As a principal, I have the pleasure of fielding many of the concerns that drum up from things that take place in (and out of) the building. Sometimes, these conversations are moderately simple and can be rectified in minutes by simply informing the uninformed. There are times, however, that I completely agree with the complainant – and usually these moments of agreeance stem from conversations about grades.

Take, for instance, an email I recently received from a parent about their child’s team placement. The email read something like this:

Mr. Herb,

Could you please contact me regarding my son’s team assignment for this year? I’ve been told that the Math teacher on his assigned team is very tough and many students do not score as well as the students do on the other team. I want my son to get the best grades possible; please change his team assignment right away.

Sincerely,

Parent

In reality, there isn’t a discrepancy between the quality of teacher or rigor of instruction in either of our teams’ math classes (although that might be the subject of another post). Our scores show that students perform pretty much equally, no matter what teacher they’re randomly assigned in that grade level. It does, however, bring up a great conversation about grading and what a grade truly represents. See, there is a discrepancy between the two teacher’s grades – one does traditionally give higher scores on report cards. But, does that mean the students “know” more? Probably not.

Does a higher grade mean that a student actually 'knows' more? Click To Tweet

Grading, and more specifically what we teach, needs to be at the forefront of our conversations when working with our team. Developing non-negotiables, determining how to assess them, and ultimately agreeing on the way in which student performance would be communicated is the only way your team will be able to provide a guaranteed assessment of student learning that means anything beyond the four walls of a teacher’s classroom.

Stop teaching and start talking to your team about communicating student achievement.

Stop teaching and start talking to your team about communicating student achievement. Click To Tweet
In case you’re curious how I’d respond to that parent…it depends greatly on where our teams are in this process. A team that never talks makes it much harder for me to support when parents claim disparity. A team that collaborates and unifies their efforts makes it easy – I can simply inform the uninformed.

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