Language & Composition

Mr. Eure | Brewster High School

Interlude: The Case for Kohn

In our last lesson, we began this quarter’s Kohnian shift; in the next, we will decide on the criteria that will drive your self-assessment. Expect to have a clear understanding of what we are doing, how we are doing it, and what it means for your learning by the end of next week.

First, however, I will show you why we need Kohn at all. Read the following feedback on your current grades. Then visit the Portal to see your scores, noting just how difficult it is for you to separate your actual performance from your printed grades—they are that curved, manipulated, and otherwise inflated.

Part 1: QORAS

Only a few failed to finish, and I’m proud of you for that. In fact, only a few demonstrated a complete lack of preparation; the rest of you obviously used your week well. But to help the  few who weren’t prepared helps all of you. To that end:

  1. QORAS#4 and QORAS#5 were scored individually
  2. Only the higher score was counted

If you failed to finish the exam, a few points were deducted to reflect that. Similarly, if your answers overall were much weaker than your answers to #4 and #5, a few points were deducted to reflect that. But that this does not apply to most of you; with few exceptions, if you didn’t finish the exam and/or your answers overall were weak, your answers on #4 and #5 were limited or ineffective.

I chose #4 and #5, by the way, because they were the two that produced the best responses. You struggled most with #11 and #12, but that is likely because of time and pressure.

Part 2: Synthesis Response

This section featured the biggest changes:

  1. The prompts were not counted after being scored
  2. Only your essay was counted toward your average

The biggest reason for this was the poor quality of a handful of the prompts. Building a prompt is difficult, however; to fall short in presentation, arrangement, and general succinctness is to be expected. That you still wrote, in most cases, compelling arguments means more in our course. And the prompts can be considered outlines, anyway; the better they were, the better the essays were.

There was more to my decision: Factoring in a value of effectiveness for the prompts hurt more of you than it helped, and that score might prevent us from focusing on the goal of the exercise: to connect sources to each other as part of your own argument. Better to give a score for the essay only as as independent exercises in synthesis argumentation. Only when your focus was so unclear as to render the argument incoherent did I fold in a consideration of your prompt, and then, only if it helped your score.

Notice how many times the logic behind these decisions returns to your scores and your reaction to those scores. That is why we are doing what we can within the confines of a school system to get rid of grades.

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