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?