Happy beginning of the 2nd Quarter! With report cards pending, we embark on the traditional reporting mission that is less comfortable than talking about the caring and creativity shown daily by our students and staff - grades. We all remember grades, don’t we? The anxiety evoked by the seemingly universal A-F scale (why we leave out E remains a mystery) is something probably all students, present and former, share. At RMS even more anxiety comes from the fact that for some of our students this report card will be their first foray into this uniquely American experience. We want to try to ease some of that anxiety.
The larger discussion of grades is the stuff of long scholarly works and philosophical treatises, today we feel it important to offer a few reminders about grades at RMS.
What a grade is:
A snapshot of the work in each class for the past 9 weeks.
A measure of progress toward a goal that is ongoing.
A discussion point regarding what strategies worked in the first nine weeks, and what habits and methods might be changed. (The “leave all work to the last two weeks” is not a great method despite its popularity in middle school).
Potentially a reflection of choices regarding energy and effort that may have been directed at another goal during this quarter. Discussions of these choices can be enlightening.
The starting point of a discussion about wider educational expectations between families and RMS. We welcome inquiries about report cards, and look forward to deeper conversations about your students' learning.
What a grade is not:
A measure of self worth. A 2002 study found that 80% of undergraduates based their self worth on how they were doing in school. This is not a healthy nor helpful idea - especially for middle school students. We, as adults, can mitigate this feeling by continuing to stress what was learned at RMS rather than what letter was recorded.
An end point. The 9 week grading period is, at some level, arbitrary, often coming in the middle of a unit. Work and learning are ongoing, and will continue to build on themselves as we move forward.
Restrictive or punitive. In most cases middle school grades will not be divulged to outside entities. Sometimes the lessons learned from a letter grade that is less than expected last longer than the subject matter of the class. (Middle school is where I learned that I could not, in fact, do my entire science project in two days. The grade reflected that, and I did not make that mistake again.)
A complete picture of a student. At RMS we know that students are so much more than letters in a column. We try to use comments to reflect the full, and wonderful, complexity of each student.
Meaningless. We also know that the academic world as it exists relies on our current system, so we try to reflect in our grades the same values that will be important as our students navigate secondary and post-secondary education. We will continue to stress individual learning and growth while remaining grounded in our current grading system.
We know that the single letters are not conducive to reflecting the nuance and subtle individual differences that make each of our students wonderful. We will continue to try to foster those qualities while preparing them for what comes ahead.
Please reach out with any questions or concerns regarding report cards (available on PowerSchool on Monday afternoon), grading, or the quarter in general. Enjoy the extra hour we gain on Sunday. Please be well, stay safe, and take care of each other.