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    #168613 - 09/21/13 06:02 PM Weighted Grades
    Dandy Offline
    Member

    Registered: 08/12/08
    Posts: 574
    My son’s history teacher is using weighted categories very oddly — at least I think so — but I can’t find enough discussion of the practice of weighted grades to point it out to him.

    Teacher has 4 different categories and the two I'm looking at in particular are Homework and Maps. Teacher's Homework category is assigned a 15% weight and Maps is assigned 30%, making it twice as important. That’s not so bad on the surface, but at the end of the quarter Homework will have about 150 possible points (a dozen or more assignments) and Maps will have only 10 points (3 assignments).

    Here’s where is gets very, very frustrating. At the end of the quarter, before factoring in the 10 possible points, my son will have a rock-solid 95%.

    On two of the three assignments for Maps, he missed one point, getting only 8/10 points for the quarter… but because this little category with only 3 assignments and 10 possible points counts for 30% of his overall grade, his 95% is dropped to a very depressing 89%.

    His homework contained many assignments with a Map-related component, any one of which required considerably more time than all of the in-class Map assignments that made up that all-powerful category. Yet he could have had 1500/1500 points in homework — having done 150 times more work — but because the teacher assigned 30% of his overall grade to 3 piddly assignments, my son gets a B in the class.

    I've spent a bit of time today trying to find a “Best Practices” type white paper — anything, really — that discusses how to properly assign weights to various categories? This is nuts, but I have to come to the table with more than my helicopter-parent intuition. Mr. Teacher has a string of letters after his name and won’t take kindly to a neophyte questioning his masterful ways.

    Any ideas?

    (I'll share my $3.5million windfall with anyone who helps!)
    _________________________
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    #168614 - 09/21/13 06:20 PM Re: Weighted Grades [Re: Dandy]
    Chana Offline
    Member

    Registered: 07/02/13
    Posts: 222
    I wish I could help. Here is my two cents if it helps you realize you are not crazy. As a college professor I try to align points with two factors in mind, amount of effort and relevance as a measure of subject matter understanding. In general, I try to correlate amount of effort and relevance. I also make those assignments more "points" so that simple mistakes that require some type of deduction don't end up dropping someone an entire letter grade (ie. from a 10 to a 9) just because it's not perfect.

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    #168627 - 09/21/13 09:15 PM Re: Weighted Grades [Re: Dandy]
    kcab Offline
    Member

    Registered: 10/02/07
    Posts: 1603
    Loc: Sparta, apparently
    I don't think you're nuts, but I'm not aware of anything that talks about how to weight grades. (Then again, I've never looked - there might be something out there.) The only thing I can think of is pointing out to the teacher the percent of the overall grade that corresponds to one point in each of the categories. But - I think your son is in high school now, right? Might be better if he was the one who approached the instructor.


    Are these quarter grades or semester? Quarter grades usually don't end up mattering...

    I don't know if your son's school uses Powerschool or another one of the on-line systems - but FWIW this is the type of thing that I think is a problem with those systems. To me, it looks like teachers spend some time coming up with categories and weighting at the start of the year and lose track of how many assignments they actually give in each category. Then they become wedded to the numbers, because we're all prone to giving more credence to a number, and lose track of the meaning.
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    #168630 - 09/21/13 09:53 PM Re: Weighted Grades [Re: Dandy]
    22B Offline
    Member

    Registered: 02/10/13
    Posts: 1228
    Is it possible that the teacher has quite poor number sense, and doesn't really understand what they are doing?

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    #168631 - 09/21/13 10:10 PM Re: Weighted Grades [Re: Dandy]
    Dandy Offline
    Member

    Registered: 08/12/08
    Posts: 574
    I've been trying to step back & pull down the proverbial scaffolding for the last couple of years, encouraging self-advocacy more & more. I think this issue gets a bit too far into the weeds for him to tackle, though, and it looks like raising the concern might really put the teacher into a defensive posture if not handled just right.

    And, yes, this is a quarter grade in H.S., so it doesn't "count" like the semester grade. If the trend continues, however, the disparity continues to grow to the point that just a handful of points in the 30% category can override an awful lot of hard work in the other categories.

    And, yes again... this is a system similar to Powerschool. The district brought it into the middle school right as he was starting. My reaction then was that it sure seemed like teachers were fascinated with the weighted assignment categories and decided they needed to utilize the feature just because it was there. (Only his Algebra teacher employed common-sensical categories and weights...at least IMHO.)

    "Then they become wedded to the numbers, because we're all prone to giving more credence to a number, and lose track of the meaning."
    Yuppers... I'm guilty of that myself.

    I think the simple math approach you suggest can keep the conversation simpler in contrast to me asking, "What the heck were you thinking?" But I still am hoping to find more details on how a teacher might set up the categories. Pretty much all I'm finding are the software manuals that give the technical how-to without discussing the why.

    Thank you!

    Dandy



    _________________________
    Being offended is a natural consequence of leaving the house. - Fran Lebowitz

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    #168632 - 09/21/13 10:21 PM Re: Weighted Grades [Re: 22B]
    Dandy Offline
    Member

    Registered: 08/12/08
    Posts: 574
    Originally Posted By: 22B
    Is it possible that the teacher has quite poor number sense, and doesn't really understand what they are doing?
    Honestly, this was my first thought. But I must admit to being a bit nervous around these H.S. teachers. They are (thankfully) a nice step up from the M.S. staff and I know they are even less interested in hearing boo from parents. So, as I already have a tendency to do, I'm over-thinking this. I just don't want to be labelled this early in the year!

    I thought about waiting until the semester, but at that point my saying anything looks a lot more like trying to change a grading decision after-the-fact to benefit my son.
    _________________________
    Being offended is a natural consequence of leaving the house. - Fran Lebowitz

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    #168634 - 09/21/13 10:24 PM Re: Weighted Grades [Re: Dandy]
    22B Offline
    Member

    Registered: 02/10/13
    Posts: 1228
    Originally Posted By: Dandy
    (Only his Algebra teacher employed common-sensical categories and weights...at least IMHO.)


    This confirms what I thought. The Algebra teacher has basic number sense, but other teachers don't.

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    #168635 - 09/21/13 10:37 PM Re: Weighted Grades [Re: Dandy]
    ElizabethN Offline
    Member

    Registered: 02/17/12
    Posts: 1390
    Loc: Seattle area
    My suggestion would be to let your son do it, but coach him on how. And he should probably start by asking about whether there will be more Maps assignments in the second quarter. If he actually shows the teacher how the loss of two points is affecting his grade, I suspect the teacher will spend some time thinking about it. By asking about whether there will be more Maps assignments later, your son is giving the teacher an "out" to either change the grade structure or to change the way he constructs assignments. Tell him not to press for the win right then and there, but to ask the teacher for help in understanding how he can pull up his grade. Getting into the weeds isn't a big problem if he's not pressing for an instant decision.

    I agree with 22B that the problem is almost certainly lack of number sense. But it's important not to lead with "you suck at number sense," but with "help me figure out how to improve my grade."

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    #168641 - 09/22/13 02:35 AM Re: Weighted Grades [Re: ElizabethN]
    ColinsMum Offline
    Member

    Registered: 09/19/08
    Posts: 1898
    Loc: Scotland
    I like Elizabeth's practical suggestion, but will add: do consider, and encourage your son to consider, the possibility that this teacher knows exactly what she's doing. Did I understand correctly that the higher weighted Maps task is for work done in class? She might well feel that it should be highly weighted because, being done under her eye, it is a much better gauge of what children can really do, as opposed to what gets done in an uncontrolled environment where help may be available. She may be right.

    I know people tend to think of a high grade as a reward for work done, but really it's "supposed" to be a measure of what's been learned. If someone does 200 hours of homework which attracts no grade credit at all, but helps them learn the material, and then is given a grade for what they show they can do in a 2 hour exam, that isn't intrinsically unfair - also, it's what much of the world does! - even though it may be unexpected.

    Indeed, a move towards such a system may be what's needed to give schools the freedom to stop giving kids so much useless homework and to let them let kids have the freedom to do what will help them learn rather than what will garner immediate marks. It may be hard to do all at once, but downweighting homework is a possible step towards it. A clumsy one, admittedly - if this were the intention it would be better to introduce more freedom into the homework at the same time, also to explain the rationale. Still, it would be a pity to reinforce teachers' feelings that they can't do this.


    Edited by ColinsMum (09/22/13 02:42 AM)
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    #168645 - 09/22/13 04:10 AM Re: Weighted Grades [Re: master of none]
    22B Offline
    Member

    Registered: 02/10/13
    Posts: 1228
    Originally Posted By: master of none
    I'd start by mentioning to the teacher that his grade is on the border line and ask if there's any extra credit he could do in maps to bring it up. And see where the conversation goes.


    No. It would be a mistake to make it look like the issue is disapointment with a grade. Instead it should be about the grading system being apparently poorly constructed, so that it can have unfair outcomes in general.

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