Tracking Student Achievement #MTBoSBlaugust

I blogged previously about how next year our math department has decided to move toward a department-wide grade replacement policy (see #MTBoS30 Day 9: Grade Replacement vs. Standards Based Grading) and I’ve been working on figuring out how I can still include students in the process. I enjoyed using Dan Meyer’s concept checklist over the last two years. Sometimes it was a hassle, but for the students that actually kept track of theirs they enjoyed knowing what their strengths and weaknesses were (and getting those stickers!)

Last spring semester I taught a new class called Algebra, Functions, and Data Analysis – this is a class that is not tested by the state but still has standards. I mostly used stuff from the other teacher who was teaching AFDA at the same time as me and only glanced through the standards before teaching the course… good job, past me. But, we live and learn. There were some days that seemed too easy and repetitive and others that seemed totally over my students’ heads, and the same was true about the quizzes and projects they completed as assessment. I didn’t really enjoy that, but I felt a little overwhelmed without a planning period so I kept pushing through. Well I’ve finally sat down and looked at the standards and boy did we do some interesting things. We taught multiple things that definitely are not required! Some of which I’ll be keeping, and some of which will probably get tossed.

ANYWHO, I digress… After reviewing our curriculum map and the state standards, and a little inspiration from someone on Twitter (I forget who) I made up slightly new Achievement Trackers. My plan is to have students keep these at the front of their assessment section of their binders so they’re easy to find.

Things I Like:

  • students being cognizant of what grades they’re earning (and hopefully why!)
  • helps me better plan lessons and assessments
  • the students have less to keep track of compared to the old concept checklist

Things I’m Not Sure I Like:

  • some of the wording isn’t necessarily the most student friendly/some boxes have a lot of text
  • it will take up two pieces of paper front/back
  • the homework section at the beginning of each unit

Let me know what you think and if you have any suggestions!

Switching to Content-Based Grading for Assessments

I decided last week, after discussions with my co-teacher about how we wanted to help our students take more control of their learning and better adjust to the academic setting of high school, that two units into our Algebra I class we are switching to content-based grading.

I am nervous about this switch. I believe entirely that it is a better way of assessing students. It is less stressful that unit tests and quizzes. It requires students to remember and apply throughout the entire course instead of only for one unit. And it makes them aware of exactly what pieces of the curriculum they have mastered and what they need to work on. But I also know that this is a major change for both my students and their parents, and I hope that they are willing to be patient and try this out with us before they make up their minds!

I’m already assessing this way with my geometry students and I love it. They do too. I didn’t really believe Dan Meyer’s blog post when I decided to try this out last year, especially the parts about students liking assessment, but now I do. The students ask questions about the concepts they haven’t mastered yet. They ask me to put those types of questions on the assessments so that they can prove to me that they can do it. They get excited when they realize they’ve improved their grades and are constantly trying to improve them.

The other great thing about this is that it doesn’t require students to sit and focus for a whole block period on a test! I think that too will help many of my students. So we’re going to be introducing it on Monday to our students. They’ll have their first assessment on Thursday over six concepts from the first two units. And then we’ll go from there.

I am nervous about making such a big change after the school year has started, but I’m ready to help my students take more control over their learning.