I just participated in a Twitter #edchat regarding the validity of grades, and whether another system of evaluation would be better. It is the same conversation I first participated in in the 1970s recycled, but that’s not a bad thing. We should always be looking for ways to improve what we do. While most of the people in the discussion were K-12 teachers, I, of course, was thinking about the way we evaluate our adult ESL students. I’m very happy not to have to use A, B, C, D, F grades, and I’m grateful to be able to use the system we have, i.e., P, E, U or W.
The biggest issue we face is how we determine if a student is ready to pass to the next level. Our decision is based on whether the student is proficient in the majority of his/her level’s competencies or if the needs of the student will be met better in another type of program, i.e., ESL, Basic Skills, GED, etc. We are able to get input from the adult students, a luxury K-12 teachers don’t have. We also are able to confer with our team teachers. But, some questions come to my mind. How do we determine a student’s proficiency? How objective are we in determining whether to pass a student? What do we base our decisions on? Do we tell the students at the beginning of the semester what we will be judging their performance on? Are we passing them based on language skills or responsibility, cultural awareness, personality, etc? Are we consistent from class to class, teacher to teacher, morning to evening? Do we need to improve our evaluation system? Do you have suggestions for improvement?