Quizzes can be hard

One of the consequences of my implementation of mastery-based grading is that “% right” and “score” or “grade” on a quiz are now almost completely detached from each other.  There’s little relation between the two anymore – on a quiz with eight or so problems, two students might each get a different score for getting five right answers.  I’m proud to report that at this point, students understand why this happens, especially when they carefully compare each other’s work.

I could say, most simply, that I grade quizzes holistically, and the goal I’m working toward is to have rubrics attached to every learning target that I use.  That’s ongoing work, sure.  More immediately important is the point Shawn Cornally makes here: that now there’s no limit to the difficulty level of problems on a quiz.  We can ask wide open questions without obvious answers, and use what we learn from the kids’ responses to figure out what to teach tomorrow.  We can use half the questions to check in and make sure our students have some basics down, and make the other half big and messy without kids freaking out about getting a “50%” as their grade on a quiz.  I’ve seen my kids become more courageous problem solvers as they come to trust that there’s no penalty for trying, and that they’ll receive feedback for what they try, and when it comes to receiving a grade at the end of the semester (which is still a necessity in this big city), everything will work out fine, as long as they can prove they’ve learned something.

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