Dear Parents,

My name is Jeffery E. Frieden and I will be your student’s English teacher this 2018-2019 Academic Year. This year will be my 14th year as a classroom teacher, and I am really excited about the year ahead!

I started teaching English in 2005, and I quickly realized that I had a lot to learn. Over the past 14 years, on my own time, I have done quite a bit of digging into educational research, and purchased many of my own professional development books on the practice of teaching in general, and the teaching of English in particular. My Amazon wish list is full of teacher books I want to read, and I have been known to ask for them as presents for holidays and birthdays.

Through my reading I have learned two important things that will improve my instruction. First, I learned that students learn more when they receive immediate feedback to the performance on their work. When teachers use data from that work to drive instruction, students learn more. I have incorporated this into my classroom here and there over the years, but I can do better.

Second, I learned that teachers can improve student learning when they give students constructive comments only as a form of feedback. A transformative study (Butler 1988) was conducted wherein researchers examined the three types of feedback teachers give:

  • Marks alone
  • Both marks and comments
  • Comments alone

The results of the landmark study found that students who showed the most growth were those who received comments alone. That means no marks. Even marks paired with comments—which at face value would seem to promote the most learning—were just as ineffective as giving marks alone. When a mark is paired with feedback, most students ignore the feedback and focus only on the mark.

This year, your student will receive written and verbal feedback about what he or she did well and what they can do to improve on assessments, classwork, homework, and projects. Before each progress report, and at the end of each quarter, each student and I will conference and look at the evidence of their understanding together and come to a shared conclusion regarding an appropriate grade representing the student’s most consistent level of performance. This will be clearly spelled out in the syllabus (to come early next week). And rest assured that your student WILL receive a letter grade at the close of each grading period.

This approach will allow students to have greater awareness and ownership of their learning. They will know what they need to improve and how to improve it. Please always feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns that you have as we go through this process.

As for how you can check on your student’s progress in the course, I will update Aeries by inputting assignments. Instead of points, I will comment in one of the following three ways: 1. Completed, 2. Submitted, not yet complete, or 3. Missing.

As questions arise, please contact me at jeff.frieden@alvordschools.org. I invite your questions and input.


Jeffery E. Frieden

P.S. Also, if you are interested in finding out more about the science, theory, and practice of these approaches, please look into one or all of these resources: