In response to the 11/19/2012 post, “Final Exam Exemptions” a principal writes:


Well said.  I believe that there are two different paradigms that come into play when you discuss final exam options.  You have a “Culture of Learning” as one paradigm and a “Culture of Grades” as another.  If the real focus is on student learning then you will give the exams and look at the data.  If you work in a culture of grades then for the students who have satisfied a specific goal (achieve a certain grade) you exempt them from the final exam and test the rest.  These are two very different paradigms and I am afraid that the latter is the prevailing one.

SC Response I have to agree with your “Culture of Grades” analysis.  Teachers talk about how stifling accountability is to their creativity and continued learning, yet the system and sanctions we daily inflict on our students are exponentially more damaging.  Systematic hypocrisy is a bitter pill to swallow.

What holds us to the “Culture of Grades” paradigm is that in the short run, in seems easier.  No need to reflect, adjust and improve practice.  Just double down on the status quo and the sanctions.  But in the long run that just ensures that the doom loop will continue to run its course.  We don’t need more grades and exemptions. What we really need is timely, valid and relevant instructional data that informs our decisions and instructional adjustments.  Given the lack of validity and objectivity of grades, whether or not you take one is largely immaterial.  

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