I’m a Special Snowflake

…just like everyone else.

Macro Snowflakes by Alexey Kljatov

photo credit: Alexey Kljatov

Though, actually not like everybody else in this particular context.

This year my school is moving from a hodge-podge of every teacher using his/her own gradebook, to a system in which everyone uses one online gradebook through the same program that handles our attendance and such. We were given assurances at the end of last year that the gradebook we would be using would support whatever manner in which we currently assessed/graded our classes. And if such a way did not currently exist, by gum, we would find a way to make it work. I was actually part of the team that developed this recommendation (and some other ones too) to present to the faculty as a whole. I’m down with the universal gradebook plan.

However, I’m not actually going to be using the school’s gradebook.

For the past several years I’ve been using Active Grade, with what I call standards based grading–but which I always feel a little bad about, because it’s more broad than that. I was reading up on some of Jason’s old SBG posts and I realized that what I do could better be described as Topics-Based Grading (or TBG; because we really need more acronyms in the MTBOS, ammiright?).

As it turns out, our new universal gradebook doesn’t allow for teachers to input their own topics/standards. These are my options:

Assignment Types

No way to edit these. No way to add new assignment types to only my gradebook. To add them would mean having every single teacher have their drop-down menu explode with content and process standards that are irrelevant to the way they grade. Even if you select just three of these assignment types for your own gradebook calculations, you still see all the options when you input each assignment.

No can do.

I tried to wrap my head around some way to reverse engineer my TBG system to fit into this box, but I couldn’t make it happen. Luckily for me, my academic dean (the person who is launching this change) gets what I’m trying to do with my grading system and fully supports it. As he said when he gave me permission to not use the gradebook everyone else is using, “I’m not going to let the system force you to change how you grade, which is in many ways more evolved, just to fit into the system.” [paraphrasing heavily here, as I do not typically record all of my conversations]

So, yippee! I get to keep doing what I’m doing–which is the best way I’ve found to make me comfortable with the idea of giving grades [if it was up to me, I wouldn’t give them at all]. If at some point our gradebook can handle what I need it to do, then I will switch over. Until then, I’ll keep using my Active Grade and my TBG and fight the good fight to move assessment away from earning points and towards learning content.

 

 

 

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2 thoughts on “I’m a Special Snowflake

    • Actually, it’s more flexible than some other programs I’ve been required to use in the past. I’d say overall that it’s less flexible than EasyGradePro and more flexible than SchoolLoop–two of the programs I was required to learn and use in some of the public schools I’ve worked at.

      Most teachers find the gradebook program really easy to adapt to what they want and very easy to use on a day-to-day basis. I have heard a multitude of good things about it from my colleagues (and who says good things about a typical gradebook program? crazy!)

      And overall, the big point was *trying* (and possibly failing) to make, was that when the program was too restrictive for me, my school was flexible and modified the expectations to support my practice. Which in the end is the most important thing.

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