Abolish grades quotas

Updated 12/5/11

Grades requirements should be eliminated from the Miami-Dade County Public Schools, and education in general for that matter.

W. Edwards Deming helped teach the Japanese how to outperform us in quality and cost by emphasizing that organizations drive out fear and coercion, and instill collaboration and consensus. One of the deadly diseases he wrote about was was management by numbers; all quotas should be driven out of organizations for them to be successful. A grades per week requirement is a perfect example of what Deming argued about quotas, that they create mediocrity. We should instead focus on quality through academic freedom.

There are certainly well-intentioned administrators out there who might think that creating, enforcing, or raising a grades quota might improve her/his school by making teachers work harder. However, the administrator is actually shooting her/himself in the foot. A teacher who is faced with a grades per week requirement will, we know, create grades, like a participation grade, or a grade for filling out a particular worksheet. Students learn to focus on grades, and task completion, instead of quality, and so do teachers.

Further, teachers who are concerned about grade quotas will spend the vast majority of their time meeting the quotas instead of more valuable activities like observing other teachers, innovating classroom practices, facilitating competition or field trip opportunities for their students, etc.

All of this is a recipe for mediocre education.

I have to agree with Ron Beasley that MDCPS / UTD contract language, School Board rule, and the PACES instructional evaluation manual seem to give teachers the right to decide how many grades they are going to record. Please see the links below.

2006 - 2009 UTD/MDCPS Contract , Article XXII, Academic Freedom, p. 165

external image pdf.png MDCPS School Board rule 5b-1.01 - Reporting achievement progress.pdf

Pupil Progression Plan (see p. 36)

Note that there is no number requirement on any of these documents which would seem to supercede any manual with a grades quota that would be published without taking these more legally binding documents into account.

Some might mistakenly believe that the proposal to eliminate grade quotas is an effort to eliminate the measurement of teacher performance. On the contrary, Deming argues in favor of measurement, but that alarm bells should only be sounded for statistical outliers. In the case of grades, we should only be concerned with teachers giving too few grades to a statistical extreme, or too many. Either may be a sign of a lack of quality work, whether not enough attention to grades, or excessive, low quality paperwork respectively.

The notion of whether evaluation is even effective will hopefully be the subject of a future article. Meantime, teachers should have the freedom to focus on quality, and grade or evaluate as they deem necessary.

Otto Zequeira

Dismissing critical pedagogy: Denis Rancourt vs. University of Ottawa, rabble.ca, 1-12-09

2006 - 2009 UTD/MDCPS Contract , Article XXII, Academic Freedom, p. 165
external image pdf.png MDCPS School Board rule 5b-1.01 - Reporting achievement progress.pdf
* 1 grade per week requirement - This article needs to be amended with the above information.