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A Weighty Discussion

PGGP uses relational weights.  PGGP does not use categories.   In other words, PGGP allows traditional assignments to be weighted.   An assignment weighted 2 is figured into the average twice... as if you did that column twice on your calculator.   PGGP does not set up categories such as "Tests" and make "Tests" 50% of the grade.

Of course this is a deal breaker for some potential customers.  If you teach in a district where a high school like category system is used, you may not like PGGP.  (This often happens... that high school grading techniques are foisted off on the elementary teachers.)   Categories are not bad, but they are hard for students (and teachers) to understand some times.

Why Relational Weights

In elementary school we do practice work.  In math we typically teach a concept and then we give some exercises to let the students practice.  It is pretty easy to develop a ratio of practice to tests or practice to quiz to test.  For example let's say we have:

Tests = 12
Quizzes = 4
Practice = 1

When I weigh a math test 12 and I tell a 5th grader, you just got a 62% on a test that is worth 12 practice pages, the kid can grasp that.   The student does not have to deal with how many tests there will eventually be, only that this one is way more important than practice and I didn't do too well.

Elementary is different that high school.  We don't often know how many tests we will get though in the next few weeks.  Oh we try, and some districts are moving to the "teach this at 10:00 am on the 5th and teach this at 10:00 am on the 6th" sort of mentality.   It is my theory that this will come apart like wet bread one of these days, because good elementary teachers teach what is needed today to build for tomorrow.   We are constantly analyzing our students, creating groups and sub groups to scaffold and front load information so kids can learn.  There are days when we can't teach what they want on the 6th because there was a special assembly on the 5th!

Why No Categories

If I use Categories, then it is more complicated.   Let's say we have:

Tests = 50%
Quizzes = 25%
Practice = 25%

A 5th grader gets a 62% on the first test.  To be honest to the child, I have to say, you got 62% on one of 4 tests that eventually are going to add up to 50% of your grade.   Of course, if this is the first test then the one test is 50% of the grade.  If there are two tests, then each one is worth 25% of the grade.  (Don't confuse the poor kid by telling him that  quizzes are also 25% of the grade.)   I have seen teachers using categories really confused by final grades when one of the categories has yet to have any entries.  What is happening if we have three quizzes, 8 practice assignments, but have not given a test?  (I'll let you do the math.)

Remember, in high school, teachers often know exactly what page they will be on every day and the tests are given on the prescribed day whether the class is ready or not, and so categories may make more sense.

But I Like PGGP and Must Use Categories

PGGP can sort of do the category thing.   In my example, above, if my ratio of Practice to Tests is 12 to 1, I basically have created a 50-50 category.   If I kept the ratio pure, I would do something like:

12 practice pages = 1 each  (total of 12)
2 tests = 12  each  (total of 24)
3 quizzes =  4 each   (total of 12)

and there you have it.

Bottom Line

No easy way out of this.   Categories save you from having to think about how many grades you have for each category.   The down side is that if you have a bad quarter, the kids bog down, and you only give 3 of the 4 tests, each one just jumped in power.   With PGGP you can instantly change the weights of assignments or tests.   Play with weights until they makes sense to you.