Well, I heard a new one today. But first, the context. I had just handed back English 11 essays, for which I did not use a rubric. Instead, I used a traditional means of feedback. I circled, underlined, and pointed out obvious errors (fragments, run ons, point of view errors, etc.). I made comments about logical omissions or organizational flaws. I commented when writers needed to give evidence for their claims. But overall, the score, the grade, came from my experience in knowing what constitutes an A paper or something not quite. Not only that, but students had the opportunity to conference with me in the drafting stage (an option that only four of the 21 in the class took advantage of). They also were encouraged to review peers’ work, to help each other draft a quality essay. They had three days in a computer lab to craft a two page essay. All in all, a pretty basic writing experience for juniors. Then, I overheard one of my students (who’d earned a 45/50 by the way) that she had gotten only one wrong, but I had taken off five points. By one wrong, she meant that I had only left one comment on her paper. She obviously thought the exchange rate was off.
I’m still somewhat stunned. I had no idea that students equated a comment or an underline on an essay with an item marked wrong, as when you do 25 math problems and you get five wrong, so you get a 20/25. Maybe I should have been a math teacher (only I don’t really love math. I love words).
Holistic grading is truly dead it seems. Everything must be quantified. Rubrics have become itemized reciepts. Every complete sentence given a point value, whether it makes sense or reads fluently or fits the paragraph or moves the argument forward. Quality lies in the fact that you spelled everything correctly, not in the relationships of the words to one another? Or am I just taking this girls’ comment (complaint, actually) too far?
What do you think?
If you are reading this and have had a similar experience, please leave a comment. This topic seems worthy of discussion.
Cross posted at Ms Hogue’s Online English Resources