Tuesday, November 16, 2010

How we grade SBG style

I'm curious to hear what you guys think.

So we decided on our scales by department and this is the math departments
100% - 4.0 - I can do it well enough to make connections that weren't taught in class
95% - 3.5 - I can do it well enough to make connections that weren't taught in class but I'm not always right about those connections.
90% - 3.0 - I can do everything that was taught without making mistakes.
80% - 2.5 - I can do everything that was taught with a few mistakes.
70% - 2.0 - I can do all of the easy parts but I can't do the harder parts.
65% - 1.5 - I can do some of the easier parts but I make some mistakes.
60% - 1.0 - With help I can do some of what was taught.

To determine what score each student should get we were told we are going to use a 60% passing rate floor.  If you're like me my first response was "huh???"  It was then explained to me that if the students get approx 60% of the questions correct that are a specific level (say level 3) then they will receive that score.  Some of my students are really trying for that A in a few of my classes but not all of them this year are (I've got some interesting students).

What are your thoughts on this process?  What do you guys do?  Any problems that you can think of?  I'm open for all ideas and suggestions.  I'm one of the people that's jumping in head first with all of the Standards Based Grading procedures in my school and I keep telling my students that I love my guinea pigs and that's what they are.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A year ago today

One year ago today I could swear i was having a mental breakdown.

My dad had passed away the previous May and he was a big part in me figuring out that I was actually pretty decent at math. I made it through his birthday September 21st and my parents anniversary September 30th without any major problems. But Veterans Day snuck up on me big time. I ended up losing my keys, and not just my classroom keys (which also open all of the computer labs in my building) and as well as the keys for the laptop carts (that work on all of the 18 new carts).

By the end of the day I was wandering around the school backtracking my steps hoping to stumble across my keys. Luckily a good friend from work came along and helped me make it through the last long minutes.

My dad was so proud that I became a math teacher. Especially since I didn't automatically click with math. I know he would be so proud of the fact that almost half of the kids I've been helping in my TAKS remediation class passed the TAKS test they just took. Thank goodness my dad saw what he did in me.
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A Big Thanks to all in the Blogging Community

I was on my way into work this morning when I got the email  notification that Dan Meyer had a new post up and the title of the post was very intriguing to me.  But the idea behind the post went in a totally different direction than I anticipated it to go and it started me thinking.

So I want to be sure and send out a big thanks to everyone in the blogging edusphere, whether they teach math or science or english or anything else, for putting themselves and their ideas out there.  I appreciate it more than you could ever know and cannot thank you enough for sharing and inspiring.

It used to be that for me to be inspired to try something in my classroom I would either need to see another teacher at my school or in my district try something or I would read about it in a magazine article or one of the many books we are all handed by our principals.  I still get a lot of motivation and inspiration from some of the math teachers at my school and in my local community, but this has opened a door that without I would feel very isolated and, honestly, scared with the new practices my school is trying this year (SBG).  I know that since my school as a whole is trying it together you would think "uh, Sarah, you're not alone you dummy. You have the entire school trying it with you!"  Well, telling me that doesn't seem to work because I know how some teachers work.

What I also love that I can now share in the edusphere is some of the crazy but perfect ideas some of my coworkers come up with.  In particular a fellow Geometry down the hall from me that we will call the awesome Gayle Taylor.  (She said it was fine to use her name but I feel like the adjective needs to be added).  Awesome Gayle is now in her 37th year teaching and is more than open to new ideas of how to grade and instruct students.  She works early in the morning and into the late hours of the night (I know because I'm usually up here too but I tend to get off track easier than her).  Her tireless efforts show in her students test scores and their new love for the subject.  I can only hope and pray to one day be as awesome a teacher as she is and still have the drive and creativity that she still has. 

Progress so far with Standards Based Grading

So it's been awhile and I've been doing a lot lately.

I'm currently waiting on pins and needles for my TAKS re-testers scores to come in.  The Associate Principal and her secretary joked the other day about charging me each time I come in and ask if they've received any notice about the scores yet.  Luckily they decided not to do that.  But I was informed that the counselors will be bringing the students in one by one to let them know their TAKS scores.  Well, this is different than what I originally had been told and told the students so I'm working on a proposition for telling the students their scores.  More on that later.

Anyways, as far as SBG goes I feel like we have made HUGE head-way in our Geometry PLC and I made a huge jump forward with communicating to my students what their scores are and how they performed on a test.

Here's a break down of what we are currently doing.
Instead of in the gradebook having Tests/Assessments = 50%, Assignments/Homework = 25% and Quizzes = 25% we change the "categories" each grading period (6 weeks for us).  For example, this last 6 weeks in Geometry we covered Lines and Transversals, Linear Equations, Triangle Basics and Special Segments of Triangles.  (We were supposed to cover congruent triangles too but ran out of time).  So in the categories section of Gradespeed it shows up like this now.

I know what you're thinking.  Duh Sarah, that's the whole idea.  It helps the kids understand stuff better.  Get with the program.  The coolest part though was when one of the teachers printed out a sample progress report with the categories like this.  Check it out!!!!

It's no longer a mystery to the student or parent what the kid is struggling with!!!
It has been a little more difficult for some teachers since they tend to spiral multiple ideas and topics into one worksheet or assignment but I haven't struggled with that.  I do try to do a lot of spiraling in my assignments and assessments but I'm focusing on assessing or practicing one skill and I try my hardest not to let the deficits in the other skills impact their grade.  I also tend to not give students "Msg" for their assignments except in the class this student is in.  It's a Double Block (I see the students every day) class and they have literally NO HOMEWORK.  Since I see them so much and so many of them take accommodated or modified tests the curriculum is watered down a lot and I don't require them to go to the same level as my other students.  I actually have been trying to move to all of my students not have any out of class assignments but that's a whole nother issue.

As we move forward into the SBG abyss and try and figure out our way around I came across a huge stumbling block, and this was a big one, especially for me.  I don't know if you've noticed from my writings but I'm just a little ADD and I get side tracked easily.  You should see me trying to grade tests/assessments.  It used to be a joke of how easily I was distracted and forget what I was supposed to be doing.  Well, since I'm so easily distracted in our tests not all of the questions about identifying parallel and perpendicular lines are just in one section of the test I wasn't sure how I would track which questions my students were successful at and which areas they needed more help with.  So in my "how do I organize this super disorganized life" I came up with a system that my students now get their grades back on.

 So here is an example of students test and how I report their grades back to them.  I have found so far that grading this way and giving the students back their report sheets as well helps with two things; (1) some students that have never passed a math test before are or their scores are better than ever before (this has also resulted from a campus decision and I will explain this in a second), and (2) the students know exactly what they need to work on to prove to me that they understand the material.

I've given each student a half sheet of paper like the following and I have had it posted in my room since almost day one.  I think as a result the students are not so focused on point grabbing as they have in the past and they are truly enjoying learning and the activities I'm providing them.

I think it's helped make a huge difference and I'm really optimistic about the changes.  I just hope everyone else in my PLC and my campus is feeling the same way.