At one of my first grade level meetings this new school year, a colleague talked about the need for consistency among the team in terms of grading and our late/missing work policy. I was immediately in favor of this idea, knowing that minimizing inconsistencies and keeping students’ overall experience stable and predictable are important steps in creating a safe and healthy learning environment.
The policies that were to be consistently implemented across our grade level were…not great. Full disclosure, this is purely my opinion. I didn’t have any research to back me up, but I felt the policies presented were outdated and a little harsh. There was talk of giving zeros for missing work and the importance of preparing students for “the real world”, ideas I thought had been abandoned by educators many years ago. For instance, this 2018 article debunks the ‘school needs to be harsh to prepare kids for the harshness of the real world’ idea. This 2019 article outlines a number of more nuanced grading strategies.
The discussion that followed the presentation of ideas was uncomfortable. The need for consistency among the grade level team was a compelling point. But, I argued that rather than settling for consistency, we should strive instead for excellence – ideas that are founded on sound research and practice. Then, once we had settled on excellent ideas, we could move towards consistency.
This suggestion of mine didn’t exactly go over well with everyone at the meeting. So, our team will likely begin this new year with no formal agreement on some key grade level policies. That is not to say that everyone is wildly doing their own thang and that students will be left confused and anxious. My teammates and I didn’t agree on how to address late or missing work, but we agreed that we were not okay with this behavior and that, as a team, we would take action to change it. As for giving zeros for late work? That idea will be taken care of shortly as assessment is high on our admin’s list of areas of focus this semester.
Providing students with predictability and stability will go a long way towards minimizing confusion and anxiety. However, if the policies being shared among classrooms are not optimal, then consistency has to be put on pause until some important questions are answered:
What are the outcomes you are trying to achieve through these policies?
Are the suggested policies research based?
Are they current?
Have they been implemented before with successful results?
Are the practices focused on what’s best for students?
Once you have achieved excellence in terms of policy development, then – by all means – ensure your policies are applied consistently throughout your organization.