Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Grading Explanations

Well, I have put together my first document for the new school year.  Here is my explanation to students and parents as to how grading will go in my classroom.  Please, please, please comment - I want to make sure I have this as clear as possible before I print it.

Background on my district - mostly blue collar, not a heavy emphasis on education.  Parents are somewhat involved - the parents of the "better" kids tend to be the most involved, otherwise they don't tend to get involved unless their child is failing (and even then, they don't always get involved).  I thought about including information from books/prominent educators but I chose not to because I didn't want to be perceived as trying to go over the parents heads and/or too much "edu-speak."  I wanted it to be in as plain English as possible.

So - here it is.  Comment away!  Thanks in advance for your help!

***I have revised this slightly based on the comments and changing my 0 and 1 values. (8/3)

Grading Info 2010-2011
or try here if you can't read it.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The State of Affairs in My Head

This blog post is mostly for me to get out of my head where I'm at with things.  As always, please feel free to comment or catch me on Twitter (@Mrs_LHenry) to discuss.  In fact, it's really helpful for me if you do leave comments.

First up - Grading

I am committed to doing SBG this year.  At the moment, I am leaning towards doing a system very similar to Kate Nowak's where you teach 3 concepts, then assess.  I want to assess twice because I feel that it would give me a clearer picture of whether or not the student understands the concept (it would give me two snapshots rather than just one).  I am most comfortable with a scale out of 5 and I think I would do similar to what she does, adding the 2 together for ultimately a score out of 10 to put in the school's gradebook. 

I would need to put the following limits on reassessing for my own sanity:
  • The student would need to demonstrate some sort of remediaation/practice before reassessing.  Either the student would need to get additional help from me or an outside tutor or successfully practice additional problems on his or her own.  I saw somewhere (not that I can remember where at the moment), that someone who was getting outside help had to have the tutor sign off and state what was done to help that student AND that person had to be at least one class ahead of the student being tutored.  I thought that made great sense.
  • No tutoring and reassessing in the same session.  This is partly due to time consstraints for me (something about having 2 kids) and partly because I want students to have time to reflect and internalize the new information they have learned.
  • I am considering setting up a Google form for scheduling reassessments and/or an appointment book.  This is also for my sanity to have time to make up the reassessment question(s).  With having two kids, I think I will also have to set aside specific days after school if a student wishes to come in then.
  • I think I will also put together index cards with reassessment questions (another idea I read here) and label them so that they can be reused for other students.  I would have to keep track of which questions a student attempted, but I think that would be worth it in the end.
  • Due to the constraints in my gradebook at school, I would have to set a deadline for reassessments during the last week of the grading period.  Any concepts that I started during the last week or so of the grading period would also carry over to the new grading period.  Strictly a logistical issue here.

Homework and Other Classroom Issues

Because I am going to do SBG, I am not going to grade homework.  I think I will put together a sheet per unit that has listed the concepts for the student that they will be working on (this will be their tracking sheet also) and the suggested practice problems for the unit.  I think I would like to keep them to 10-15 problems and I will make use of the odds since all of the texts that I use have the answers to the odds in the back of the book.  If I choose to use the evens, there are graphs involved and they aren't given, and/or I have worksheets, I will provide answers to my students before they practice the problems so they can check to see how they are doing.  I don't think I am going to title it homework, I think I may just title it practice - because that is truly what it should be.  Not sure what I am going to do about keeping track of if students really did the practice problems - suggestions?

As I get better with this SBG, I may also put together additional practice problems sets by concepts that include the answerss so that as students remediate, they have that information readily available to them.  (I just had that thought - will have to think about that a little more.)

Since I will be using a SMARTBoard this year, I will post class notes on my website daily.  I am also conemplating having a daily warm up problem.  I really liked what another teacher did with the OGT problems (check here - third paragraph) and I want to keep track in a spreadsheet so I have an idea of how they are doing (and be able to compare it to how they end up doing on the test), but I'm not sure what to do to make sure they are motivated to do it daily.  My lower level stduents in particular seem to not want to do any additional work they don't have to.  Maybe make it some sort of a competition for who has the msot points at the end of a set period?  Maybe put my two lower level classes together in competition with each other - whoever has the best average at the end of 3 weeks gets candy or donuts or something?  I could do the same with my Algebra 2 classes.  Any other thoughts?  I could use some help here...

Note Writing
The last thing I think want to take on this year is the note writing that Grace Chen talked about in her recent blog post.  I think this could be very helpful and motivating to my freshmen.  The freshmen I will have in my lower level math class this year I had as seventh graders.  Let's just say that I didn't have the greatest experience with them and there were a lot of discipline isuues with them.  Some of that may be due to being seventh graders (and my inexperience with dealing with them), some of that may be due to who they are.  Regardless, I don't want a repeat of that year.  Historically for me, the class they're in has been the toughest for me discipline wise and I almost always end up dreading those classes.  I want to change that.  So I think I will try the notes with them first.  I may also try the notes in my Algebra 2 classes (the non-advanced classes) but maybe not on as full of a scale as the freshmen Math 1 classes.  We'll see.  I'm still thinking through this one.

Wrapping Up...
I hope I am not biting off too much with all this.  As I have said before, I am not happy with how things have gone in my classroom the last several years.  It is time to make changes.  I think these changes are do-able for me and I am hopeful that this will be a much better school year for me than the last several.  I know it will be a lot of work, but I think it will be worth it all in the end.

Please, please, please leave comments or catch me in twitter.  I am sure that it is not perfect, but at this moment in time, I think it's workable for me.

I must be warped...

I am on vacation with my family (my parents, brother, husband and kids).  My parents rent a house each year on the water - this year we are staying on Sandusky Bay.  Like every other house we've stayed at, it has its good points and not so good points.  We have a nice entry onto the bay,the kids can go out in the water quite a bit, there's a nice yard here, there's a caboose on the property and the kitchen is about as well equipped as we've had. But, the kitchen is small (only about 2 can work in it at a time), the bottom of the bay is a bit rocky (had to go find lake shoes for the kids) and the only place there's a table big enough for all 7 of us is in the garage (where there's no air conditioning - which is really mainly an issue for my asthmatic mother).  I love the location and generally the property - it's probably about the best place we've stayed in the 5 years or so we've been doing this.

And yet...

I am sitting here outside on the swing enjoying the view and thinking about how I'm going to do things this school year.  I'm on vacation thinking about school, willingly (hence the title).  I'm reading Marzano's Classroom Assessment and Grading That Works and participating in a Twitter discussion each evening after having read the chapter of the day.  (We're setting up the hashtag #sbarbook for those of you who want to follow our discussion.  We're going to do Formattive Assessment and Standards-Based Grading next.)  And as I started formulating this post in my head, I can't help but think that coming up with what I am going to do in the classroom this year is like our vacation home search.  There are always good things and bad things about it.  Maybe it will never be absolutely perfect. 

So where does that leave me?

Isn't that a great question?  I have blogged over the last month what I thought I was going to do in my classroom.  My last post was full of questions which I didn't get a whole lot of response to (which is a little frustrating).  I've been actively tweeting and lurking, trying to figure this out.  I get that things aren't going to be perfect.  This is not a panacea for my unhappiness in the classroom.  But, I do believe it is the best answer for me.  I am committed to doing SBG in my classroom this year.  I am hopeful that it will foster changes in my students and my classroom.  I want students to be focused on learning, not on the "almighty grade."  I want them to understand better what they have learned.  I want them to take ownership of their learning.  I understand that this shift will take time.  I know I am going this alone, but I believe my principal and superintendant will be supportive.  (I briefly shared with my superintendant that I was looking at SBG and he appeared supportive.)  The bottom line is that I feel this is best for my students and I believe it more closely aligns with what I think education should be.  And isn't that what really matters?

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

SBG Questions

As I am working through this whole SBG thing - trying to understand it, trying to figure out how to make it work in my classroom/building/district, etc. - I'm reading as much as I can.  I have spent time reading dy/dan and started through MeTA Musings but not gotten through as much as I would like.  Part of it is it's summer and my brain can only take so much before it cries "uncle!"  I'm also reading How to Grade for Learning - Linking Grades to Standards by Ken O'Connor and I've purchased Classroom Assessment and Grading That Works by Robert Marzano as the next read.  Plus, I've been trying to ask questions on Twitter when I'm reading tweets that bring them up.  I'm learning, which is a good thing.

So, here's where I'm at today:  I buy into why SBG makes sense.  I get that including homework and other practice (i.e. Formative Assessments) shouldn't be included in a student's grade.  I get it.  I understand that I need to start by coming up with my concept list.  I'm working on that.  First draft of Algebra 2 is here and is very much a work in progress.  I started with Algebra 2 because it is the class I am the most familar with.  I came up with an inital list of 102 concepts - WOW.  After chatting with @erictownsley and seeing his Algebra 2 concept list (which had about 60), I am questioning how I've broken down my concept list.  Did I break it down too far?  Did I include too many items students should already know from Algebra 1?  Am I spending too much time going back over Algebra 1 material? 

Here's some background on my Algebra 2 kids:  I have 2 different courses for Algebra 2 - Advanced Algebra 2 and Algebra 2.  We moved our Algebra 2 course to after Algebra 1 (and before Geometry) because the State of Ohio Legislature decided that not only should all students beginning with the incoming freshmen should have 4 credits of math to graduate, one of those credits should be Algebra 2 or an Algebra 2 equivalent.  Advanced Algebra 2 is our freshmen (primarily) - these students are supposed to be the best (a few students who are not freshman are in the class by Algebra 1 teacher recommendation) and generally headed towards Calculus.  This course will be taught with TI Graphing Calculator (83 Plus/84/84 Plus).  Algebra 2 is the freshmen who started with Algebra 1 in 8th grade and just aren't cutting it and everyone else.  It is meant to fulfill the Algebra 2/Algebra 2 equivalent.  Last school year (2009-2010) was the first year we did it this way.  We are using a VERY simplified book - which somewhat works - but I still did quite a bit of supplementing.

One of the things I have decided that I will need to do is administer a pre-test to my Algebra 2 and Advanced Algebra 2 students.  Last year I just decided to teach based on what I knew from the Algebra 1 teacher that they did previously.  I assumed they knew little (which they did to some extent).  I am not going to make assumptions this year.  So - I need to figure out what to use as a pre-test.  I know I will not be in school one day during the first week, so I am planning on having students do the pre-test that day.  Anyone have any suggestions on where to look for a pre-test?  Should I be looking for something along the lines of an end-of-the-year Algebra 1 test or something with Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 concepts?  Suggestions?

As I am working through this, it seems like most people who have done SBG have started small and worked their way into it.  I have 4 preps next year - the aforementioned Advanced Algebra 2 and Algebra 2, Calculus (not AP), and Math 1 (freshman course - students not ready to go into Algebra 1 but we are going to cover Algebra 1 concepts this year because that's the 9th grade State Standards).  Do I try to do SBG in all 4 preps?  Do I just start with Alg 2/Adv Alg 2 because I know that subject matter the best?  I should add that both Calculus and Math 1 will have new textbooks next year - does that make a difference in your suggestions?

Other questions that have come up in the last few days that I am looking for input:
  • Which system to go with?  I know this is a personal decision - I am waffling.  Originally, this is the plan I came up with.  I am not sure how many evaluations to go with - 1 or 2.  I like Dan Meyer's system although I'm still working through the 4+4 = 5 bit (but I am getting closer to thinking about doing it that way).  If I do the Dan Meyer system - how long is assessment going to take?  Am I giving up a class day each week?  What about review?  Do I also review the day before each assessment?
  • How do I determine what scale to use?  4 somehow doesn't sit with me well (not sure why, but it doesn't).  I like the idea of it being out of 5 points.  How do I adjust the scale accordingly?  Do I use something like Kate Nowak?
  • How is this going to change how I teach?  The way I have done it - I teach, somettimes we work on problems in class, sometimes not.  I have always given at least one day review and usually two before a "unit test."  If I do something similar to what Dan Meyer, et al do and it doesn't take up the 50 minute class period, then what? 
  • Homework/Classwork or whatever you want to call it (i.e. practice).  Do I now plan for practice time for each concept in class?  What kind of "homework" do I plan on giving?  I had already begun thinking about changing this before SBG and this will change because I don't like how I have been doing it.  I get that I shouldn't assign points to it - how do I ensure students will practice?  Here I am not as worried about my normal/advanced students but my lower level Math 1 students.  I am planning on making homework changes across the board here.  Do I still keep track of what homework was done?  What classwork was done?  Record keeping and time is the issue here.
  • I think I follow how to deal with grade issue (this post by Matt Townsley was very helpful in clarifying it for me as far as the computer grading program at school).  How do I deal with midterms and finals?  I don't have any control over how those factor into my students' grades.  I can choose to not give them - although in my district that is pretty much unheard of for math and other core subject areas.  For our sophomores who have to take the Ohio Graduation Test - if have met certain proficiency criteria, they do not have to take their final exams in some/all classes.  Do I do something similar, i.e. if you have all 3s and 4s then you don't have to take the midterm and/or final?  In those cases, we average the 2 9 weeks grades for the semester grade.  (We give percent grades on report cards, not letter grades).
  • This is brand new in my district (as far as I know).  We are to have handouts for parents on open house night - which is the night before school starts where students and parents pick up class schedules as well as these handouts.  Do I put together a parent handout for open house on this?  What should go into it?
  • How do I deal with my principal on this?  I am pretty sure he'll be fine with it - especially if it will benefit the students.  He pretty much lets us do whatever we want to in the classroom with little interference.  Suggestions on what to say/how to approach it with him?  We are a smaller district (our HS has about 450 9-12) - do I also talk to the superintendent?  Our superintendent is new to us - he's only been here a year - and seems to be "up" on things.  Would it be beneficial to talk to him anyway to see what he knows about SBG from his other district or am I opening a can of worms?
  • The last question at the moment is about discipline.  Again, school policy (right or wrong here) is to deduct 1 percent point for each suspended day (don't start on the policy - I didn't make it, it was there before I came and I am stuck following it). How to deal with this?
I know I have to answer many of these questions myself and y'all may not be able to help me with some of them.  But I do know that many of you have been down this road already and can offer advice and your thoughts.  Please offer any and all thoughts that can help me work through these questions.  I know I can't possibly work through all these questions before starting this school year - but I do want to get things straightened out in my mind as much as possible.  Please comment below or catch me in Twitter (@Mrs_LHenry).  Thanks for all your help!