Monthly Archives: October 2013

MTBOS week 1: My class is different due to no F’s!

I’m a week behind, but this is my first post for the Exploring the MathTwitterBlogosphere challenge.  We were given two options and I chose to blog on the following:

  • What is one thing that happens in your classroom that makes it distinctly yours? It can be something you do that is unique in your school… It can be something more amorphous… However you want to interpret the question! Whatever!

My classroom is distinctly different this year than my previous years of teaching.  The difference?  No one is currently failing in any of my classes and no one has earned an F on a test!  I know?! Shut up & get out (picture Elaine from Seinfeld)!!

For most math teachers, this is quite a unique experience, and it is for me. I didn’t all of a sudden become some amazing teacher in which every single thing I do works and students totally “get it”.  I don’t have students that are heads and shoulders above students in past years.  I will say 4 of my classes are honors sections, but I’ve had students fail honors tests and classes, so that doesn’t tell the whole story.  Besides, I also teach the lowest math class in our high school.

I believe the reason for this no F’s is mainly from a new policy I’ve enacted around my Standards Based Grading Quizzes.  This year, students can only take their unit test once they have passed all skills for the unit.  In the past, students were encouraged and given the option to retake quizzes to have their grades reflect an increase in learning.  They could do this anytime in the semester.  Typically it happened in the last couple of weeks of the semester as they realized there was no extra credit and they were scrambling to raise their grades.  This was helpful for their final exam, but didn’t help them on the unit tests along the way.

Here is my semester grade breakdown:

40% SBG quizzes (unlimited retakes – must have all passing grades before taking the unit test)
30% Unit Tests (these are summative & can’t be retaken)
15% Semester Exam
10% Assignments (I don’t collect or check daily work – this is unit binders, occasional special assignments, end of unit journals, etc.)
5% WriteNOW! (school wide writing initiative)

Now that students must get passing grades on all quiz skills before the test, they do better on the test.  I’m not sure why I didn’t figure this out before – ha!

Another thing I’m doing this year, which I also believe accounts for no F’s, is tests start at a 50.  That is still 20 points away from passing.  Then I break the other 50 points down very specifically, based on Blooms.  For my honors classes, 25 points are Knowledge & Understanding, 10-15 points are Application & Analyzing, and 10-15 points are Synthesizing & Evaluating. For my on-level classes, 30 points are Knowledge & Understanding, 10 points are Application & Analyzing, and 10 points are Synthesizing & Evaluating.  They must know everything at a basic level to earn a C, at an intermediate level to earn a B, and at an advanced level to earn an A.  This year, it’s easier to earn a C on my tests (due to starting at a 50), but more challenging to earn an A.

The final difference this year is my classes are somewhat self-paced.  I go at a “typical” pace.  Have assignments at a “typical” pace.  Have quizzes & tests at a “typical” pace.  However, if students don’t feel ready to take a quiz, they can delay.  If they don’t feel ready to take the test, they can delay.  There is a time limit.  They have a one week extension.  This is why I say somewhat self-paced. As I teach 9th & 10th graders, I think they need those deadlines so they don’t save it all for the end of the semester. Plus, in work situations, we have deadlines, but are allowed to work at our own pace to get to that deadline.  So, they have some freedom & flexibility, but aren’t allowed to completely sabotage themselves.

Now, I know that even if I was doing this last year, I would have still had a couple of failures.  I had two students who did retake quizzes often and just kept failing over and over.  They needed a lower math class and were in the lowest we offered. However, if students are appropriately placed and spec. ed students getting the appropriate resources, I believe these policies will encourage learning at a higher level.  This will then result in grades that reflect that higher level learning.