“It’s me again, Doc. Got a few minutes?”
“Sure, Vivian. How are you?”
“Grading papers: grades not so good.”
“Thinking about reteaching?”
“Of course, if necessary. I believe, though, students have knowledge of the standards.”
“Perhaps that is the problem: Students have knowledge but not comprehension. Students usually must understand content well-enough to make B’s or A’s, or even C’s”–
“The class and I have reviewed the assignments many times. Each time we have worked together, students have performed well. I believe their poor scores represent a lack of self-confidence. Students rarely trust their answers, even though they mark the correct answers then change their answers.”
“Indeed a lack of self-confidence is a big problem in students’ academics. . . What are you going to do?”
“I will allow bonus points”–
“Yet, the school policy states ‘no bonus points,’ right?”’
“Yes, I understand. The policy is not clear, however. I mean, what constitutes ‘bonus points?’ Usually, bonus points represent a type of game played, and the winner is awarded points to add to his or her grades. Yet, I am thinking of extending bonus points that connects to the standards taught. . .'”
“Clever. It’s logical to award points for extra work rather than for extra credit. You may wish to term extended points as ‘academic support.’ This term accommodates the intent of points more appropriately than the giving of bonus points.'”
“Academic support sounds logical. I will offer extended practice on lessons students choose to learn more about. I will allow students to submit lessons as they deem appropriate. . . I will offer 10 academic support points for each lesson they complete, not extending 25 points”–
“I believe your idea to extend academic support is a helpful one. If students wish to continue the work for extended knowledge and for academic support, who are we as educators to say ‘no’? We are teachers that wish to help, not hurt.'”
“What is the legal standpoint on giving bonus points?”
“Yes. Sorry. Academic support.”
“You are the teacher. Do what is best by your students. . . No particular legal outlet. Schools decide: Teachers decide. You probably should discuss academic support with administration. You need to suggest that the policy ‘no bonus points’ be explained. Mention your reason for academic support. Explain that you will connect academic support to learning standards, not anything else that does not relate to school learning: no points for sweeping the floor, playing nonacademic games, running errands, and the like. . . I believe administration would support your stance.'”
“I will speak with administration.”
“Be mindful also that students need to understand that academic support is not to be used indiscriminately. Students must always give 100 percent effort at making good grades. When they fall short, and you as teacher believe academic support is necessary, extend this grace.”
“Yes. I will add this importance to my syllabus.”
“You might consider not adding ‘academic support’ to your syllabus; yet, add it to your red carpet repertoire, allowing students to benefit from this special event only when you as teacher believe appropriate. . . Of course, be fair to all students, giving same opportunity to all.'”
“You are right again: I can foresee how this form of grade-forgiveness can be taken advantage of”—
“Yes, but you will set the tone. Academic support will cling to your continuance of extra work for you and your students. You will need to grade students’ extra work and provide feedback as you would normally. Still, this idea brings more opportunities for students to learn the standards: I appreciate this idea the more we speak about it.”
“Well, if you would allow me just a few more minutes, Doc, I wish to understand the cons of offering academic support.”
“I think none. Academic support has more pros than cons. The cons might be grading extra papers, chancing students’ slacking, skewing actual grades, yet you can limit these possibilities with a share of your expectations. Other cons might be lessening the rigor required of your class. The pros are far superior: Academic support shows you as teacher care about your students and their grades. You recognize students are smart yet make mistakes sometimes. The support allows more chances for students’ deepening the learning of standards; the support paves the way for students to apply effort to their learning, for effort is not a popular idea among many students. If students ask to make up work, they are ready to provide the effort to complete the work.”
“I appreciate you. Somehow ideas become more clear to me after I speak with you, Doc.”
“Just remember the following tips, Vivian, and I believe ‘academic support’ may become the norm for some schools. These tips should apply for students and teachers and schools.'”
(1) Follow grading policy, and speak with administration for an augmentation of the policy if necessary.
(2) Align academic support with learning standards already reviewed to strengthen students’ understanding of the lessons.
(3) With your guidance, allow students to present academic-support-lessons in their own way. Discovery is key.
(4) Make sure students understand that academic support is a type of red carpet event that happens only sometimes, not every time students wish to have better grades. Make this directive clear.
(5) Provide academic support for all students, not only for those students that ask.
(6) Arrange a student grading system so that students may assess their own work. This way you will not become overwhelmed with grading yourself: Do spot check for accuracy, however.
(7) Continue to teach test-taking strategies.
(8) Continue to seek innovative ways to instruct students to strengthen your expertise and to enhance your students’ academic learning.
(9) Trust your students.
(10) Trust yourself.
Cynthia Mathews, Ed.D.
Curriculum and Instruction
Professional Development Consultant