On the occasion of “six week grades” I found myself reflecting on how insidious computer grade books like Infinite Campus can be. It’s so easy to plug in points and let the program calculate totals and percentages and tell you what the students’ grades are. So many times in recent years I’ve found myself madly entering grades to meet an arbitrary deadline and then immediately publishing those grades, without really considering what the numbers mean. The program says a student’s grade calculates to a B+, so that’s the grade. Like the students, I think we get caught up in tallying points without considering the circumstances of the work the students do, or the point in time (early or late in the semester) that the work was completed, or whether, even though the student’s average says that she earned a C, the fact is that by the end of the semester she was consistently doing B work, suggesting that that is her current level of achievement. I am experimenting with a 4-point scale that actually hearkens back to the days when we (people of a certain age) used to write A’s, B’s, and C’s in the grade book and really look at them when it came time to assign a semester grade, considering relative difficulty of assignments and looking for trends. (To see my explanation of how the 4-point scale is supposed to work, look at the Class Overview linked from my English 10 web page.) It’s much less convenient, not letting the computer do the number crunching, but it makes me think about what those numbers mean.