How do you verbally express ideas

If the testimony speaks volumes ...

It's that time again: at the end of January, the beginning of February - mostly on a Friday it is testimony day in German schools. Certificate day usually means: grade day. The assessment range is from very good to unsatisfactory. But for as long as there have been notes, their meaning has been discussed. Are they meaningful? Do they motivate or demotivate? Are there any alternatives to them?

What is certain is that many students look forward to the day of the balance sheet, look forward to being compared with their classmates and to the praise of their parents. Others are not doing so well - they are afraid of bad assessments and lecture at home. Many seek refuge in professionals. The young people's helplines - such as the "number against grief" - experience a veritable flood of worried and frightened schoolchildren, but also perplexed parents, on testimony days.

Pictures: Paul Schneider School

Does it have to be that way? Aren't there other forms of performance appraisal? Many ask that. The Siegen educationalist Prof. Hans Brügelmann not only considers them superfluous because they are not objective and not comparable. He simply calls them "fear makers". Surveys of young people have shown that grades cause the children considerable worries and hardships. The Philologists' Association of North Rhine-Westphalia counters this: "As a rule, students have no problems with numerical grades. They are entitled to honest feedback." The association reacted to the latest announcement by the state government in Düsseldorf to give elementary schools the freedom not to give grades in the third school year, but to choose other forms of performance assessment.

LUZI - a model experiment

The decision of the red-green coalition is based not least on the experience that four primary schools have gained in recent years. You have been participating in the pilot project "Performance assessment without numerical certificates (LUZI)" since 2009. One of them is the Paul Schneider all-day primary school in Münster. Headmistress Sabine Malecki knows about the hurdles that staff, parents and students have overcome in recent years. "Of course, everyone was used to grades, many parents really wanted them, and we educators also partly clung to what we are used to," she recalls. But one asked oneself whether numerical notes are really meaningful and motivating. Today the answer is no, they are not.

"We tinkered and refined," is how Malecki describes the process of the past few years, in which everyone, including parents and students, was involved. The result is a combination of report certificate and graphical representation of the performance level. The special thing about it: There is no single grade for a subject. Example German. The assessment is divided into four categories: oral use, written use, reading and spelling. Each category is broken down into two "disciplines" (e.g. 1. Oral use: You share your own thoughts and ideas in conversations. 2. You express yourself clearly and factually). An arrow in a graphic that shows the minimum and the maximum makes it clear which performance level a child is at. In the explanatory text, care is always taken to describe the positive development and to give concrete advice on how improvements can be achieved.

Sample certificate, please click here to enlarge

Differentiation as an advantage

The school sees the decisive advantage in the great differentiation. Sabine Malecki: "With this form of certificate we can see exactly where a child has strengths and weaknesses. This enables us to provide targeted support. If there is, for example, a" 3 ", nobody knows whether the child may already be very fluent orally can express itself, but this ability is not yet reflected in the written area. " And it could happen that special abilities are discovered in the supposedly "poor pupil", which remain hidden in an overall grade. "We teachers keep a much clearer picture of the individual pupil in mind because of the intensive occupation with the assessment," says the headmistress. Your colleagues invest a lot of time in this feedback culture - up to three hours per child.

And it places an emphasis on individual advancement. In fixed learning times following the regular lessons, the teachers dedicate themselves to the strengths and weaknesses of the children. The term learning time was deliberately chosen instead of homework supervision, because this open all-day primary school is not about the pupils doing a fixed amount of homework for everyone. They "train" for an hour - each to his or her ability. Anyone who has questions asks. Namely a teacher. "It is the task of the teachers to supervise learning times and exercises," emphasizes Sabine Malecki.

A lot of persuasion done

She admits that persuasion was also necessary with the parents when it came to testimony. That is why they were asked to convert the pure report report, which was previously issued in the NRW elementary schools until the end of the first half of the 2nd grade, into grades. "The parents were pretty wrong in assessing their child," she recalls. The experience of not having drawn the correct conclusions from the report convinced the parents that they could not really do anything with mere report or numerical certificates. "With the certificates from the Paul Schneider School, I know exactly in which areas I can support my child," says a father of four. Another father, whose children have meanwhile switched to secondary school, adds: "Grades only show good students that they can do something. The report from the Paul Schneider Elementary School shows everyone that they have strengths." For those parents who would still like to have grades for their child in hand, the school initially offered the "conversion" of the assessment. She had to comply with the request exactly twice.

Shirt and sign of the school, Vice-Rector Uwe Meyer and Rector Sabine Malecki (Photos: Paul-Schneider-Schule)

The students are enthusiastic, even if some found grades exciting at the beginning, because "we can have a say with our friends who go to other schools". In the meantime, however, they see the value of the "Pfeil" certificates. "From them I could see in which area I still have to do something," remembers Nikolaus (10). He switched to secondary school in the summer and is afraid: "With the one number that I get now, I can no longer do that." Sophia (10) is in fourth grade. She compares her certificate with that of her older brother: "With him all certificates look the same. With us at the Paul Schneider Elementary School they are different. You can see where you have improved or worsened."

Sabine Malecki does not hide the fact that the problem of the "4th school year" has not yet been solved. Then they and their colleagues also have to distribute grades, which should then serve as the basis for the school type recommendation. "But," the headmistress promises, "we will not give up hope that this will change in the long run." The Philologists Association of North Rhine-Westphalia, on the other hand, warns against demonizing grades in secondary school as well.

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