Language & Composition

Mr. Eure | Brewster High School

Cooking the Books

Before the end of Monday’s class, you must start the grade abatement process by giving me the score you believe you deserve this quarter. If you haven’t already, you will be required to complete the handwritten portion of the rubric. Any other writing you’ve prepared can be submitted tomorrow or over the ensuing week.

Honesty and accuracy are the most important elements of this process.  Many of you are a 6. Some push into a 7, but the particulars are important: 7 indicates an impeccable work ethic, a strong performance in all aspects of the course, a consistent and reliable approach to metacognition, and so on. Did you keep up with regular reflections on what you learned each week? Did you finish your final essay when you needed to? Have you used every single period in class productively? Did you read everything you were told to in the final series of instructional posts? If not, a 7 is hard to justify.

Getting into the 8 and 9 range is obviously even more difficult, yet that’s where most of you want to be. A reliance on scores of 90+ has been bred into you over a decade of formal schooling. We’ve covered the reasons for this—and the deleterious impact of it—enough this semester, but there is one question worth asking again: How do we reconcile honesty and accuracy in grade abatement with a school culture obsessed with grades?

The answer we are testing comes from gamification. If you’re truly a 7 or above, you’ve read all the articles given to you over the last month—the addenda to our fundamental study of grade abatement and learning, plus the core documents themselves—so you know that one version of gamification is the collaborative pursuit of a collective goal like the one outlined in the last post. Two notes before we connect it to your honesty and accuracy:

First, if you reach that goal, you will have learned a lot about working in teams, about good writing, about editing and revision, etc., and you’ll have a showcase of your best writing. If, on the other hand, you aren’t part of the team that pulls it off, you will have learned nothing—but you suffer the penalty of not having your work displayed, of not being part of the team’s success, of earning the disdain of your peers, etc., and that’s the sort of insidious penalty that no grade can match.

Second, if you can still sleep at night knowing that you reaped the benefits of the hard work of others without contributing anything yourself, you probably aren’t paying attention to what I’m saying now, anyway. This post has a particular audience: students who know that being honest and accurate means taking a hit, and who are fighting the urge to embellish their profile.

The solution is a score of 100/100 that you will earn as a class if you meet the criteria in the last post. Those 100 points are the key to our gamification and, therefore, the key to your self-assessing Q4. Honesty and accuracy don’t preclude gamesmanship, after all; your brain simply has to process in parallel. Let’s break down the math:

If you are one of the many 6 students, you start with an 82 in the gradebook. Remember first that an 82 in here is multiplied by 1.08 before being folded into your GPA, which means that an 82 is actually 88.56. You don’t see that 88.56 on a report card, but it’s there. Similarly, a student whose honest and accurate assessment leads to a 5+ knows that the 77 in the gradebook is really an 83.16. Even students who have stumbled into a 5- end up factoring a 77.76 into their GPA.

But we have to back up for a moment before applying that 1.08 multiplier. If you all manage to create a website that I consider a 7 or higher, the entire class receives a grade of 100/100 points. You will then have two grades in the gradebook: your honest, accurate grade abatement score, and 100 points for reaching a collective goal. Even before your average is weighted, things are looking up. That 82 that many of you must accept? It’s now a 91. After it’s been multiplied by 1.08, it is a 98.28. Think about that for a minute. An 82 is a 6, which means that you are consistent and reliable and above-average in your work. But it also means you might have missed some deadlines or assignments, that you might lack precision in metacognition or reflection, that you weren’t always productive or focused. A student fitting those criteria walks away holding a 91, and his GPA processes that as something very close to a 100.

It’s even more remarkable a bonus for students who should receive a 5+. If you are one of these students—you struggled a bit with our exam preparations, you took weeks to finish your autodidactic essay, you never read the prefatory posts—you could end up with an 88.5 that is curved in your GPA to a 95.58. If you deserve a 5-, your 72 can become an 86, which is a 92.88 in your GPA.

Do you see now why honesty and accuracy are so important? This is about reaching an important goal that rewards you while owning and understanding your education in ways you never have. You can be accurate and honest; only greed or a particularly brutal form of the Dunning-Kruger effect could inflate your self-assessment. Don’t give in to that sort of weakness.

One change, and it wasn’t a typo: You must get this website up to a 7 to earn the collective bonus. You cannot settle for a 6; you must create something to be truly proud of.

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