Tag Archives: grading

Compliance and TAB

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Compliance and TAB are two things that seem not to go together.  As a TAB teacher I want my kids to think beyond the rules and explore and make art because they want to…not because they are trying to be compliant with “school rules”.  My friend Ian Sands says that making art for a grade is not a reason to make art.  I 100% agree with him.

Unfortunately, there is an expected amount of compliancy that goes along with our traditional school experience.  And, it bucks at what I believe in my heart is what is best for my students.  In this case of compliancy, I am talking about my compliancy…the compliancy of the teacher to what the district expects.  Even when it goes against what you believe in, you have to be in compliance.  If you don’t and you try to fly under the radar, eventually you will get called on it and the end result is not fun. (Even if your principal understands completely what you were doing.  His hands are tied because even he has a boss with expectations to answer to.)

The biggest issue dealing with non-compliance in my mind is grading.  As a TAB teacher, grading is the worst.  I don’t have little check boxes to fill in.  I don’t have an answer key.  I don’t want my students to work in my classroom because they have to.  I want them to work because they want to.  How do you grade that?  I don’t want to grade every warm-up, every bell ringer, ever activity….because for me, that takes away from the learning and makes it about a number.  But, if I don’t grade those things, how do I remain in compliance with the minimum amount of major, minor, and homework grades the district tells me I have to have?

I don’t have the answers.  I do on the surface.  I have reworked a bunch of assignments so I can meet the grading requirements I am expected to have.  What I can’t answer are the internal dilemmas that arise when it comes to what I believe to be in the students’ best interest and what I am expected to do.  That for me is the hardest part.

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The “No-Grade Challenge”

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Sounds interesting, right?  Well, my good friend Ian Sands nominated me earlier this summer to go “no-grades” this year.  And, after much consideration, I have accepted his challenge…well, mostly. There is no way at the high school level, with the GPA reward system we have going in America right now, that I can not grade. My kids need to have some numerical grade…for UIL purposes (pass to play), for college applications, and for the “ever important” class rank–which if you live in the great state of Texas like me, it is important to those kids in the top 10% (or for some colleges like UT–Hook “Em!!–it’s the top 7 or 8%) for automatic admission to state schools.

Anyway, I have accepted his challenge and plan on grading as little as possible this year.  I know I am pushing it, and it my admin gets wiff of it, I may be up sh*ts creek. But, if I am going to start a change and get people talking and thinking about change in the grading arena and the education realm, I need to start somewhere.

Now, don’t confuse what I am doing in so far as grading with what I am doing in terms of assessment.  THEY ARE NOT THE SAME THING!!  And, you better believe that I am going to assess the hell out of my students.  In fact, together we, my students and I, will asses their learning and growth like there is no tomorrow.  It will mostly be informal and occur through dialogue between us–the students and myself.  And, that is what an ideal classroom, at least in my opinion, should be like.  It should be about growth and understanding how to think and move forward in the thinking.  And, in order to do that, things need to be assessed.  Grades have no part in that.

Now comes the part where you say, but how will you do that?   You have to grade.  Why not put numbers to your assessment levels?  Then you can be in compliance and all that jazz.  I answer you with, I’ve done that.  And it works well, but I feel it is truly not a good showing of what a student in my studio has learned or how they have grown artistically–either in skill or thinking or both.  It doesn’t really show growth over time.

Last year I read the book “Hacking Assessment” and I have taken a few things from the book about assessment, like having conferences with the kids and letting them be part of the conversation.  I also went to a fabulous session at NAEA-Chicago with Justin Clumpner who at one point talked about grades and what they mean to each individual student.  I think at one point he even said, I ask the kids what grade they want. Those things really resonate with me right now.  Students need to be involved in their assessment of their learning.  It is a 2-way street.

Now, if you know anything about the program I run, I like to have my kids reflect on their learning and their journey.  We have done that through blogs and, more recently, BlendSpace.  So, it occurred to me, why not combine all these things and thus my answer to the “no-grade challenge” was formed.

I do have to have at least a grade every 3 weeks…one a progress report time and one at report card time.  (Technically I am supposed to have more, but don’t tell my admin, okay?) My plan is to have my students reflect on their learning and art making processes to help them determine their grade for that time frame.  Of course, I have final say if I feel they have either graded too high or way too low.  But, I think this will help shift the focus away from grading and back onto their learning, which is what it’s about….or should be. (Do I say that a lot, because I feel I do.)

Here are some screen shot of the google form they will fill out for this reflection process.

 

Will this work?  I don’t know.  Will it need to be tweaked?  I am sure.  What document is perfect from the get go?  I am confident in what I am about to embark on. I think that it will make a difference; a difference even bigger than when I stopped grading artwork and focused on the processes only.  Keep your eyes out for updates as the year progresses.  And who know, maybe soon you too will also be up for the challenge.

NAEA 2016: Chi-Town (part 2: the sessions)

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imag5687_1.jpgWhat is the most important part of going to a National Art Ed Conference? If judging by my first post, Chi-Town (part 1: the intro), you would think it was hanging out with friends.  And you would be right.  But, just a small percentage point behind that is the sessions.  I mean, I did pay to go to some relevant professional development so I can become an even better, more awesome teacher. I don’t want to go too awesome though, I don’t think my students could handle that.  😉

imag5601.jpgSince I am somewhat old school, I wasted a whole bunch of trees and printed out a copy of the sessions.  Yes, I know that I would get a program once in Chicago, but that’s not very helpful to a planner like me.  (Don’t be too mad, I did print them double-sided.)  I sat down in my kitchen with my coffee, my stack of papers, my yellow marker, and my phone.  As I read thru the sessions, I circled the ones that were interesting to me.  Then I would fire up the conference app on my phone and add them to my agenda.  Is this a little more work, maybe, but who wants to carry a quarter ream of paper around the McCormick? Not me.

It wasn’t an easy thing to do.  In case you didn’t know, I teach all TABbish and my interest is finding better ways to run my TAB classroom so it is more meaningful for my students. However, there are a couple of problems that I come across at art ed conferences.  I teach high school, and it seems the majority of sessions (especially TAB/choice) are aimed at elementary. Also, out of the TAB/Choice sessions, many are geared towards getting people interested in TAB/Choice.  I am already interested, I don’t need to go to those.  So, while I did attend one or two of those sessions (my fav being “Lead, Follow, or Get out of the Way”, presented by Julie Toole, Nan Hathaway, and Ian Sands),imag5836_1.jpgI opted against most because I would rather give up my seat to someone who needs to learn about TAB/choice and their awesomeness.  And, I am glad I did because those sessions were packed.  I mean, standing room only, out the door packed.  This makes my heart happy, by the way.  IMAG3327_1

So, powers that be at NAEA who deal with choosing sessions for NYC, we need more sessions on TAB…at all levels and areas of interest (getting to know vs. already am in love with) of TAB.  Obviously it is a hot topic and people want to know.  I, personally, am willing to present a session or two or three about TAB at the secondary level.  I know some others too who would be as well.  Hell, we would even do some joint presenting.  Just sayin’….

Over the course of the 3 days, I attended 15 sessions.  One was not all that, and only 1 did I walked out.  I lucked out and found 13 good/great sessions.  Don’t worry, I won’t go over each session, but I will give you some highlights.

10612715_10107362239544810_1343979125320880173_nI started off the conference with a great session called “Break theimag5692_1.jpg
Wheel”, presented by Chris Wills.  His session was about brainstorming and ways to help students get over the creative block.  It really got me fired up to go.  He had us do a small version of his activity called “60“.  I really enjoyed the activity.
I enjoyed it so much that I brought it back to my classroom and used it already.  At first my kids were all, “what the…”, but after completing the activity, which we only did for 20 minutes, they were glad we did and I think they have some ideas to work from for the next artworks.
After that I was pumped and went to a couple of more sessions that day.  One was a look at the way the AP portfolio was “graded”.  While I don’t teach AP, I was able to take some things away from this.  The presenter talked about looking into the creative process and being able to imag5699_1.jpgcapture the day to day…which is something I am working on in my classroom.  There is so much more to artwork than just the final product, and wouldn’t it be great to allow our students to showcase the process instead of just the end of it?

Rounding out the day was a presentation by Jeff Pridie that made me think about what my program goals were and why my program should be there.  And a session by the Journal Fodder Junkies.  I had seen them before in NOLA and was excited to see them again.  Every year they encourage me to have my students develop visual journals.  Maybe next year will be the year I incorporate them.

Friday started off big as well.  “Art Without Authority” was standing room only.  Presenter Justin Crumpner is an art teacher from Dallas, and he feels the same way about our state VASE competition as I do…so right then I knew I liked this guy.  The more he talked, the more I realized that he believed in the TAB philosophy, but just didn’t know there were others out there like him.  In the middle of the session I texted Liz asking why he was not part of our tribe.  He talked about his realization of moving to student-centeredness when he had an AP student that wouldn’t finish her work.  But, when he saw her sketchbook that was filled with fabulousness and asked her why she wasn’t doing that in class, she replied, “I didn’t think I could do this.  I didn’t think this was “school art”.”  WOW!   Seriously, talk about a way to start reflecting on your teaching practice.  Anyway, he said some things during his presentation that were right on:  “Your (students) work is VALID”; “their voice (student) = your voice (teacher)”; and “create a climate; don’t create winners and losers”. Of course I paraphrased that last one, but still… If you missed his presentation, you can still see it.  He posted it on his blog.  As a final note, we (Liz, Hillary and I) did run into him later on in the conference, we talked over a beer, and he ended up coming to our TAB meet-up.  He has since joined our tribe on the Midwest TAB teachers page.  I look forward to meeting up with him again next year in Fort Worth/Dallas at the TAEA 2016 conference.

I know I am getting long winded and I still have more to say, so bear with me.  I attended Joy Schultz‘ presentation where she talked about choice and her students use of Blendspace.  She had the presenter’s nightmare where the technology was non-existent. But, being the rockstar she is, went on like it was no big deal.  Again, standing room only.

I attended a session on authentic assessment in a choice classroom presented by 2 elementary teachers.  While it was interesting, and it gave rise to a sudden interest in a badge system, it wasn’t anything really new to me.  I am not sure I will use a badge system, but it is something worth looking at–extrinsic versus intrinsic rewards.

Ian dragged us to a session called “New Weird Ideas”.  There were four presenters and they each talked about how they set the tone for the beginning of the year.  And of course, they said the same thing that I kept hearing over and over through out the conference…”Focus on the process and how to make the process meaningful.”  It is at this point I should mention that they presenters were giving away free e-zines and Ian drafted Andy to go get us some…you would think that a 6′-4″, lean guy would be able to leap his way up to the front and procure some, but noooooooo….smh.  No e-zines for us.

Saturday was the last day of sessions.  We got there in time to see “Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way” where Nan dropped this gem, “If there were no grades in art, how would that affect your work?”  Just let that sink in.  Yeah.  Exactly.

I didn’t really have any sessions lined up for the day, so luckily, I was with Ian who did. We went to a session about Shepard Fairey.  There is a lot more to him than I thought there was.  I left with the idea of “post-museum art“, which is art of the people; it’s an interesting concept.  Ian and I also went to a session on maker spaces.  I am now considering trying to get a 3-D printer, some paper circuits, and conductive ink.  For more info on maker spaces, check out the Makelab.

Our final stop of the day was one that Ian and I are very interested in.  It was titled “Stop Grading Art!”  It started off great with ideas like we should moved from being art focused (fixed mindset) to learning focused (growth mindset), and questions like what is the purpose of grading, what are my standards, and what are my learning objectives/goals? Next he talked about looking for evidence of learning.  It was here that it became frustrating and where I wanted to just start arguing with the presenter. He wasn’t talking about getting rid of grading (which is what we had hoped the session was about), and he was basically using assessment and grading as interchangeable terms, which of course they are not.  There was nothing new learned from this, and it seemed that he was pushing grading in art as we know it now, but with a different language.  His example was very simple, and didn’t really seem to assess any learning.  He said the learning objective (from either the state or national standards) was to provide multiple solutions to a problem.  And the evidence of learning was based on how many thumbnails a student created.  There was a cute rubric that went with it too.  How is that really assessing the learning?  That is just grading on how well a student jumped through a hoop.   And, that is what I am trying to get away from.  I walked out of the session frustrated, but with lots to think about; so #winning?  I got stuck on what my learning objectives really are and how to see the evidence of that learning.  So, while I walked out with a new conversation in my head, I’m not sure I needed a session to get me there…I have already been on that path.  Maybe I will figure something out and present on this topic next year in NYC.

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This post shows just a snippet into some of the notes I took.  If you could see my imag5715_1.jpgnotebook, your head would be swimming too.  I took a lot away from this conference–things I want to bring to my program, things to stay away from, ways to enhance the process more and to bring the kids to “buy in” sooner.  Overall, the sessions I went to and the buzz I heard about other “popular” sessions made me realize that I am on the right path in my teaching philosophy.  I look forward to hopefully presenting next year at both the TAEA [Texas] conference and the NAEA17 conference.  ::hint, hint::  I promise my sessions won’t disappoint.

How Far Can I Push It?

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There’s been a lot of talk lately on all the art related Facebook groups I am a part of.  I mean, it is a subject art teachers discuss a lot, but in the past few weeks the conversation has been longer and more engaging.  We have been discussing grades vs. assessment, participation vs. engagement, eliminating grades all together, how the high school GPA would be affected, is it even possible to not give a grade at the high school level, and much more.  It is enough to make your head explode…and it’s beginning to make mine explode.

Grading and assessment is always on my radar.  I wrote about my assessment model in this post earlier this year.  I even presented on the model at the AOE 2016 Winter Conference stating how we as teachers need to grade less on compliance and instead create meaningful assessment.  So it is easy to understand why all this talk about grading has caused the wheels in my head to go into overdrive.  I began to look closely at what I am currently doing, what it means, and how could I change it?  I wish it was as simple as deciding I won’t grade anymore, but because there are so many facets to all this, it’s not. In this current education model we are in, as a high school teacher with parents that expect grades, colleges that look at GPA to determine a student’s acceptance to their school, a UIL board that requires passing grades to play and compete, and students who are motivated by them, I HAVE to provide a grade.

Currently I give a mixture of completion grades and grades(numbers that are perhaps arbitrarily assigned) that reflect artistic behavior/growth assessments.  I find that the assessment feedback is important to my students and their artistic growth. I want to continue to provide that to them, but I hate that I have to translate that feedback into a numerical grade.  However, the assessments boil down to only doling out a few grades…many less than the amount my district “requires”.  That’s where the completion grades come in.  But, do those grades really show anything other than the fact that a student completed an assignment?

And then all the “WHAT IFS….?” start to walk in.  What if I pushed?  How far could I go? What if I just stopped caring and gave everyone a 100–what would that do to my classes and the “importance” of them?  What if I gave the minimum amount of grades I get away with giving, would I get a stern talking to?  Would all this change the student input/output in my classes?

I don’t have the answers.  I have been creating some sketchnotes to work out my thoughts.  I am on a mission to figure this out before next August when school starts again.  Yes I know that is 7 months away, but this isn’t an easy issue.  Like I said, there are so many facets I have to take into account: district requirements, local admin expectations, parent expectations, student motivation, UIL guidelines, coaches needs, pass to play, meaningful grades, assessment v. completion, and ultimately, what I believe the purpose of the grade in my class should be.  That is the ultimate question that I just can’t answer………….yet.

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Due Dates, Deadlines, and Late Work

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This is a topic that if you ask 10 different art teachers, you would get 10 different answers.  Some teachers are very strict about due dates.  Some teacher follow what is set forth by their district or campus.  And some teachers don’t care at all about them, accepting work until the last possible moment before grades are due to the registrar.

I want to say I have struggled with due dates and deadlines over the years, but I think that is not the case.  I am a teacher that does have due dates.  Most of the time, my due dates are flexible.  If a class is working hard and clearly needs more time, I am willing to move that due date and give an extension.  I also give the students a week of time to come in on their own to finish work and turn it in for a small late penalty.  This is more than the district tells me I am obligated to do.

But what about due dates when it comes to kids that sit around and do nothing?  Is it wrong that I have no sympathy for those kids?  Is it wrong that I don’t want to give them more time?  I feel there is a difference between planning and doing absolutely nothing.  I have students that do sit and plan and do some research and appear to the untrained eye that they are doing nothing.  But, on the other end of the spectrum are the kids that sit and do nothing and expect me to give them extra time.

Am I doing a disservice to the the artistic process or is it a good learning experience?  I feel that in the real world there are “due dates”. There are deadlines.  There is no “late work” penalty…well, maybe there is a some kind of penalty for consistently turning in late work–perhaps they will get fired or get bad evaluations.  So, should I give them some practice to help prepare them for college and the “real”world?  Or should I continue to coddle them and leave them to find out on their own there are consequences for their actions, or lack there of.

I am constantly torn on this issue.  I am not sure there is a right or wrong answer to this issue.  Maybe next year when I move to a modified choice classroom and kids hopefully will be more invested in their work, I will have less of an issue with this.  Maybe with the snapshot grading system, I won’t really have as many issues because as they see when they do nothing and they have nothing to post on their blogs, that might help them.

I read this blog post on accepting late work.  It is interesting.  Do I believe in the concept?  I don’t know.  Will it work for me and my student population?  Maybe.  Will I change my policy?  Probably not right now, but maybe in the future.  Will my kids take advantage of it?  Who knows.

I looked for a good quote to end this.  Then I saw this.

So what do we do? Anything. Something. So long as we just don’t sit there. If we screw it up, start over. Try something else. If we wait until we’ve satisfied all the uncertainties, it may be too late.”  -Lee Iacocca