Changes in grading actions to prevent unnecessary failure, increase student resilience, and quality of their work are not only possible, they are more likely to go hand in hand than not. Secondary schools looking to prevent failure through grading can do so by utilizing the SI2TE Model Framework.
Impact of Student Failure
Dealing with the impact and effect of student course failures are one of the biggest challenges secondary educators face. In addition to the logistics of rescheduling classes, students develop a culture of failure that permeates well beyond the report card. High school students that experience a pattern of failure often create a holistic view that represents their current failures and disregard any future possibilities of success. In a 2009 study, students who dropped out due to multiple failed courses noted that their that past failures negatively impacted confidence almost a decade after (Cox, 2009). For these adults, the remaining anxiety of failure prohibits many from developing skills needed to improve their lives and society as a whole (Nagel, 2015, p.98). Multiple failures in one semester can alone increase the likelihood a high school student will never graduate high school (Allensworth and Easton, 2007).
Amateurs react and repair; professionals prepare and prevent
Helping students develop resiliency in place of apathy is a critical action high school teachers and leaders must take; but far from an easy one. Schools must determine the adult actions that will lead students towards learning and stick-with-it-ness and away from certain failure and hopelessness.
What actions does your school engage in to prevent failures as opposed to enduring them? Practices to prevent unnecessary failures in secondary classrooms should be considered as much of a given as hand washing in the cafeteria kitchen; both are safety issues (Nagel, 2015. p.102). They will not happen through edicts implementing rigid grading formulas to prevent the mathematical failure from the computer average. Nor will they from mandated policy changes to the school or district grading scale. At the same time, passing students without their demonstration of academic content knowledge is often only placing band-aids on wounds that need stitches.
The SI2TE Model Framework
In my new book, Effective Grading Practices for Secondary Teachers: Practical Strategies to Prevent Failure, Recover Credits, and Increase Standards-Based/Referenced Grading, I introduce The SI2TE Model as a framework for middle & high school teachers and leaders to utilize when determining grading and feedback actions to prevent failure.
Support: Paramount to Preventing Student Failure
Very often, the intervention that is used after the failure takes place to help students recover credits and increase their learning was available during the semester they failed the class. Students who view their teachers as a support network will exert higher levels of effort and engagement and are less likely to even consider dropping out of school (Yazzie-Mintz, 2009). Students’ perception of being supported early is critical as well, as it relates to their motivation to learn. Self-esteem doesn’t lead to confidence—confidence leads to self-esteem. When students are supported and develop skills over time through effort and multiple attempts they begin to also develop self efficacy.
Schools and individual classroom teachers increase their chances to help students avoid student failure by intervening as they see signs of it. Most teachers know within 3-4 weeks which students are in danger or failure. Waiting three or more to act moves potential danger of failure to imminent.
Teachers waste far too much time searching for (grading) consequences that will work with students to reduce undesirable actions such as handing in work late. Similar to the IRS creating incentives for taxpayers to submit their returns early, teachers can provide students motivation by additional feedback to apply and resubmit, choice of next assignment, etc., in place of the rarely effective consequence of reduced points for late submissions.
Time the variable & learning the constant
Schools that focus more on students learning well as opposed to when they learn it can also avoid unnecessary failures. Grading expert Ken O’Connor (2009) notes that when teachers do not offer student additional needed time, we literally promote undesirable behaviors such as sloppy and haphazard work, that bother us the most. When students know they will not receive additional time when they need it, most will say, “The hell with it then.”
The final element of SI2TE is evidence. Teachers must use the best evidence when grading their students and there is a possibility of failure. Teachers may need to collect (and demand from students) more evidence and offer students multiple chances to demonstrate the needed level of skill and understanding (Nagel, 2015, p.105.) The less certain teachers are about a student’s proficiency, the more assessment evidence they should collect and use (Marzano 2006, p. 114). In addition, the quality of evidence related to academic achievement must be considered and not provide students with additional points or marks just to pass them for work unrelated to standards.
The SI2TE Model can provide secondary educators a framework to develop new or adjust existing grading structures to prevent unnecessary course failures. Future posts will address specific school and classroom grading actions that align to the framework, are adaptable across classrooms and content areas, decrease unnecessary student failure, while still challenging students to meet expected learning objectives.
Allensworth, E., & Easton, J. (2007). What Matters for Staying On-Track and Graduating in Chicago Public High Schools: A Close Look at Course Grades, Failures, and Attendance in the Freshman Year. Research report, Consortium on Chicago School Research. University of Chicago. Chicago, IL.
Cox, R. (2009). Promoting Success by Addressing Students’ Fear of Failure. Community College Review; Jul2009, Vol. 37 Issue 1, p. 52
Marzano, R. (2006). Classroom Assessment and Grading that Work. Alexandria, VA. ASCD.
Nagel, D. (2015). Effective Grading Practices for Secondary Teachers: Practical Strategies to Prevent Failure, Recover Credits, and Increase Standards-Based/Referenced Grading. Corwin, 2015. Thousand Oaks, CA
O’Connor, K. (2009). How to grade for Learning. 3rd Edition, Thousand Oaks, CA. Corwin Press.
Yazzie-Mintz, E. (2010). Charting the Path from Engagement to Achievement: A Report on the 2009 High School Survey of Student Engagement. Bloomington, IN. Retrieved from: http://ceep.indiana.edu/hssse/images/HSSSE_2010_Report.pdf