It’s about getting things down to one number. Using the stats the way we read them, we’ll find value in players that no one else can see.~ Moneyball
I often take ideas and assign a numerical scale to them, in order to compare them to other things. I always tell people that they can “make their own math”. Most people just stare at me blankly, and others just laugh like I am joking.
Believe me, all that math you may have partially studied in school is useful. Somewhere along the line someone forgot to add a few key points to the math textbooks. For example emphasising that if a bunch of people sitting in a room can decide if a movie is a G, PG, PG-13, etc., then any group of people sitting in any room can do the same thing.
Even though they do not realize it, educators do this all the time when they make decisions about grading, grading scales, and standards. Recently I have been looking at grading scales for a Shanghai Primary School, a Shanghai Middle School, a year 9-10 IGCSE program, and a year 11-12 IB program. In my current position I am involved in implementing these scales among a common population of students.
These students will start on one scale and finish on another. They will go from letters, to numbers, to different letters, and back to numbers.
It is perplexing when considering the transcript and the key needed to decode the transcript.
I think the way schools report progress is a bit insane. It seems logical to give a student a number or letter and say, “This = Good and That = Bad” . However, over the course of time, the standards connected to these metrics change. So the logic does not hold up.
Trying to report the standards seems logical, but the number of standards per student, per subject, and per grade overtime would be overwhelming for most people to read and interpret.
So how should schools get things down to one number, using the information the way parents and students need to read it?
I suggest the answer is to stop reporting numbers and letters, and to start reporting trend lines.
Trend lines not only show a student’s performance overtime, they clearly show if the student is on a steady, moderate, or rapid incline or decline. A trend line can group categories of things into single points, and those points can be reviewed quickly. Any points of concern can be expanded for conversation.
The most interesting thing is that a student who previously had an ‘F’ in science, but now has a ‘C-‘, will appear to be improving (Which is good, because they are improving). A grade of 55 that is now a 71 shows a 30% improvement. If this was a mutual fund, you would be smiling.
Currently, what do parents and students see in this situation? They see an ‘F’, and a ‘C-‘.
That does not seem like much of an improvement when the grade is explained as below average and described as needing significant improvement. An 81 changing to a 91 looks great, but that is just a 10% improvement.
The truth is, the trend line would show not only improvement but some degree of effort. Effort that is not calculated by someone’s opinion, but through the interpretation of data.