BES blog Archive

What are we Really Grading Students on?

“Sorry,” the teacher said, “it’s really great work, but you didn’t turn it in on time, so unfortunately, the highest grade you can get is a D.” Does this sound familiar? It should. It’s what teachers and professors have been saying for decades. But, has anyone ever stopped to think about why students are penalized for turning in late assignments? If it’s “really great work” like the teacher said, then is the D an accurate representation of what the student knows or understands? No. The grade actually has nothing to do with the student’s capability or level of understanding. That’s because they’re being graded on whether or not they can turn in an assignment on time, not whether they have demonstrated understanding of a concept. Ok, so let’s stick with that premise, that students are actually being graded on their time management skills. So when are students explicitly taught these skills in school? The answer is: Never.

Throughout the pandemic, I have been working with students all over the country and one thing is clear – we are evaluating students on their executive function skills, but we’re not explicitly teaching them what those skills are or how to improve them. So, what are Executive Function skills? “Executive function skills are brain-based functions that help…regulate behavior, set and achieve goals, balance desires with responsibilities, and learn to function independently while also recognizing the need for guidance.” (Dawson, 2020). These functions develop in our prefrontal cortex as we grow, but are not fully developed until about age 25 in neurotypical adults and can be as late as age 30 in neurodiverse adults. What this tells us is that all neurotypical and neurodiverse students have some areas of weakness with their executive function skills.

Ok, yes, in the real world there are certainly deadlines that one has to meet or there will be consequences, but those are what we’d call natural consequences. If you miss the deadline to test your vehicle emissions, then you have to pay a late fee. However, even with the late fee, your car still passes inspection. Your car doesn’t fail inspection because it was tested late. So, why do students receive a failing grade when an assignment is turned in late? I believe it all comes down to clarifying purpose. Is the purpose of attending school to gain knowledge and better understand ourselves and the world around us or is it to know how to turn in work on time? Only after we agree on the purpose can we determine what the natural consequences should be.

What we should be instilling in students is the ability to self-advocate, communicate, manage their time, and a myriad of other executive function skills that will help them succeed in life. Instead of giving students a failing grade for a late assignment, we should be encouraging them to communicate with the teacher if they don’t feel they can meet a deadline. Then we praise them for their self-advocacy. Isn’t that what would happen in the workplace? If you can’t get a project done on time, you must proactively communicate with your client or boss so they know when to expect it. This is where we should be focusing students’ attention – on the actual skills they will need in the future and instilling in them the importance of being lifelong learners.

As a former public school teacher, I have experienced first-hand how difficult and demoralizing it can be to try to change the course of public education, but what better time to try to improve things than now? The pandemic has forever changed us – in so many ways. Most importantly, it has changed the way we work. As a result, employees entering the workforce in the next decade will need new skills, not just content knowledge. They will need to be able to monitor their own progress, work independently, be self-starters and problem-solvers, just to name a few. And what are these skills? Yes…Executive Function skills.

This does not have to be a new initiative on top of everything else that is being thrown at educators. Executive function skills can (and should) be easily inserted into the curriculum and taught through work the students are already completing. So, let us start thinking differently about how we are evaluating students’ progress. Let us be open-minded to new ideas and pedagogical approaches. Let us think about the purpose of attending school. The bottom line is this: We should not be penalizing students for skills we are not teaching them.

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Join us on Tuesday, February 22, 2022 at 12:30 pm for our Ask the Expert Series!

Virtual Learning: Let’s Be Real…This Isn’t Easy!

Is anyone else freaking out about virtual learning? I know I am! I love seeing all of the beautiful pictures of the learning environments that my friends on social media have set up, but to be honest, it’s intimidating – and I used to be an elementary school teacher! I’ve done my best at setting up my daughter’s learning environment – I got her a desk, organized her pens and pencils, and made sure she had all of the folders and materials she needed. So, I was all set, right? Wrong.

One afternoon, I was on a video call for work (in the dining room). My daughter comes down from her “perfectly” set up learning space and says she needs the living room to do PE.She suggests I put headphones on so I can hear my call and she can listen through her Chromebook speakers. Great idea (eye roll).

A few minutes later, my daughter is shushing me and telling me I’m being too loud and she can’t hear.

She’s running all over the place in the background of my video call and of course trying to ask me questions at the same time – “Mom! Do we have apples?” It was probably very entertaining to watch.

My plan had always been to move my computer upstairs to the desk next to my daughter’s. However, this experience with PE made me realize that we can’t both have our desks in the same room.

How will I be able to take calls or attend virtual meetings while she’s on zoom all day? It seems so obvious (duh!), but honestly, it didn’t hit me until that moment.

I was so focused on “getting everything just right” I hadn’t thought about the logistics until things were already underway.

So, I have to go back to the drawing board and figure out a better virtual learning environment plan for my home and my family.

As the parent of a child who learns differently (Dyslexia/ADHD), I know I’m not alone. But this isn’t just impacting students like my daughter.

It’s impacting all students – and to be honest all students do learn differently if you really think about it!

So, this all made me think about all the parents out there who are struggling with this and with organizing their child’s materials, prioritizing daily assignments, and making sure their child has the tools necessary to succeed.

It’s a struggle not only because we don’t have the time, but because our children always seem to listen better when someone other than their parent is giving them feedback or advice.

So, I thought, let’s figure out a way to help those parents by reducing the conflict and alleviating parents’ stress. Here are a couple of new services that are being offered by Bass Educational Services, LLC this fall:

Fall Virtual Learning Special

Setting up your child’s virtual learning environment – receive support from our coaches that is personalized to you and your family. This package consists of 4 sessions – some with parents and child, and some with just the child. Coaches will work with the family to determine the best set up for their specific situation and provide tools and strategies to help the child stay on track with assignments and virtual learning.

Daily Homework Check-In

Do you need someone to simply check-in with your child after school to make sure they’re on the right track and completing their homework? We have tutors who are available to meet with your child for 30 mins – 1 hour each day to check that homework has been done and if not, help your child complete their homework.


While not a new service, we are broadening our tutoring to include all subjects and all grade levels.

For these services, we are expanding our services to include all students (not just students who learn differently). However, because we specialize in working with students who learn differently, our tutors have been trained to use strategies that best meet all students’ needs both academically and socially.

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