Back at the end of August, I posted about a sign that Jeff and I spied in the Art classroom at Teagan's school. Jeff and I had a positive reaction to it. Many of my readers did not. The sign, in my opinion, was a way of encouraging students to draw in a different way than they had so far. When I talked to Teagan about the sign, she said that she liked it because she'd always thought she could only draw stick people and now she knows she can do more than that.
But today I have a complaint.
That sign in that class? It isn't part of the grading system. The projects that the kids do in art class don't even relate to the sign- it's more for free drawing and in-regular-class time. So there has no impact on Teagan if she does decide to stray from drawing bodies to drawing stick figures- no points taken away, no trouble, no grade reduction.
But Music Class is apparently a different story.
I realized that 1st semester grades were probably up. Grades really aren't a huge focus in our home at this point in time. I see them as a guideline to determine where we might need to focus a little bit of energy or effort.
In each of her subjects, there are specific skills that she is graded on. The scale is done in a basic "mastered / progressing / needs improvement" method. So, for example, I can easily see that in writing, she needs to focus more on refining sentence writing- capitalization, punctuation, and writing in complete sentences. With that scale, you can easily see where the overall grade (scale being "Satisfactory / Progressing / Needs Work") comes from.
Teagan is doing very well in all her subjects and classes. No surprise there. But I enjoyed clicking around and seeing where the grades came from.
Until I got to the Music Class grades.
She received a grade for the quality of her voice.
Description: Students will sing a short excerpt from a known song.
Now, if this description led me to believe that Teagan was asked to sing a song they'd been learning in class and she instead sang a different song- therefore demonstrating that she didn't learn the song that was taught or requested, I'd be ok with this being a graded subject.
I am a singer. I sing and it's something I do pretty well and really enjoy. I know a thing or two about music.
One thing I know is that not everyone can sing. Not everyone can even carry a tune. I have heard people who are good singers, great singers, mediocre singers, and even bad singers. I've heard people that truly cannot find the correct note in their vocals. I've heard people who are "tone deaf."
I don't see how "Matching Pitch" is something you can be graded on. I don't see how your ability to sing is something you can be graded on. I don't see how your level of talent can be graded.
In that art class situation, the thing I took from it was that the quality of your outcome isn't important. What matters is your effort to do more than what is expected. I can't draw. I stick to stick figures and balloon trees because that's what I feel the level of my talent is... but maybe... if I tried to really look at something and draw it more realistically... maybe my deep efforts would still not produce a beautiful picture. But I would have given my best effort to do what was asked. I'm ok with being graded on my effort. I'm ok with being graded on my ability to grasp concepts and understand steps and follow directions.
But if I'm graded on how pretty my painting turns out- I'm in trouble.
In a gym/physical education class is being graded, my hope would be, again, that grading is based on effort given and on demonstration of understanding. Teagan received a grade for "1 Mile Run." My hope is that she was graded for running her best for that mile or that she was graded based on attitude, effort, and completion of the task. My hope is that she isn't graded on how fast she ran it or if she ran the entire time.
All other areas of the music grades made sense to me. A skill was listed and you could see how it was measurable to determine a grade. Demonstrate ability to keep a steady beat. Demonstrate a rhythm based on a card that gives notes and beats. If you want a student to recognize pitch or be graded on pitch, play a song and ask them to identify it.
But don't ask them to sing it and then grade them. This isn't American Idol. You aren't Simon Cowell. It's an elementary school music class. I'm not looking for kids to be falsely built up and told they have talents they don't have. I just don't see the point in grading on something that isn't something based on effort, skill mastery, or other measurable things.
I would really love to hear opinions on this. Music teachers? Any input? Parents of kids with or without singing ability? Memories of music class in your own childhood?