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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Grade Books Hacked

From The Stranger SLOG, Seattle Schools Students Steal Teacher Passwords, Alter Grades.

It appears that some half clever students attached a device, called a keylogger, to teachers' computers. The keylogger, which gets installed between the keyboard and a USB port, records every key stroke on the keyboard. The keylogger can then be read to reveal the key strokes, including IDs and Passwords. Apparently the teachers' ID and Passwords were used to log into the grading system and alter grades.

35 comments:

Carole said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sahila said...

clever monkeys.... if its good enough for spooked staff under Rhee's dictatorial reign in DC to erase and change test answers/scores, surely no one is going to think badly of these youngsters for showing such initiative...

mirmac1 said...

Who says our students aren't learning useful skills!?

seattle citizen said...

And what was that other thread about....oh yeah, using technology to teach efficiently.

"Yes, computer room monitor, I did all my online exercises and, amazingly, aced every one of them! Can I play games now?"

Melissa Westbrook said...

What's funny is the Times mentions something about the head of technology saying we could buy a protection for each computer...for $45 for each computer. What?

Just saying.. said...

Reformers will like this one!

mirmac1 said...

What?! Reformers are all about online classes with, of course, online exams. If pimply-faced teens can break into the Pentagon's network, you KNOW Schools R US will be a cakewalk!

Anonymous said...

One of the things that can deter such actions is using standards based grading like Federal Way does. Every assignment, project, etc. is graded by the standards and when a report card is generated a program converts those dozens and hundreds of scored assignments into letter grades. I would think just the fact that it will takes students forever to navigate all the assignments would be a deterrent.

seattle citizen said...

Trish, I don't understand. Couldn't a student (or somebody) still access the grade book BEFORE report cards are generated and grades (standards-based or no) are converted to the letter grade?

I think that is what is happening now: It's not that somebody got into the final grade and changed it; somebody (or somebodies) got into the grading program and changed a couple/few of the high-value assigments to better grades, thus improving the overall course grade.

Jan said...

Clever monkeys indeed -- better not be MY clever monkey!

Did anyone else pick up on the District's solution? They are requiring teachers to go back in (with what, hand posted grades, or papers they haven't handed back -- how would they know, unless the changes are egregious --Fs to As, for example?) and "recheck" the grades they actually gave against the posted grades. Ah! Right! My recollection is that year end is pretty frenzied already for teachers. Which hours of the day do they think teachers will use to accomplish this task?

Anonymous said...

Seattle Citizen, in a standard's based grading system, the teacher marks meets, exceeds, approaching for each standard of every assignment. So for instance one assignment might involve 10 standards across subject areas. Not a single grade for a single assignment. So while I'm sure the kids will still be able to get into the grade book, I think the sheer magnitude of everything that needs to be changed might make them decide not to bother. But who knows, if you're desperate enough, you'll do anything no matter how long it takes.

seattle citizen said...

Thanks for the clarification, Trish. I understand you to say that with the standards-based grading system, there are many more grades entered, so a student would have to change maybe ten times as many grades to effect a substantial change in overall grade.
Hmm. This raises a question: If it takes a long time for the student to change many grades, wouldn't it take a long time for a teacher to enter many grades in the first place? It sounds like an interesting system, but it can't take too long to either enter a bunch of grades or change a bunch of grades, if teachers are managing to enter multiple grades every day (hmm, 150 students, ten standards-based grades per paper, that's 1500 grades to be entered...for one assignment! Over the course of a quarter, there would tens of thousands. Yikes!)

seattle citizen said...

Also, a tech-savvy kid might be able to bypass the multiple grade time/effort problem by making/buying software that thumb-drives in and changes ALL that student's grades up twenty percent or whatever. An automatic program.

Word Verifer would name this program reupi, for redoing grades to put them up high when they get down low!

Anonymous said...

Yea, it's a challenge for teachers, but they do it a little at a time and it does get done. Standards based grading completely changes instruction too. Federal Way is rolling it out for all high schools in the fall. TAF Academy has been doing it since 2008 and we have the extra challenge of being a project based school, but we're small so that helps a bit.

Anonymous said...

So a TAF teacher doesn't have 150 students to enter grades for, then?
My major product rubrics are standards based w/10-14 GLE strands. Each takes a while to grade and I come up with a % based on a four pt. scale conversion. It takes up to 45 minutes/student to grade most writing assessments. My system is rejected by most teachers to whom I show it. But it is 'complaint proof' when it comes to defending grades.
-ttln

Dorothy Neville said...

I am very interested in standards based grading. While some here have expressed dismay that kids aren't penalized as much for late homework or the like, I see it as a positive step toward meeting more kids needs and helping kids achieve mastery of standards with less punitive deal breakers in their relationship with their teacher.

I have seen some truly arbitrary and capricious grading in SPS. Would standards based grading be that much more transparent and fair seeming to the kids? An algorithm to change them to letter grades seems problematic. I'd be curious to know how students and staff feel about the algorithm. I would hope that on their on-line records, students would always have access to information about what standards they have met and which ones need work.

I would love to hear more from Trish or others who have experience with standards based grading.

seattle citizen said...

I secodn that, Dorothy, if my understanding of standards-based learning is accurate. I understand it to progress students along those standards, so instead of getting, say, an 89/100 on an essay, the student gets points for standards within the essay. So a student could get a 9/10 for mechanics but a 4/10 for clearly stated thesis.
I suppose this means that the student, a mid-quarter, could be "failing" the thesis standard and excelling at the mechanics.
I'm not sure how this works when student is moved up a grade: What if they are still "failing" mechanics? Is the final grade determined by an average, so student moves up (passes class) or do grade levels become less meaningful, as student is still working to move up in mechanics, while being at the next "grade level" in thesis writing?

I wonder if we can get a thread on this. I have always believed that students should be met where they are in skills, rather than age grouping, but this leads to some logistical nightmares: Student is 15, in grade 10, yet is at "level three of ten" for mechanics but "level nine of ten" for thesis. So does teacher in tenth grade differentiate, are students progressed up based on averages...
Interesting stuff.

Anonymous said...

We have experienced standards-based grading for 3 years now (middle school) and I am NOT at all impressed. In each case where the teacher (or the whole department) has chosen to use this system, I feel that it has given us LESS information on how our student is doing rather than more.

I have not seen a system such as Trish is describing. Instead, there is one of three letter notations (not the same between teachers) such as AS, MS & ES (approaching/meeting or exceeding standards) which as far as I can tell (lacking any other information) just equates to an
A/B or B/C or C/D/F? scale---who really knows...? I have pretty much given up on trying to understand this system, although the teachers seem to love it. The problem, it is immediately translated to a traditional grade, so why not give a more precise idea of how a kid is doing on a wider scale?

On top of that, yes, especially in math, homework is not grades and does not count, so you can guess how often it is actually completed...These kids are middle schoolers and it is not helping prepare them for high school, despite what the teachers say (that they will learn that homework is necessary to maintain their grades).

So, grades are only given on their standard based tests. On the source, my kid has exactly four (test) grades which count towards the grade, since February! One for the month of Feb, 2 in March and one in April. That is it- no kidding! I feel we are totally in the dark with standards-based grades and it is the worst excuse for a grading system I have ever seen!

Anonymous said...

SP said...
We have experienced standards-based grading for 3 years now (middle school) and I am NOT at all impressed! In each case where the teacher (or the whole department) has chosen to use this system, I feel that it has given us LESS information on how our student is doing rather than more.

I have not seen a system such as Trish is describing. Instead, there is one of three letter notations (not the same between teachers) such as AS, MS & ES (i.e. approaching, meeting or exceeding standards) which as far as I can tell (lacking any other information) just equates to an
A/B or B/C or C/D/F? scale---who really knows...? Only the AS standard seems to use an AS+ or AS-. Why just not use a C+ or a B- in that case? Despite many conversations with teachers, I have pretty much given up on trying to understand this system, although the teachers seem to love it. The irony is that it is immediately translated to a traditional grade by the Source on the main page, so why not give a more precise idea of how a kid is doing on a wider scale?

On top of that, especially in math, homework is NOT graded and does not count, so you can guess how often it is actually completed...I cannot even remember the last time I have seen my 8th grader do math homework at home- ("no one does homework- why should we when it doesn't count?"). These kids are middle schoolers and it is not helping prepare them for high school, despite what the teachers say (that they will eventually learn that homework is necessary to maintain their grades- guess what, it's already May and they haven't learned that yet!).

Grades are only given on their standard-based tests. On the Source, my kid has exactly four (test) grades which count towards the grade, since the beginning of February! One for the month of Feb, 2 in March and one in April. That is it- no kidding! (There are two other not-for-grade notations, one noted as a "NS" which I have no clue as to what that might mean, as there is no key). I feel we are totally in the dark with standards-based grades and it is the worst excuse for a grading system I have ever seen!

Anonymous said...

sorry for the duplicates- there is not "delete" recycle bin option given to my posts this time? (please delete the first one, if possible).
Thanks,
SP

Anonymous said...

I would say that just like any system, curriculum or process you put in place, it's all about being intentional in implementation. Mistakes will be made, so the key is to catch them, fix them and make sure everyone is aware of the right way to do things.

It was not easy for us to do the standards based grading at TAF Academy because we're a project based school and many times students would meet standards with no class "seat time" or specific assignment attached to it, so our teachers had to figure out how to grade the standard(s). After three years we have a work around, which I think is the best we're going to get because we're a project-based school operating in a course-based system.

What I personally like about standards based grading is the actual teaching has to change. A lot more thought has to go into lesson planning and understanding where each student sits on the spectrum for different standards.

In addition, students should be told what standards they're trying to meet on different assignments and they should be given examples of what meets or exceeds standard. Better yet, the teacher should lead conversation with the student to help them generate what they think meets or exceeds standard.

This is not easy work, and we're nowhere close to mastery on it, but we're making a lot of progress and everytime I walk through a classroom I'm seeing more evidence of systemic implementation. The key for me is to be able to talk to any student at random and ask them the following questions:

1. What is your current project?
2. How will this project help you now or in the future?
3. What part of the project are you working on now?
4. What product(s) do you have to produce?
5. What standards do you have to meet? (they should be able to show me the list, not recite by memory).

Jan said...

It sounds like standards based grading can work badly, but as someone who has watched kids get As (or Ds) on papers for creative ideas (but the paper organization, etc. was atrocious) and also kids get As, or Ds, for papers with great spelling, punctuation, correct word usage, but fairly low levels of creativity or critical analysis -- it would be great if there was a system that actually sorted all this out for a kid. At present, like much of A,B,C,D grading, many little faults can overwhelm good work, and good work in a few areas can mask lots of weaknesses. The key is -- the system needs to work in the real world, not just in some ed administrator's head.

WV says many "problemi" when the theoretical systems don't stand up to real world usage.

Bird said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bird said...

Trish,

When you say TAF is project based, does that mean that all learning comes in the form of projects? Or is there some traditional study as well?

Anonymous said...

@Bird: We do use direct instruction as well (small mini lessons) and a lot in Math in particular. Everything is almost immediately tied to the project.

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