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NOLA Admin’s Book-Cooking, “Fix Your Gradebook” Email: More Teacher Responses

October 29, 2019

On October 26, 2019, I posted a piece entitled, “NOLA School Admin’s Book-Cooking, ‘Fix Your Gradebook’ Email.”

That post concerned an email sent by New Orleans-based Abramson Sci Academy’s assistant principal, Whitney, Omosefe, telling a number of teachers that they needed to perform some last-minute adjustments in order to reshape the distribution of their grades in order to produce a distribution favorable to B’s and virtually devoid of D’s and F’s.

From Omosefe’s email, entitled, “Fix Your Gradebook” and dated October 03, 2019:

Because the quarter is almost over, I’m taking a close look at gradebook averages to ensure that teachers remember and meet their gradebook goals. The goal is that 25% of scholars in your course should have an A, 40% should have a B, 25% should have a C, and <10% should have a D/F.

In my original post, I mentioed submitting a public records request to Abramson Sci Academy for Omosefe’s email as well as teacher responses to her email. At the time of my original post, I had not received an acknowledgement of my request.

However, on October 28, 2019, I received a response to my request, which included files for the 27 “fix your gradebook” emails from Omosefe to specific teachers as well as 13 responses from 11 of those teachers (one teacher offered three brief responses).

(Note: Anyone wishing to see these emails may submit a records request to Justin Pickel at prr@collegiateacademies.org.)

In each of Omosefe’s emails to teachers, she included information about the current grade distributions for these teachers’ classes. In most cases, the percentage of students failing was at zero, and most of the students (70% to 90%) had averages of C+ or higher.

Still, these results did not represent the desired grade distribution outcome, so, Omosefe offered suggestions presumably to make students’ grades more attractive to colleges (and which also is a selling point on the school’s website):

There’s not much time left to improve our course averages and while we don’t want to “cook the books,” we do want to ensure that students do have limited college access as the result of our ongoing learning around grading best practices. That said, here’s what you do for those sections with low averages…

  • Go into your gradebook and find any assignments where more than 33% of students got a D/F. Give those assignments a weight of zero. They will still appear in the gradebook but they will not hurt students’ grades. The rationale for this move is that if a third of your students were unsuccessful on an assignment, then you did not teach them the content, study skills, or mindsets they needed for success on that assignment. It’s too late to fix that teaching-error now, so we can make up for it by giving those assignments a weight of zero.
  • Identify three high leverage assignments that you will allow students to make up or resubmit. Host a special office hours when kids can come receive support on and complete those specific assignments only. Give students a copy of their progress report for your class so they know whether they should attend this special office hours.
  • Find one or two assignments that almost (i.e. 90%) everyone earned a B or better%. Give those assignments a higher weight (i.e. two or four).

In my original post, I included the response of one teacher to Omosefe’s grade-fix email:

With all due respect, I’m not fixing grades to reflect effort that was not put forth. It is not ethical and it enables a lack of responsibility. I give scholars multiple opportunities to make up work, including assessments. They have known all quarter and have been reminded weekly and to attend office hours.

Many of the scholars whose grades are low do not do homework or have attendance problems. Fixing grades will not help that, or encourage them to do it next quarter.

I am happy to talk about this at school, but my grading policy is fair.

I will, however, continue to make myself available for office hours.

Based upon the response to my records request, I will add a couple more:

Good evening Ms. Omosefe!

I have been thinking a lot about your email and also looking at my gradebook. Because my class is AP for all, I have systems set up to help my students be successful. Daily exit tickets can be remastered, I do this every Tuesday and
Thursday during lunch. I also make myself available after school Mon-Thurs for tutoring/remastery until 5:15pm. I have some students that have struggled with attendance issues, (fighting/suspensions/swapping/etc) SOME of those students have come to me about their grades/missing assignments and have been consistently working hard, remastering, staying after school, etc. to raise their grade. I have other students who were distracted during the lesson and/or struggling with the content who have also worked hard to remaster and raise their grade. Others have had different situations come up and have made the CHOICE not to reach out for assistance even after I have reached out to them. They ALL have had the same opportunities but chose not to act on them.

I can not justify making any changes to my gradebook to help raise a grade for a student that has NOT done ANYTHING to help him/herself. That sends the wrong message about life, and it also is not fair to those students who have gone through
similar situations and have actively worked hard to improve their grade. I’ve been teaching college readiness and self efficacy since the first day of school. If I give a grade that wasn’t earned what will be their motivation to work hard the remainder of the school year?

And another:

Hey!

I am planning on giving students some more opportunities to raise their grades this week on wednesday thursday (corrections to earn back points on assessments, some extra credit assignments, and make up of a limited number of exit tickets).

I dont feel comfortable deactivating assignments where students did poorly and boosting the weight of assignments where they did well en masse for several reasons:

1. It borders on unethical and puts our school in danger of being investigated.

2. It invalidates the “risk” aspect of rigor if students literally cannot fail

3. It goes against what we normed as a school and a grade level team (we did not norm at all that we would be adjusting grades at the end of the quarter)

4. It is unfair to the students that did earn an A without needing the grade changes

5. It generates a lack of accountability for student and engenders a system that does not reflect how people are evaluated in the real world.

6. I agree that it is important for students to have high GPAs – both to be competitive and have a positive self identity – but I feel a more appropriate action would be to have teachers develop grade improvement plans for Q2 for the scholars that struggled the most, rather than adjust their grades.

I would love to meet to discuss further,

A third, in part:

Hey,

I have feelings given that I have taught the skills, content, and study skills as well as practiced them in class. I’ve given multiple opportunities for remastery and/or reassessment, alternative assignments, etc.

You know what topic is notably absent from the arguments of corporate ed reformers?

Cultivating in students a sense of self-responsibility for their own learning.

That’s what genuine teachers do.

Instead, the likes of Omosefe push teachers to manipulate grades in order to produce outcomes that serve a public image at the expense of nurturing maturity in their students.

Good for the Abramson Sci Academy teachers who stood up against grade shaping and for what is right and good for students.

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3 Comments
  1. Christine Langhoff permalink

    I’m an old head, retired after more than 3 decades in a classroom, but what’s especially bothersome to me is the surveillance software that has allowed Omosefe to know exactly what grades teachers have assigned. It wasn’t uncommon for an administrator to scan over report card grades to see if some teacher was an outlier – all A’s or all failing grades, for example. Other than that the norm was an expectation that the teacher’s grades were his/her business with the student.

    Secondly, I know it’s a charter, but the assumption that teachers have to give up lots of their time to push kids over the finish line –

    “Daily exit tickets can be remastered, I do this every Tuesday and Thursday during lunch. I also make myself available after school Mon-Thurs for tutoring/remastery until 5:15pm.”

    Just no.

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