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!


misscalcul8 said...

You know that I'm even greener to sbg than you are and definitely teaching in general but I asked a lot of very similar questions on my blog and got some good answers if you want to check them out. Also, on the sbg beginners wiki, there are some sample parent letters and links to lots of sbg posts from more experienced people.

Jason Buell said...

It's orders of magnitude harder if you don't know the subject well so if you're really comfortable with the 1 subject, just start with that.

There are easy switches you can make though in all classes. Most teachers I know find switching from Chapter 12 test to reporting out by learning goal is an easy but powerful change.

Deciding on a scale- The thing to figure out is how many different levels can we really differentiate between? We would never agree on the difference between 93 and 92 out of 100. So take a look at your learning goals, and see if you need 4 or 5 or whatever. I actually use 9 (0-4 including half points) and I think that my students and I can do a good job of identifying the difference in quality between a 1 and a 1.5.

Lisa said...

@misscalcul8 I have to get back to the wiki and see what's there. Haven't had the time in the last couple of days - thanks for the reminder though!

@Jason - Is a learning goal any different than a "concept" or "standard" or whatever you are calling it? What's different than what I'm doing with Algebra 2 (making the concept list ahead of time)?

Thanks for the advice on the scale - I am going to have to think about that.

MizT said...

My answers to your questions :)

1) I think I have decided that my class will look pretty traditional in teach, teach, teach, quiz, teach teach teach quiz review test - but the quizzes will have Level 1, 2 and 3 questions on them (which if you think about it, our textbooks are set up that way too).

2) I plan to use a 5 pt scale I think - I like the 4 pt scale, but don't like that 2=50% in my online gradebook.

3) I don't see much difference in how my class is organized right now.

4) For HW, I think I will still do the signature sheets for no other reason than record keeping. Plus, they will have to do the HW for that learning target before being allowed to reassess

5) I don't have leeway on finals and they are a mandated 15% minimum grade - to me, it's a summative grade (see ThinkThankThunk's blog re: finals). My computer breakdown will have final, tests, concept quizzes, and I'm not sure if there will be an assignments category or not

6) I would do a parent handout I think - but I haven't written one yet :)

7) I went to one of my admins on Monday and asked how much he had read of Marzano and then gave the example in Ch 1 of the 3 kids that all earned a 12/20 on a quiz and explained that I wanted more info for me, my kids, and my parents. He was totally supportive.

8) Deduct a percentage point for the entire semester or for that day's work? Need more clarification here.

That's my thoughts - take or leave :)