Saturday, June 7, 2014

Keeping Track of those Grades with a Three Year Follow-Up Page in GoogleDocs

I've written about GoogleDocs before, but this week I want to encourage the use of it for an administrative purpose in schools that have programs which span the length of more than one year, when it is vital to keep clear of records of students’ grades over the years.

In Israeli high schools, students sit for their matriculation exams from the 11th grade (until now - they could begin in the 10th - but in light of new directives, bagrut-fever will be postponed, thankfully ;-).  There is the curriculum for literature, which some schools begin teaching in the 10th grade. High school EFL students also need to read four library books and get graded on the reports they write for them, and do a research project at some point in high school. All of these grades, accrued during the 3 years of high school, are used as part of their yearly grades (sort of buffer grades) when they sit for their matriculation exams.

As a teacher-counselor, I have heard more than my share of horror stories, ending up with the loss of students’ grades: teachers leave the country/ switch schools / leave projects in cars that got stolen . Not only teacher-triggered, foul-ups can also happen when students move during the space of these three years (more often than one would think) and their grades do not always move with them! Even in the simple case of moving from one class level to another during high school can cause records of grades to go astray. It has become harder and harder to reliably keep track of these grades.

A while back I started urging staffs with whom I work, to use a 3 year follow-up page. This entails filling out a page for each student when they are in the 10th grade. On this page, the teacher records all of the grades that need to be saved for their matriculation grades. The teachers were then asked to give these pages to their coordinator at the end of each year and the coordinators were advised to save them all in a large binder.

On the surface, it may seem like annoying bureaucracy. However, really, it is simply responsible professionalism, ensuring that the grades that students earn, are reliably saved and kept to be used when needed. Unfortunately there were teachers who did not fill these pages out, or coordinators who did not collect them. And pieces of paper sometimes get lost. There were additional complications if you wanted to fill out the record in the middle of the year, you would have to go to the coordinator, take all your pages and then remember to bring them back to the coordinator. A misfiling nightmare waiting to happen.

With the inception of GoogleDocs this whole procedure has become  much simpler and more user friendly. I have prepared a template out of the 3 year follow-up page (linked here - or just do a search on Google for “Googledoc templates”, and then write:“3 year follow up” - it will pull up the template I made) . Granted, the first time you fill out a page for each student is tedious, I admit. It makes it easier if you add any information that will be common to all (name of literature text, or teacher name even, for the first time you use it, then each time make a copy and add the student’s name).  But if you save these pages in a folder in an organized manner in your GoogleDrive you can then share the folder with your coordinator. This will enable the coordinator at any point of time to see what a student's situation is regarding these grades. It will also enable the teacher to be able to add grades as work is completed,  be it different pieces of literature or projects or book reports. Or, if the student changes teachers or moves to a different school, you can share it with the new teacher. And no more worries of mis-shelving a form! It’s digital! Just a search in your GoogleDrive and it will be found!

Providing the 3 year follow up pages have been organized into a folder, and the folder has been shared with the English coordinator, if something happens (say,if a teacher leaves, or the student has been  moved from another class) it is much easier to keep track of these important grades and to ensure that they do not go lost.

It is even possible to share each student's file with the students, themselves, so that the students know where they stand. By sharing it with each student, granting them rights to view or comment (NOT edit), they can stay up to date on the grades that are going to seriously impact their final grade.

It takes a while to get used to the idea. It takes some effort, especially at the beginning, but believe me: it is worth it in the long run. It is a responsible, logical, and professional way to keep track of grades and share them with whoever needs to see them.  

Digitally yours,

Postscript: This is my 15th blog posting. The 10th since resolving to see this as being a weekly responsibility of my job as counselor for ESL and Digital Pedagogy. And I have as many followers (just checked - yep - 15!) I share the blog all over (relevant FB groups, Google +, Twitter, email) and feel sort of pushy with it - like I’m asking for handouts, or running for office. But, in fact, I’m just trying to share my enthusiasm about the helpful digital tools I come across and find convenient and productive. So…. if YOU find this blog of any value, please subscribe! It will be great for my ego ;-) Also, do let me know if there is anything specific you would like to have me write about here!