Why Supreme Court Reveals It’s Okay for Students to Grade Papers
“Hi, Doc—Report cards go out next Wednesday!”
“Hi, Byron! Yes, next Wednesday. Have you entered grades in the computer, yet?”
“No, I have not. . . Waiting to hear back from a parent who complained that my grades are not valid because I allow other students to grade students’ papers.”
“Hmmm, that truth is no reason to fret. A teacher has the final say regarding students’ grades.”
“I wish I knew of a better way to appease both students and parents. Students cower when they do not receive A’s, and parents complain that my grading practices are “unfair.”’
“Well, be reminded that the Supreme Court has already ruled that students grading their peers’ papers is not a violation of Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA.)”
“Really, I do not recall.”
“Yes! It was a case filed by a parent as a class action lawsuit against Owasso (Oklahoma) Independent School District, claiming “a teacher used a peer grading system. . .”
“Really? When did the ruling take place?”
“A few years ago, Byron . . . February. . . 2010? . . . You can Google the case and read about it, but, yes, after a battle all the way to the highest court in the land, the judge declared, “In concluding the opinion, grades on students’ papers would not be covered under FERPA at least until the teacher has collected them and recorded them in his or her grade book. We limit our holding to this narrow point.”
“Wow, incredible. Thanks for sharing this information. . .”
“Indeed, sometimes–perhaps often–students’ grades are reviewed by teachers for accuracy. The teacher may change the grade if peers did not grade fairly, or teacher may use his or her final assessment of the grades; thus, peers that graded the papers might not have seen the final grades, thus no real harm happened.”
“Yes! That makes sense. . . I always spot check the grades after my students grade papers.”
“However, I would caution not to allow students to grade other students’ papers on a regular basis. A more prudent method would be to allow students to grade their own papers. You as teacher would have to assess the validity of their grades, however, and perhaps micromanage the situation. This idea is feasible with few math problems, historical facts, or vocabulary. Yet, you, yourself, should grade students’ essays—or. . .”
“Yes! I totally agree.”
“How will you handle the complaint by the mom of your student?”
“I will ask her to meet with me for a conference, and I will explain my rationale for grading. . . I will respond understandably to the parent’s concern and will adjust her child’s grades on the basis of fairness . . . I have a better understanding now after talking with you about grading practices, Doc.”
“A compromise is this case is smart, Byron . . . Ah, question?? Do you ever use a grader chart or a Scantron or a techno method for grading?”
“No, I am a hands-on teacher and prefer hand-grading.”
“Well, I understand. Yet, for easy grading—multiple choice, facts, simple computation, for examples, try Scantron. Your computed grades will be accurate and students and parents will be able to see the grades and deal with the consequences of the grades privately.”
“. . . Another good idea, Doc. I understand that privacy is important. I know that some students and parents can be sensitive about grades . . . Thus, I will start using your recommended grading suggestions as well as rethink my grading practices . . . .”
“If you would like to read further about grading, here is a list of research-based strategies for grading. (Doc hands list to Byron.) I complied the list to keep in my grade book and in my computer notes to remind myself of best grading practices, and I apply them.”
Here is the list:
(1) Be reasonable and clear about teacher-expectations for performance.
(2) Be fair about grading by keeping the student’s learning ability in mind.
(3) Develop valid assessments of learning and skills, minimizing error in test construction.
(4) Implement a rubric strategy that both teacher and students understand.
(5) Consider a no “F” policy: Adhere to grades A or B or C or D.
(6) Allow students to makeup assignments or retake quizzes if they ask.
(7) Discuss “test integrity” with students: Why is test important? How does studying for a test guarantee test-success?
(8) Teach strategies for making good grades.
(9) Involve parents when students earn below a grade B.
(10) When in doubt about grading, refer to the highest court of the land for validation.
“Thank you, Doc. These tips are very helpful. . . Let’s have lunch soon. My treat.”
“Sure! Perhaps a good time to have lunch will be next Wednesday, after report cards go out. We can discuss the outcome of grades and talk more helpfully about solutions. . . .”
Cynthia Mathews, Ed.D. (2020)
How to Teach Effectively
Teaching is imparting knowledge or skill to learners, right? Well, yes—but more: Teaching is imparting knowledge and managing students simultaneously.
The days for standing in front of students lecturing went nonviral decades ago. Today it takes a livelier environment to teach in the 21st Century.
Teaching requires being in the zone, watching and facilitating, allowing students to partake in their own learning. Students have opportunities to discover and create their own lessons when they are given autonomy of doing so.
While lecturing has its appeal—introducing new lessons, providing anecdotes to enhance imminent lessons, communicating with students, simply by relating to their personal interests, students nevertheless must be actively engaged in learning that lecturing rarely provides.
How to engage students? Well, “Flipping the Classroom” is one such style, as it requires students to take over the classroom rather than educators teaching most of the time. Flipping the classroom allows students to apply the learning objectives to discover new ideas about the lessons and to create assignments in their way, and then to explain the importance of the lessons and share how they plan to use the lessons to better their lives; flipping the classroom keeps students involved because they, not so much educators, are doing the work.
Moreover, when students create their own lesson-designs, good grades should follow whether or not “little Johnnie,” for instance, understood the gist of the assignment. He did indeed complete the lesson based on instructions, did he not? “Be creative; discover.” Good teaching is providing good grades for students and making complimentary, helpful notes on their assignments to cheer little Johnny along in learning so that negative grades will not hurt little Johnnie’s feelings, prompting him to give up trying.
Good teaching is extending the “most good” to every student. Everyday teaching is challenging because educators must also contend with individual-student concerns—on the spot. At this juncture, good teaching converts to good discipline. In doing so, educators must prepare themselves how to constructively handle common teaching scenarios.
When students venture off task, and some of them will, educators should reassess their student- management plan. Educators may ask themselves “Have students and I maintained civility by recognizing human traits we have in common? In other words, have we insisted on effective teaching and serious learning of the standards, so that everyone’s fullest potential is reached? Have we shown a sense of humor to lighten the load of the class work? Have we been helpful to one another, assisting the other when necessary? Most importantly, have we been patient with one another, not accepting one’s innate ways as a bother but as a pleasure to help the other?
What to do when educators and students have indeed recognized and acknowledged the basic human decencies yet misbehavior continues? Well, educators may resort to enforcing good student behavior and effective learning by following the effective teaching tips below:
(1) Talk with the student: Explain the importance of learning, and try to reach an agreement. Sometimes asking the student for his fine behavior and continuance of learning is the only caution necessary for misbehavior to disappear.
(2) As an assignment, instruct student to research the words “tack” and “deference.” Ask the student to assess his learning. Student will appreciate the learning but also will appreciate the teaching of important-civil words.
(3) Focus on the task or misbehavior, not on the student. Even if the student is wrong, he may be reluctant to admit it. A student may easily recoil if he feels singled-out.
(4) Provide a lot of positive reinforcement: Motivation. Motivation. Motivation.
(5) Talk earnestly with the student about the human-traits. When reminded, the student will behave appropriately because she will have recognized principles her mama or grand-mama taught her. Besides, a human being knows–deep in his soul–to show respect. Just politely remind her.
(6) Apologize if the student’s feelings have been hurt. Yet, ask for and extend cordial behavior.
(7) Call parents. Yet, do not complain about their child. Only ask for their support.
(8) Keep an eye on the student to show that he is being watched. He will secretly like and respect the minimal attention.
(9) When addressing student, call him by his name. A student enjoys the attention he receives by hearing his name, and he appreciates that his presences is realized.
(10) End of day, go home. Rest. Reflect. Start anew.
Cynthia Mathews, Ed.D. (2020)