I recently received this email communication from a high school principal:
We are doing some work with teachers on writing across the curriculum and I am with a group that includes a couple of CTE (career and technical education) teachers. Conversation has gone to a discussion on projects that include a writing component, but has now focused on 21st Century Skills related to Iowa Core as another component of the project.
Here is the question: Collaboration is an important skill, and a 21st century skill. With our philosophy of not grading behavior, and since collaboration is a behavior, under that presumption it would not be part of the grade. However, it is a 21st century skill and if collaboration is an integral part of a project -- or series of projects -- couldn't it be a component of the grade? Has the student learned how to collaborate?This isn't the first time I've received an inquiry about including a content-neutral standard as part of the final grade! My thinking stems from some recent work I've done with an elementary school transitioning to a standards-based report card without letter grades. After spending some time writing parent-friendly standards, this group of elementary teachers started revising their assessments and creating rubrics aligned with the standards. Eventually, their focus turned to work habits and citizenship. The teachers realized a need to observe students (formally and informally) for work habits and citizenship standards using rubrics they eventually created. In essence, if it's going to be reported and/or graded, it needs to be taught and assessed.
Here was my response to the high school principal's email inquiry:
Good to hear from you. As a general rule, we ask our teachers to think about the instruction and feedback provided to students when considering what goes into the grade book. For example, your accounting teacher will likely know the exact days in which he/she taught, provided feedback, reviewed and assessed payroll withholdings. This same teacher could quickly tell you when he/she taught, provided feedback, reviewed and assessed the ideas of sole proprietorships, corporations and partnerships. The accounting teacher would also likely have a rubric for these big ideas to determine what a full and partial understanding of these standards looks like.
Could he/she point to the time in which students were taught (for example) collaboration, provided feedback on their ability to collaborate and then assessed it? Does he/she have a rubric in place for this 21st century skill? In other words, if it's going to be reported and included in the final grade, it makes sense to formally teach and assess it like any content standard.
Does any of this make sense?How would you have responded to this high school principal?