Fix 5: Don’t include attendance in grade determination, report absences separately.
Whoa boy… I better give this one some thought. First off, I don’t. But this is similar to my post about docking late marks, and, now that I reflect, marking effort. I don’t mark effort. I don’t dock marks for lates. I don’t include attendance in the grade. However all three of these fixes, for me, relate to the same chronic problem a few of my students face… I’m going to chew on this one and get back to you tomorrow. Bye for now.
Ok, I’m back. It has been two weeks and unfortunately I still don’t have some profound revelation to share with you about this “fix” for broken grades, and I wish I did. At my school we have a pocket of students who are chronically absent. This time of year it is a considerable weight on me. With a few weeks to go, students that have missed lots of clases by now are probably feeling stressed about being behind; that stress makes them skip more school. The cycle continues, and some parents enable this attitude, and self-fulfill their own educational shortcomings by allowing the students the time off as a bandage to their anxiety.
Getting back to the topic at hand, not including attendance in grade determination, I have tried a couple of different approaches to this. Firstly I have tried making my class as close to an online class as possible with the added bonus of a warm and friendly teacher every day to greet you. All of my daily lessons, assignments, relevant links etc. are updated on Google Classroom so students can be alerted as to what they are responsible for. Secondly I have tried to make my classrooms as predictable as possible (i.e. little assessment every Wednesday, rest of the week is lessons and practice). Other solutions I have tried are about the frequency of assessment. I have tried marking and recording every little assignment; I have also tried the flip side by marking lots but recording (or counting in their eyes) almost nothing. Thinking back, there was one semester where almost half of my students had “Incompletes” on their report card, because I refused to put zero’s when they just didn’t finish the assignment(s). That didn’t go over very well… At what point do you change the category from “missing” to zero? I know I don’t have to. At what point (test, small assignment, big lab report etc) do you continue expecting the assignment or just let it go? I guess it depends on the student, their circumstances, and how many missing assignments we are talking about here.
Lately, for the last month or so, I have one student who misses two or three classes a week. He is brilliant, and even whilst missing the lessons and activities, he can still troubleshoot high marks on the tests (which he shows up for). His missing assignments are du to the fact that he is at another level academically and is trapped with his grade group (for now). I have another student in the same class who comes diligently to every class and is conscientious about doing every assignment to the best of his abilities. His assignments are the only reason he is actually passing the course, as his test marks are never above 50 despite his efforts. These two gentlemen are in very different places in their Science 10 journey, and deserve to be treated differently in my assessment practices.
In my years as a teacher I have not found an assessment “fix” for students missing assignments that works for me. I don’t include attendance in determining grades, but honestly the students end up including it on their own anyways, sadly.