 15%, projects are a third and the rest is quizzes." (or something like that).

The child may have been told, but no longer remembers the weighting. Or the child doesn't want to admit he/she knew so they blame the teacher. Lots of kids amazingly "forget" things that matter a lot.

But I would simply ask the teacher to explain the semester grade. How did the project score affect the overall? Etc. This should also be a learning opportunity for student and parent - learn at the beginning what matters. As for this specific incident, I wouldn't let it blow up. It is middle school and doesn't mean the end of the world.
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