Okay, okay. I’ll admit it: As a teacher, I despise Skynet… er, ah, Skyward. However, as a parent of four former MTHS students, I loved Skyward Family Access.
So, I understand that I’m trying to have it both ways when it comes to this wonderful, horrible Web tool. Of course as a parent I wanted to know how my kids were doing in their classes, but as a teacher I don’t want to be enslaved to updating Skyward on a daily basis for some 170+ students.
Still, it’s more complicated than that. Let me explain…
‣ Philosophy of Instruction. I teach English, journalism, film and photography. These subjects simply don’t lend themselves well to quantitative methods of evaluation. In other words, it’s almost impossible to describe a student’s essay in numerical terms, or a student’s photograph with points, or an editorial column with a percentage. So, I don’t use numbers in my assessments. Instead, I work with my students to help them evaluate their work against tough academic and/or professional standards. This can best be done in a qualitative manner – that is, by using written feedback and holistic assessment.
‣ Quantitative v. Qualitative. Skyward does not currently allow for any method of grading other than quantitative, numerical entry. Therefore, it is nearly impossible for me to convey via Skyward the kind of real information that accurately reflects the quality of each student’s work. This is frustrating on many levels. Besides, my students are people, not numerals or percentages.
‣ Limitations & Reality. Skyward does not accurately consider the context of student work within the larger framework of a unit or a semester until that grading period is completed. In other words, Skyward is, at best, a “dip stick” look at a student’s grade until the unit or semester is complete. This is highly problematic. For example, a student may have earned “A”s on her first three assignments in my class and appear to be earning an “A” for the semester. However, if she fails to complete an assignment scheduled for a month later, she may, in fact, fail the class if that assignment carries more weight than those previous three. Likewise, a student who earned a poor grade on an early assignment may be able to earn a high grade for the semester if she continues to improve and apply what we’re learning over time. Skyward cannot communicate this in any meaningful way.
‣ F grades, zeroes and unnecessary trauma. So, let's say a student simply fails to turn in an assignment. That's an "F" grade and a zero in Skyward. Fine, I get that. But what if a student turns in an assignment, but for whatever reason doesn't meet standard and earns an "F" grade. Should that also be a zero in Skyward? Or, what if a student misses a deadline due to an illness and is out for several days. Technically, that student didn't turn anything in, so isn't that an "F" and a zero, too? Each of these scenarios is treated in the exact same way by Skyward and that simply doesn't reflect reality. So, what I've chosen to do is this: If a student never turns in an assignment, then that student gets and "F" and a zero. But, in just about every other instance where an "F" grade is warranted, I'll usually enter 50 percent of the points possible. So, if an assignment is worth 100 points, I'll enter 50 in Skyward. Now, it still will show up as an "F" in terms of a letter grade, but that "F" has no where near the negative, unrealistic impact on the student's grade compared to the zero "F" grade. Obviously, if a student makes up the work or redoes the work to demonstrate compentence above an "F" grade, I'll make that change, too. Just be warned – depending on how a teacher has Skyward set up, even just one zero/"F" can seriously hinder a student's progress over the course of a quarter or semester. I just don't think that's fair, nor does it accurately reflect the student's abilities, knowledge and/or skill.
So, what can you expect of me in terms of grading and Skyward this year? Here’s what I’ll do…
‣ I’ll clearly inform students about all graded assignments and make them available online. I will post assignment sheets, helpful links, additional information, etc. in order to ensure that each student has ample opportunity to have success on all work.
‣ I’ll post all graded assignments on Skyward. I’ll indicate both the assigned date and the due date for each assignment. You’ll also be able to tell what category each assignment fits in as well as how much weight I have given each assignment.
‣ I’ll post grades for each student’s assignment within a week of the due date so long as the student met the due date. Late work will be evaluated and entered when I have the time.
‣ I’ll gladly respond in a timely manner to any e-mail regarding student work. E-mail is by far the best way to contact me.
Hopefully, this clarifies any questions or concerns you have regarding Skyward and my classes. Please feel free to contact me if you have any other questions or comments.
~ Vincent F. DeMiero