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KICKING ASS & TAKING NAMES
I got the rhythm. I am rocking the joint. I am powering through my to-do lists like a champion productivity QUEEN. I am getting things done. As Megsie said, I AM ON FIRE. Yee-ha!

In front of me on the desk are 5 little slips of paper. One is the list of people coming tomorrow and what they are bringing. One is the list of people signed up for the cookie exchange on Monday. One is a nearly done to-do list of things that needed to be taken care of this past week: 2 things are not yet crossed off and they were not mandatory. One is a NEW to-do list of things that need to be done NEXT week before we leave for Germany. And one is the start of yet another to-do list with holiday-related items on it, all 4 of which start with the word Christmas.

Yesterday, after work, we had Martin's parent-teacher conference with his mentor, and it went really well. She praised him to the skies and said how proud she was of the maturing he has done over this past term. He has been meeting his goals, improving the things he needed to work on, and beginning to really take his place in the class and the school as a voice to be reckoned with. And she said his schoolwork was excellent. But then she followed it up by saying, proudly mind you, that he would most likely be getting at least all C's in his first set of grades at the end of the term. And probably some C+ and maybe even B's!

Excuse me?

I asked her what she meant and she explained that the new grading system, which Martin's 8th grade year is the first to have to deal with, works in such a way that the upper elementary/junior high kids are working toward a final grade that will be given at the end of NINTH GRADE. So the grades they get this year (and ditto for those kids in 6 & 7 grades) will be a milestone on the way to getting an A at the end of ninth grade. Even though they have an A-F scale NOW, in 8th grade, they basically cannot be given an A. Because A's are reserved for THE LAST GOAL.

What exactly is the point of having an A-F scale of grading for 8th grade if you can't even get half the possible grades? I asked. They are not grading on a bell curve. But the actual scale of grading apparently covers the entire 4 years of upper elementary, NOT each individual term or year. She understood my frustration and confusion but couldn't really explain it my satisfaction and even admitted that ALL the teachers are a bit unsure of how to handle the new grading system.

I know this is partially a cultural thing, because Anders and many other Swedes I have talked to seem to be completely on board and understanding about this quintessentially Swedish way of handling a grading system. And putting American competitiveness and both culturally-ingrained and personal OLD experience of how grading systems work aside, I don't think it makes SENSE. I may not be the most logical person on the block when it comes to statistics and math and whatever, but how is this FAIR?

When I worked at Ericsson, my first job in Sweden, I ran into the exact same attitude. My very first performance evaluation was full of EXCELLENT, EXCELLENT, OVER & ABOVE, etc., but then I was told that I was only getting what amounted to a C and which meant I was only eligible for a negligible raise. EXCUSE ME? I said then as well. I call bullshit. I argued my case with my boss and after some back and forth, got her to agree: if I was doing grade-A work, I should be getting grade-A compensation and recognition.

Getting an A on your performance report or your school term grade does not mean that you automatically think, "Okay! I'm done now! I can sit back and relax and loaf my way through the rest of my job/life/school career. It's a means of recognizing and REWARDING your level of work. It's an INCENTIVE to continue the trend or level that you are working to achieve.

What is the incentive to continue to work hard through the rest of 8th grade, if you've BEEN working really hard and are told that your performance is worth a C because you are "not mature enough or educated enough yet to earn an A", and a C or possibly a C+ or maybe a B is the best you can get in 8th grade, despite the fact that your grading scale for the term in question is not C-F, it is A-F!?

So, I asked the teacher, what you're saying is, if Martin comes home with a report card full of C's, I should be really proud of him because he is at precisely the grading level he needs to be at in order to achieve an A at the end of 9th grade? Yes, exactly, she answered. I sighed and shook my head. Okay, I said slowly, but damned if I know how I'm going to explain this to his grandmother!
 busy
mood: busy
music: Xavi & Calypso—Party Amendment


Comments

That is weird bullshit! I'm with you on what motivates, even aside from competitiveness & cultural differences. I understand what you came to with the teacher in the end, and probably, it seems, that is the best you will do with in a system like that...But grading hasn't been that way up until now, has it? WHat is that going to say to the student who has been getting A's, is working really hard, and now only merits a C?
I likw what happened with your boss, thankyouverymuch. Too bad you cannot change it in that way at the school.

They had a completely different system before, it wasn't a letter or number grading scale, but a sort of in-the-middle, avoid-conflict-type of grading with "Passing", "Passing Very Well" and "Really Really Passing Well" , plus "Not passing". *rolling eyes*

(Anonymous)

I think you just explained it very well (for your mom) but I do agree it is a crazy system. I've disliked that form of merit reward in corporations for years (it is prevalent not only in Sweden but in many big companies) as I think it creates a great disincentive to try hard at the start, which then sets a mediocre level to continue from moving forward. And if you do try hard and aren't rewarded that first year, that's even more heart breaking and often leads to deciding it's time to move on to a new company that will appreciate your hard work.

Great that he's doing well though, that is an excellent take away from the meeting!

julia@kolo

I know it's very cut-throat and competitive in the US, and even though that's a bit what I'm comparing things with, I DON'T mean that the US system is any better, really. But there must be some sort of happy medium!

From Megsie

You ARE on fire :) I wish you could come on over here and kick MY ass...I need it. I spent the day doing a jigsaw puzzle. It is done now, so maybe tomorrow I will get something DONE!

I think that grading is crazy. Wow. I really can't even put my head around it. Why wouldn't you just have objectives for every term? You do anyway, so why not grade accordingly? It seems really wishy washy from a teacher's perspective too...what content are you supposed to teach? And what level are you supposed to teach at? I mean, there are always differentiations that need to happen, all kids come from different places, but still.

Re: From Megsie

A jigsaw puzzle sounds lovely. We haven't done one in ages...I need a card table!

These culture-specific grading systems are such an obstacle when one's kids (uh, mine, for example) are working towards admission in an American university. Even though I know mine are not the first French kids to apply as international students, I'm still worried the US will use their own scale when evaluating "grades" from here. And that would make my children look like average students...when it is clear (to me, and in the French system) that they are in the top 1%.

Most of the time the European schools don't even ACCEPT US school grades as legitimate...but honestly, I think the tables have turned the last several years.

i'm up for a lönesamtal with my boss around luciatime. your posts about having a job that you actually want to go to every morning and a boss you like but getting pitiful raises for excellent achievements are giving me some ideas... ;-) last year my boss (who really had my back during my illness) was full of "excellent!" about me and gave me a 200 SEK raise. what an incentive that was! and she's going to get to know that this year. we'll see if i still have a job at christmas...

Same here for the last two years but now I am being told that there is only so much money in the pot and it has to be split fairly between everyone and no matter HOW excellent yor performance the only way to get a bigger riase ismto change roles, move up the ladder or find a new job,

I have just deleted a rant-comment about the system in Scotland, which is basically doing the same thing. They have recently ditched the system introduced about 15 years ago (levels A-F STARTING with level A at age 5-6, working UP to F at about age 12) but replaced it with something even woollier, if such a thing were possible...

That sounds suspiciously similar if a bit more straightforward (with the A working up to F), but I'm sorry to hear they've done the woolly. :( URGH.

For my kids, they don't have grades, only levels of progress toward a goal. In that system, if you are halfway through the year, it's unlikely that you would merit more than a strong, as in making strong progress toward the year-end goal. However it is possible to meet the goal before the end of the year and exceed it and be given that recognition accordingly.

But, this all happens during a single school year and we're still talking about a K-5 system. I expect middle school next year to be totally different. I wonder, in Martin's case, if continuing to use letter grades, which meant something else before and which will have a different meaning later, isn't just confusing things. If what they really mean is he's halfway there, why not use that strong, meets, exceeds, system? I would worry that using letter grades in the way they are would convince kids that they can wait until 9th grade to really get cracking because it doesn't count until then. It's sure hard on the parents, who are going to be the only ones telling the kids they still have to kick it into high gear for that C.

The thing is, it really doesn't count until the end of 9th grade, and anything before is actually more of a "progress report" than a grade. In theory, a kid who had all F's for years could end up with all A's at the end of 9th grade, and would look like an exemplary student. And, actually, I've done a near-complete about-face on this, and I have to say that I like the new system.

But doesn't that suck, allowing kids to loaf off for however many years so long as they kick ass during their 9th grade year? Doesn't that teach kids that there's no need to plan ahead and there's no reason to take your time and do good careful work all along? I was always a major procrastinator because I knew I could pull it out at the end and do well enough, but I never did great work because there would never really be enough time since I never did any long-range planning. I still suck at doing long-range projects, which is a bit of a problem now that I have to do projects with other people at work. I am hoping not to pass this, all-nighters are the way to go, and, only work when it counts, bad habit of mine on to my kids and I'm rather hoping the school will teach them better skills than I might.

When I went to school, we had a 1-5 scale (5 the best). But the grades were "relative" - even more weird and out there than this system. I got a 4 in English for exammple even though I performed best in class on all my tests - because the teacher had to give the 5 to the girl who usually was right behind me on test scores, because she had attended class more than I had.

The thing is, the teacher had a certain amount of each grade to give. So a very study-poor class had the same amount of top grades as a very ambitious class. Yeah, you got it! Totally upside-down.

If I got a 5 in a study-poor class, it could be the equivalent of a 3 in an ambitious class!!

So the grade had nothing to do with how much you knew about the subject, but only how well you did compared to your classmates.

I'm glad they don't do THAT any more!!

/Mia

I was just about to reply this very comment. I got the same treatment from my German teacher in gymnasiet (this was in the early 90s). I was so upset about it.

I loved starting at Högskolan/Uni because then your grade depended on how you performed at exams along with attendance and if everyone performed as a 5 everyone got a 5.

It promoted a lot more study groups now that we weren't all competing for the top grades.

I am having a hard time with this new grading system. 7th grade here is being given a grade but they don't count, it is just to get the kids and teachers used to it. So Llywellyn, the only one in his class to pass the first math test with only one wrong answer, got a D. When I asked why, he gave me a paper that is sent home along with assignments/tests outlining how they came to that result. Apparently because he doesn't ask for help (participate) in class, his scoring went down. I am sure that once he starts getting "for real" grades, there is going to be great conflict between myself and his school. Good for Martin doing so well!

(Anonymous)

I DON'T get it- and apparently the school system really doesn't GET it either! What a crock! But tell MArtin that I'm proud of him. Love, Lizardmom

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