End of school year survey

Update 05/18/17:

Here is a link to my current end of year survey.


I want good feedback from my students, but I also want them to take it seriously & I think this survey in its current state is way too long for students to endure the entire thing. I’m considering it my question bank at this point & I plan to delete questions depending on the class. I searched for something like this to start with because I did not want to re invent the wheel, but I could not find one, so I am sharing mine so that hopefully other teachers can use it as a starting point for their own survey. (I cannot figure out how to make Google forms visible for you to create a copy without changing the original, so request access if you would like it to use as a staring point for your own class) Please comment with thoughts on questions to add or remove.

[update 6/05: My favorite comment on the survey: “I got better at actually trying.”] Woo hoo!!

Grades are killing student perplexity & creativity

I just started teaching a semester long programming class. Since I’m new to it, I had an idea of how I would grade this, but I thought I’d see how students progressed for a week before I committed to anything specific. So, I didn’t mention grades. I established class routines, showed students how to interact with the self paced programming curriculum, and off they went. They work hard all period & I run around the room trying to support students when they didn’t understand something. They all worked. All class period. All week. I didn’t assign homework.

A few of the students came in  and asked if they were “allowed” to continue working on programming from home, and they were excited when I told them that they could. I’ve never seen such motivation. I teach at an alternative school, where most students have gotten into trouble at their previous school, many have drug abuse history…they were excited to be allowed to work from home?!?

One of these students came into my room during lunch & I asked them how they would like their grade determined. We talked about setting individual goals, and creating a separate criteria for each student. Then he said this:

“If I had know that before, I wouldn’t have worked as hard.”

Then another student said the same thing in a different conversion.

Later, outside of class, I spoke to a quiet, thoughtful girl about grades. Here’s what she said:

“Grades just make me feel dumb.”

She explained that no matter what, when someone ranks her work she feels hurt that it didn’t get a better score. She is right. I feel that way too. When I get observed as a teacher and my administrator ranks a variety of things on a 1-5 scale, if i’m not a 5, I feel like a crappy teacher.

I like standards based grading. Its an improvement over traditional grading, but it is still applying a number to student effort & creativity. It still creates a ranking. For students who have struggled with school, which is a far greater number then students who have been very successful, grades are a de-motivator. They jump in full force if they are perplexed & curious and just instinctively want to figure something out. When they know its for a grade they hesitate, they get nervous, they over think, panic, sit quietly & wait for someone else to do it.

So now what? I still teach in a traditional system where a specific traditional grade book is required for all teachers to document student progress.  I spent years tweaking my standards based grading system to work within a traditional grade book. It is possible. So, my new challenge: how can I document student progress while supporting their creativity, eliminating the constant concern & focus on grades?

Modified Standards Based Grading: Thinking Out Loud

I like Standards Based Grading, but I want to improve upon my system. SBG has completely affected the culture in my classes and how I plan and teach and even how I interact with my students. This is my 4th year using some form of SBG. My dilemma is that all standards are weighted equally, but in reality they are not. I don’t want a student passing algebra 1 if they cannot solve multi-step equations or graph a line, even if they are proficient at other standards. To me, these are non negotiable basic algebra skills and the student would be set up for failure if they did not demonstrate proficiency at these. Currently, students still play the points game, albeit not as much as under a traditional grading system, but they learn that they can score below proficient at a skill or two every grading period and still pass.

My first thought was to switch from a 1-4 scale to the binary system, but this wouldn’t change, and may even encourage the “its ok to not be proficient in everything” game.

I want to set up a system where I can tell students that to score a C (minimum passing at my school) you must be really know these learning targets, If you want a B, then you need these too…etc… Scoring on a binary scale. I would assess the “C” targets most frequently, the B a little less often, and the A targets on occasion.

I am not clear in my mind on how this would play out with students, or how I would manipulate my district mandated traditional online gradebook, but I would love thoughts at this point so that I can keep developing a better grading system.