Research: Grad Rate vs. Fail Rate

I’ll say it. I love grading and assessment. I do. I love it.

I have been wanting for a while to complete some research on grading practices, their impact on failure rates in high schools, and further – how those failure rates impact high school graduation rates. I am preparing for a session for the ASCD National Conference (which I am hoping will be accepted) on my beliefs about how fail rates are an overlooked key data point that can be used to predict high school graduation rates.

But… I need you help (and the help of your network).

Below is a very informal (100% anonymous) research input form. I am not using all of the formalities that you will often see associated with educational research (that will come later). If you are an educational leader or know an educational leader please share this post with them. I need their input.

I am really hoping that ASCD will realize the importance of this data and accept my proposal – I think that this work is so important. If you are able to help, I would greatly appreciate it. The simple form is below.

If you would prefer to share the link please use: http://bit.ly/mcgfailresearch.

Questions? As always you can contact me using the contact information on my site.


Mike Meechin, M.Ed.
@mikemeechin

For more information about having Mike speak at your school or district, click the “Book Mike” link under Work With Me.

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Socrative and a Film Engage Assessment

Movies in the classroom… you know you’ve shown one before.

I was guilty of it too when I was in the classroom. As an administrator I do not necessarily want my teachers showing films to students – unless they relate to the standards of course. So when a film relates to the content and we want to use it to provide a visual for concepts already taught; how do we ensure that students stay engaged throughout? How do we ensure that students stay awake when the lights are off and engaged in the viewing process?

The answer is a tool that I used in the classroom; I called them film engage assessments. I used @Socrative as the driving force and delivery method. If you are not familiar with Socrative, check it out here.

Here is how it works.

As students watched a film in my class, we would use Socrative and I would run a teacher-paced quiz on my student’s devices. For this example we will use the film Glory as the example. The Socrative Share Code is: SOC-594065, if you want to run it in your Socrative teacher dashboard.

The engage assessment consists of ten open-ended short answer questions. Because this is a teacher-paced assessment, I would launch the questions as the students got to the scene they related to. Students would use their devices (Socrative runs on ANY web enabled device) to answer the question.

Socrative allows you to email or download a report of all student answers at the completion of the assessment. I would use the report to guide discussion at the conclusion of viewing.

Keep in mind that this strategy would work with and length of film – from short video clips to feature length films. It is an easy way to keep our students engaged while they view pieces of film in our classrooms.

Mike Meechin, M.Ed.
mike.meechin (at) gmail.com
@innovateed

Classroom Blogging Series: The Digital Footprint

I recently had the privilege to present to some amazing educators from around the world at FETC 2012. I had an amazing time connecting with other “game-changers” in this profession. I want to thank you for the great discussion in person and on the Twitter.

At FETC I was presented the IE PD workshop, Blogging with a Purpose. While we packed lots of info into our hour-long session, I was unable to get to the finer details with that time constraint. So, I am going to follow up with the Classroom Blogging Series – where I dive deeper into some of the details in blogging in the classroom.

The Digital Footprint

While attending FETC 2012, I found myself hearing echoes of edtech gurus calling for educators to have a digital presence. It really is so important – whether a classroom educator or administrator – to have a presence on the Internet; a place to provide some transparency to the happenings in your classroom or school. Do you currently leave a digital footprint?

For the sake of this post I am going to discuss two things. First, I will review the key points that I make in my Blogging with a Purpose workshop. I will follow that up with some additional options for educators in addition to the “Digital HUB” I will discuss first.

The Digital HUB

We educate students that are immersed in a digital environment. From the songs they listen to, to the way they communicate, to the content they digest – everything for them comes in a digital format. If we, as educators or school leaders believe that we do not need to educate in the digital – we are dead wrong.

Students need educators and schools to maintain a digital footprint – one that they can follow to continue the learning on their time.

Think of your “Digital HUB” as a place where your classroom is open not only to students, but parents and the community. Think about the transparency that you provide any stakeholder that is interested in seeing what you are doing with your students.

One very important point about creating the digital footprint is interaction. This digital presence has make student want – not force them – to interact with the content. You have to find the right mix of to bring students to your “HUB” to interact with the content. This interaction is how your students will become engaged. Without it you will not see students using it to engage in their learning.

I have two recommendations for creating these digital footprints. These two technologies are by no means the end all, but they are technologies that I have personally used. I will drop a Steve Jobs quote on you; “They just work.”

Google Sites

If you are a Googleite, like me, you may find that Google Sites is the place for you. You can visit my Google Site here, however, I am now out of the classroom and it has not been updated – but you can use it as a formatting guide.

Google Sites allows you to build a website. I has lots of options for you and is fairly easy to use for the tech savvy educator. I also like how well it integrates with other Google Apps for Education, such as Google Calendar and Google Docs. If these are technologies that you already use – then Google Sites is a great option.

Edmodo

At FETC this year, Edmodo was all the rage – and for good reason. I have used Edmodo for professional development purposes, and I can see how this could just connect with students. First, it looks, acts, and feels like Facebook. It is definitely a technology that most students are comfortable with, which means a small learning curve.

Edmodo allows for posting of materials, ease of communication to students (and parents if they have the access code), a more closed environment, and the ability to group students (i.e. periods, sections, etc…). I would encourage you to check Edmodo out and play around with it to learn its true potential. It is a technology that I will continue to use for professional development and also recommend to my teachers.

What If…

What if I am not a classroom educator, or I just am not ready for this. Well, there are other ways to go about creating a digital footprint.

Blogs

A blog is a great way to begin. It will allow you to publish content and your thoughts to the web. It allows you to begin with one-way communication (output) to students – and also publish some materials. You can continue the classroom discussion, and post announcements and such. The limitation is the engagement piece discussed earlier.

Now principals, this is your bread and butter. I am a believer that every principal should maintain a blog. It is a great way to communicate about your leadership, you school, and your students to all of the stakeholders in the community. If I were a principal it would be a top priority to publish to a blog and grow a readership – I think that this type of transparency is vital to school success in this day and age.

Two recommendations are WordPress and Blogger, both free.

Twitter

If you are still not sure about Twitter – the time is now. This may be one of the most revolutionary technologies to help transform education. The amount of professional material that is out there is infinite. You MUST, as an educator in 2012, be on Twitter. There are plenty of people blogging about it and you can find out a bit more here. This, however should be a non-negotiable for educators today.

You can find me on the Twitter @innovateed.

Bottom Line

Today’s students and school community need to have the option to receive content in a digital format. This can only be achieved when today’s educators and school leaders are leaving behind a digital footprint of what their students, classroom, and schools are doing – and where they are going.

In addition, these resources are free. With the budget crunches of today, these are powerful tools that need to be the focus for us to drive our curriculum. It is vital.

 

Be sure to visit Part I: The Details of the Classroom Blogging Series.

For more information about the Blogging with a Purpose PD workshop, please visit Innovate Education. All workshops can be fully customized to the clients needs.

Mike Meechin, M.Ed.
mike.meechin[at]gmail[dot]com
@innovateed

Classroom Blogging Series: The Details

I recently had the privilege to present to some amazing educators from around the world at FETC 2012. I had an amazing time connecting with other “game-changers” in this profession. I want to thank you for the great discussion in person and on the Twitter.

At FETC I was presented the IE PD workshop, Blogging with a Purpose. While we packed lots of info into our hour-long session, I was unable to get to the finer details with that time constraint. So, I am going to follow up with the Classroom Blogging Series – where I dive deeper into some of the details in blogging in the classroom.

The Details

I am often asked about student safety in the online environment. While I am an advocate of an open Internet in schools, where we teach responsible use – I also understand the many valid concerns. Here I will outline the settings that you can change to address many of these concerns. For the sake of this post, I will address the blogging platform WordPress and Blogger.

WordPress

Most of the safety concerns on WordPress can be addressed from the “Settings” menu from your “Dashboard”. The “Settings” menu has a submenu titled “Discussion”, which will allow you to control comments on student blogs.

WordPress "Discussion" Menu

 

Allow people to post comments on new articles

Unchecking this option will disable the ability to post comments on the student blog. While this is the easiest way to shut off the ability for two way communication, I think that the ability to use comments for feedback is monumental.

Users must be registered and logged in to comment

Checking this box will require all commenters on articles to be signed in with either a WordPress account or other account (Yahoo!, Google, etc…).

By default you will always be emailed when a comment is posted, so long os your students have made you an administrator on their blog. (Instructions below)

An administrator must always approve the comment

Probably the best way to keep student blogs secure. It does require some work on your end however, requiring you or your student to approve the comment. This would be my recommendation for THE setting to change on all student blogs.

Blacklist Comments

On WordPress you also have the ability to “blacklist” words for comments. It is a nice feature, but not necessary if you are going to approve comments prior to being posted.

Have students make you an administrator

This should be a non-negotiable. All students that maintain a blog should add you as an administrator. Here is how. Choose “Users” from the left menu then “Invite New” from the submenu choices.

WordPress "Invite New" Menu

 

Have the student enter your email address, then CHANGE YOUR ROLE TO ADMINISTRATOR. Click “Send Invitation” and that is all. You will need to respond to the email, but then you will be able to change all settings on that students blog. This process requires some work at the beginning of the year, but only needs to be done once.

Blogger

Most of the safety concerns on Blogger can be addressed from the “Settings” menu from your “Dashboard”. The “Settings” menu has a submenu titled “Post and Comments”, which will allow you to control comments on student blogs.

Blogger "Posts and Comments" Screen

Comment Moderation

This is really the only change you need to make for Blogger. In Blogging with a Purpose I mentioned that Blogger does not have quite as many options, so this is what you are limited to. Choose “Always” and have students enter your email address in the box. That’s it. All comments will need to be approved by you prior to being posted to student blogs.

Have students make you an administrator

This should be a non-negotiable. All students that maintain a blog should add you as an administrator. Here is how. Still under the “Settings” menu choose “Basic” from the submenu choices.

Blogger "Basic" Menu

Have the student choose “Add Authors” and enter your email address. What I do not like about blogger is that once you have accepted the invitation, the student must go back in to make you an Administrator. However, so long as you are approving comments, I believe you can leave this step out.

Disclaimer

As I discuss in Blogging with a Purpose, student behavior in the online environment is treated no differently than is a student were standing in front of me having a conversation. They key to student safety is to outline strong procedures, policies and consequences in the classroom. Take the time to teach responsible use.

For more information about the Blogging with a Purpose PD workshop, please visit Innovate Education. All workshops can be fully customized to the clients needs.

Mike Meechin, M.Ed.
mike.meechin[at]gmail[dot]com
@innovateed

Purpose.

What is our purpose?

I believe this to be an overlooked question as it relates to our actions in public schools across this nation. I feel lost sometimes with no idea where to begin the discussion with fellow educators about initiatives that are going to change the system. A system that for the most part has been working the same way for well over one-hundred years. A system, that in my opinion, is very broken.

So, I ask again – what is our purpose?

I write this post as I am filled with emotion about this issue (which may not be a good idea). Now I am not a Joe Bowerite, of the abolish grading movement (yet). I am also not of the “sit back and do nothing because it will never change” movement either. So, for the moment I will put myself somewhere in the middle. So, let me explain.

I believe that as educators we need to always reflect on what we do in our classrooms. This translates to self-assessment in most cases of our curriculum (each year if not more often). When we self-assess we need to ask ourselves, “what is the purpose?” And really we need to break this down into two categories – how we assess, and then how those assessments translate to a grade. The assessment piece I addressed in my last post about making our curriculum relevant. Bottom line: if you look at what you have your students “do” in your classroom and you can not answer the question about purpose – stop assessing with that tool and find another assessment that holds purpose.

DISCLAIMER: In the following portion of the post I will discuss mathematics. I have never been, nor pretended to be a mathematics teacher, so if you see holes in my math I both apologize and welcome you to discuss those holes in the comments section. Thank you mathematicians.

As for the grading piece, I have attempted to convince many colleagues that the 50 minimum grade scale was where it was at. Mathematically we have been screwing over students for generations, and shame on us. You see the 100 point grade scale is skewed – and the zero holds six times more weight that any other number grade that can be given. That is a fact. Now, it doesn’t mean that educators will not complain… “How can a I give a 50 to a student that does no work?” I have already met you… my answer is how can you (ethically) grade students with a number grade lower than zero when that will mathematically skew the students grade in the F grade scale? I know – I used to be that teacher that handed out a zero without reflection.

I mean, look at how we calculate GPAs. We assign a four point scale to the letter grades student receive. A 4 for an A, 3 for a B, 2 for a C, 1 for a D, and 0 for an F. I can hear you already – but we assign a 0 for an F… and I know that. However, when a 0 is factored on the 4 point scale its weight it the same as the other letter grades. When we move the 0 to the 100 point scale it packs a punch that many students can not recover from – mathematically.

The F in our GPA calculation is always the same whether that student failed the course with a 59% or a 7%. So, a student that scores a 59, and a student that scores a 0 – should they be given the same weight when we calculate their GPA? I would argue that the student with the 59% did a lot more work than the student with the 7%. You? But when we calculate GPA no one complains that we should penalize the student with the 7% with a -5 in his GPA calculation. I wonder why?

Now, I am not going to just complain – I will offer a solution. The 4 point system is where it is at with regard to grading reform. That is a fact – that it why we calculate GPAs with that system. I have heard @robertjmarzano and his people talk a lot about proficiency scales in grading, and that may be one answer to the grading debacle. I also believe that we grade too much and often forget to see if our grades match student learning. (To be honest, I think some just don’t care.) If we are not questioning the purpose of all that we do – grading, assessment, curriculum, discipline – then what is our purpose?

Tough conversations need to happen. As I was writing this piece I read a comment over at the Cooperative Catalyst by @wmchamberlain in response to what is the difference between “schooling” and learning:

It means thinking critically about all aspects of school from the curriculum to teaching methods to discipline policies. It means making classroom level decisions based on what works best for the student learning, not what is easy or because that is the way things have been done.

I could not agree more – educators need to make classroom level decisions about grading and assessment based on what will work for their students. So, what is our purpose? The answers will not come easy.

More to come…

Mike Meechin, M.Ed.
mike.meechin[at]gmail[dot]com
@innovateed

Archive: Cheat, Cheat – Never Beat

Today in class, as I often do, caught a student copying work for another class. It got me to thinking…

What are our students getting from the work that we assign them?

Assignments that can be copied and done in a few minutes during the class period prior to being turned in have zero affect on student learning. The student not only missed instruction in my classroom, but also got nothing from the assigned work.

The bigger question is whether we should give homework that is “copiable”.

I understand that there may be the occasional assignment or subject where this may be unavoidable. However, homework assignments that can simply be copied are not effective. Students need to be creating original work that requires them to think at high levels. This concept is really tough for some to grasp.

Some educators may argue the point that the student is cheating and should be penalized. These same educators would give no thought to the assessment itself and whether it was a valid assignment to begin with. The truth is that if we give “copiable” assignments we are just as guilty as the student. They are cheating – but we too are cheating. We are cheating students of learning – and you know what they say…

Cheat, cheat – never beat.

More to come…

Mike Meechin, M.Ed.
mike.meechin[at]gmail[dot]com
@innovateed

Archive: Tough Conversations… Have Them Part II

Man oh man!

This weekend I stumbled upon Joe Bower and his blog. The man is doing some mind altering educational reforms within his classroom walls in Canada. He has some amazing ideas and methodologies that will create a neuron party inside your head.

Are you ready for this?

You had better sit down…

Joe Bower wants us to abolish grading! That’s right – abolish grading… period. Talk about reform.

Now pedagogy that calls for the removal of the grading system from education may at first seem – oh, I don’t know… insane! But, if you give Mr. Bower’s site a read – he will dazzle you with some food for thought. For those who read this blog, you know I am beginning a journey of research with the 50 Point Project. But this abolition of grading is just blowing the doors off of my concept – man oh man!

He forces us to rethink assessment…

When assessment becomes more about covering your own ass in fear of being held accountable and less about student learning, we fail our children in more ways than we would like to ever admit.

Now I am not saying that I agree with Joe’s work or his philosophy, nor am I saying that I do not. What I do know is that Joe has inspired me to have more of the tough conversations with my colleagues this upcoming school year.

We are the leaders of tomorrow’s schools and if we do not have these tough conversations, who will?

Without these conversations, public education will continue on the path of the status quo. Thanks to Joe Bower and other reformers in the movement – thanks so much. Thanks so much for forcing me to have these tough conversations that will make me a better educator.

More (conversations) to come…

Mike Meechin, M.Ed.
mike.meechin[at]gmail[dot]com
@innovateed