Mr. Eure | Brewster High School
Ursus Ephemeris: Pushing the Message
We’re going to continue to push back against the toxicity of grading for the rest of this year. We’ll start by rebranding the process “grade abatement,” as much for the etymology of the second word as its avoidance of the more troublesome “de-grading.” (That just sounded too often like we were falling apart at the seams.) The next step is to make your work matter. Your writing, for instance, has to reach more than just a teacher holding a red pen; it needs to connect your voice to the voices of others.
We have a way to do that under the auspices (another word with a great etymology) of the high school: Ursus Ephemeris, née Bear Facts, Brewster’s digital newspaper. Here is the link to the current iteration:
You’re first assignment this week is to familiarize yourself with this site, because you, as a class, are going to populate it with ideas and good writing. Some of you will take on the roles of editor or administrator, too, to facilitate this. We’ll begin with your classification and division essays as the content of posts.
Here is everything you could possibly want to know about using the site:
This is an indexed and searchable instruction manual. Whatever you want to do, it will help you to do it. Start reading about how to post a story or article; by the end of the week, you will all be given accounts using your school email address and login, and you will start posting articles. We can then push those articles to the school and even the district, giving you the chance to test your paper’s weight in the real world.
To do anything with this newspaper, you will need a user account. The following list of user account roles is taken straight from the Knowledge Center:
- Administrator: Somebody who has access to all the administration features, including comment moderation, theme options, widgets, galleries, and polls.
- Editor: Somebody who can publish articles, manage articles as well as manage other people’s articles, etc.
- Author: Somebody who can publish and manage their own articles.
- Contributor: Somebody who can write and manage their articles but not publish articles.
- Subscriber: Somebody who can read comments/comment/receive news letters, etc.
Most of you will start and stay as Contributors. You will be able to choose to submit your writing for the rest of the year to the site, where it will be considered for publication. If you do well enough, a few of you can be promoted to Author status, so that your work is not held for editing and approval.
The most important roles are the ones we must fill immediately: editors and administrators. These students will oversee the production of the site, including site design and the creation of user accounts from a master roster. Editing and administrating are big jobs, and that means there are incentives.
If you are interested in helping to run this site, you will be auditioning to be the editors and administrators for next year’s edition. These are shared positions, which means you will never be overtaxed; you’d be working with this year’s group, in fact, until June. It will make you a better writer and a more productive team member. You’ll be able to push the kind of writing you’d like to see in the school and community, and you’ll be working with similarly minded folks.
And then there’s your college application. If you volunteer to work on this project, you are helping to launch a digital newspaper that publishes lengthy articles, like your classification and division essays, instead of just reporting on last week’s games. You will be able to link directly from your college application to your writing, editing, and administrative work. It becomes a tangible expression of you as a student, and that is a powerful and unique thing. If all you want is to pad your application, you won’t make it here; you should, however, know the practical benefits of this kind of work. There will be some giveback, if you commit like you’ll need to.
If you’ve read this far and understood what we’re about to do, you’ve passed the first test. Now you need to ask yourself how involved you want to be. Remember that all of you will be formatting and submitting your writing as we move forward; that’s part and parcel of grade abatement, and I’ll be going over what you’re required to do in class. But we need a few volunteers to take charge of the process. Let me know during class today who is interested.
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Current U/E Score
Goal: 7 [GOAL MET]
Grade Abatement Rubric
Degrading* Guide v2.1
Final Salvo: Q4 Abatement Process
Alfie Kohn, "The Case Against Grades"
Michael Thomsen, "The Case Against Grades"
Peter Nonacs, "Why I Let My Students Cheat"
Sam Eifling, "The Outrage Over Students 'Cheating' Is Mostly Harmful Nonsense"
Progress Reports: Metacognitive Exercise
Self-Monitoring Case Studies
Occam's Razor and the Rhinoceros Test
Third Quarter Threshold
Answer every few nights:
Q1: What have I accomplished?
Q2: What have I learned?
Q3: What's next?
*This will be renamed "Grade Abatement" in the next version.